Restful sleep not only leads to a refreshing morning, but it also supports long-term health. Insufficient sleep increases the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Based on data from one study, insufficient sleep also increases mortality risk by up to 13%. In addition, lack of sleep has a wide-reaching economic impact, with projected annual losses of up to $680 billion due to the impact on productivity and absenteeism.
Numerous factors impact sleep quality, including modifiable diet and lifestyle factors, such as food choices, meal timing, stress levels, activity levels, and sleep timing. Deficiencies of certain nutrients, such as magnesium, may also play a role in sleep quality.
Magnesium Deficiency: Impact on Sleep
Studies have found correlations between magnesium deficiency and poor sleep. In one study, rats consuming a magnesium-deficient diet for 7 weeks followed by a normal diet experienced a significant increase in wakefulness. Another group in the study consumed the magnesium-deficient diet for 9 weeks and experienced more light sleep and neuronal excitability. This impact only lasted when there was a magnesium deficiency. Sleep patterns were restored with the repletion of magnesium.
One study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2016 found that those who had short sleep duration also had lower than usual dietary intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. When grouping the participants by age and gender, there were additional nutrients of concern, including vitamins A, C, E, and K. Another study found a correlation between falling asleep and magnesium intake in women, but not in men. It may also be a bi-directional relationship, as chronic sleep deprivation may reduce intracellular magnesium levels.
Supporting Sleep with Magnesium
With the potential for magnesium to play a role in sleep, some studies have investigated whether supplementing with magnesium may support restful sleep. In one double-blind, randomized clinical trial of 46 elderly participants with insomnia, one group took 500 mg of magnesium for 8 weeks and one took a placebo. Those in the magnesium group experienced statistically significant improvements in sleep quality markers, including their sleep time, sleep onset latency, early morning awakening, and efficiency, in addition to an increase in melatonin levels and a decrease in cortisol levels.
Another study of elderly participants with insomnia used a supplement with 5 mg melatonin, 225 mg magnesium, and 11.25 mg zinc or alternately, a placebo. Those in the treatment group experienced improvements in many areas of sleep quality, including overall sleep quality, getting to sleep, and feeling refreshed upon awakening. Magnesium has also been shown to reverse sleep by electroencephalogram and neuroendocrine changes that occur due to aging, which may also benefit sleep quality.
Consuming a diet full of magnesium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, can help ensure adequate levels of magnesium for supporting sleep and other magnesium-dependent processes in the body. Supplementing with magnesium may support restful sleep for those who may not be able to get sufficient levels of magnesium through diet alone.
By Kendra Whitmore, MS, CNS