When you have trouble sleeping, you may hear that a certain vitamin or supplement can help. Magnesium is a popular supplement that gets talked about to help sleep problems. You may wonder, can magnesium help you sleep?
Before you add it to your bedtime routine, here’s what you should know.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an important mineral that keeps your immune system healthy. It also helps:
- Maintain muscle and nerve function.
- Control blood sugar levels.
- Control blood pressure.
- Make protein, bone, and DNA.
- Keep your heartbeat steady.
Magnesium also occurs naturally in many foods. And it’s added to some foods, such as dairy products and cereals.
You can find magnesium in over-the-counter products. It’s available as a dietary supplement or in a multivitamin. And magnesium is in certain medicine, such as laxatives and antacids.
How much do you need?
The average recommended daily amount (RDA) of any nutrient is that amount of that nutrient you need to stay healthy. The RDA for magnesium depends on age, sex, and other factors. Here is the RDA for magnesium for adults, listed in milligrams, or mg:
- Males: 400 mg to 420 mg.
- Females: You need between 310 mg to 320 mg.
- Pregnant women: You need between 350 mg to 400 mg.
- Breastfeeding women: You need between 310 mg to 360 mg.
Do you need magnesium supplements?
Even though magnesium plays important roles in your health, magnesium supplements are not recommended for most people. That’s according to the National Library of Medicine.
Most people get enough magnesium through what they eat and drink. It’s rare to truly lack the amount of magnesium you need to stay healthy, according to the National Institutes of Health. “Supplements are not required for the average person if you eat a well-balanced diet. Instead of focusing on what’s the most recent, trendy supplement to take to better your health, focus more on what you do and eat every single day,” says Jonathan Weiss, MD, of Renaissance Family Practice-UPMC. But, certain people may not get enough magnesium, including:
- People with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal conditions.
- People with type 2 diabetes.
- People with alcohol use disorder.
- Older adults, particularly men older than 70.
- Teenage girls and boys.
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Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?
Because the nervous system helps control sleep, some researchers suspect low levels of magnesium can lead to poor sleep. They think getting enough magnesium can help relax your central nervous system to help you sleep better. Your magnesium levels may also affect levels of melatonin, the chemical that signals when it’s time to fall asleep.
But the exact relationship between magnesium and sleep is still unclear. And more research is needed to determine if and how it helps you fall asleep or stay asleep. At this time, guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine don’t recommend magnesium as a sleep supplement.
You may also have heard that magnesium may help with restless leg syndrome (RLS). If you have RLS, it may keep you up at night. According to research so far, it’s not clear yet whether magnesium helps with RLS.
Is magnesium safe to take as a sleep aid?
For most healthy people, magnesium supplements are safe to take. But there are limits to how much you can take each day of any supplement. That is the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels or UL.
Safe magnesium supplement amounts by age
ULs for magnesium are lower than the RDA. That’s because the RDA includes magnesium from all sources, including foods, drinks, supplements, and medication. To take magnesium supplements safely, follow these UL guidelines:
- For children ages one to three. Don’t take more than 65 mg.
- For children ages four to eight. Don’t take more than 110 mg.
- For children ages nine to 18. Don’t take more than 350 mg.
- For adults ages 19 and over. Don’t take more than 350 mg.
You don’t need to limit the amount of magnesium you consume in natural foods, according to the NIH. If you’re healthy, your kidneys will filter out magnesium your body doesn’t need in your urine. If you aren’t getting enough daily magnesium in your diet, your kidneys will flush out less of it.
But you do need to limit the amount of magnesium you get from supplements, medications, and foods with added magnesium combined. Your kidneys have a harder time getting rid of excess from these sources.
Problems with taking too much magnesium?
Higher doses of magnesium supplements may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Types of magnesium most likely to cause diarrhea include magnesium carbonate, chloride, gluconate, and oxide.
Megadoses of magnesium can cause magnesium toxicity. This can lead to serious and life-threatening problems, including irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.
Getting Magnesium From Food
For healthy people, the best way to get any nutrient, including magnesium, is through eating a variety of foods. Your kidneys will adjust how much magnesium it keeps and gets rid of depending on what your body needs.
Foods high in magnesium include:
- Seeds and nuts, such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, cashews, and peanuts.
- Legumes, such as black beans and kidney beans.
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread and cereal.
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.
- Soy products, such as soymilk, tofu, and edamame.
- Raisins and dried apricots.
- Baked potatoes with skin.
- Fish, such as salmon and halibut.
- Chicken breast.
- Fortified foods, such as milk and yogurt.
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When to Take Magnesium for Sleep
How much magnesium for sleep remains unknown. Research so far suggests less than one gram taken up to three times a day may help with sleep problems. But because this is much more than the UL for magnesium supplements, so talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.
Which kind may work best?
Magnesium comes in several forms. Your body may more easily absorb the following forms:
- Magnesium aspartate.
- Magnesium citrate.
- Magnesium lactate.
- Magnesium chloride.
When Should You Talk to Your Doctor?
If you often have trouble sleeping, your doctor can help figure out what is causing you to have sleep problems. They can also help determine whether you need to take magnesium supplements for health reasons.
Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor. Magnesium supplements may get in the way of other medications or supplements you take. It may also make certain health conditions you have worse.
Who should not take magnesium supplements?
If your kidneys don’t work well or if you have kidney failure, they can’t flush out the extra magnesium. Taking magnesium supplements may lead to side effects or toxicity.
Magnesium. Fact Sheets for Consumers. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Link.
Mah J, Pitre T. Oral Magnesium Supplementation for Insomnia in Older adults: a Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis. BMC Complement Med Ther. April 17, 2021. Link.
How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep. Sleep Foundation. Link.
Frequently Asked Questions: Use and Safety of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Link.
Magnesium in Diet. MedlinePlus.gov. Link.
Restless Legs. MedlinePlus.gov. Link.
Marshall NS, Serinel Y, Killick R, Child JM, Raisin I, Berry CM, Lallukka T, Wassing R, Lee RW, Ratnavadivel R, Vedam H, Grunstein R, Wong KK, Hoyos CM, Cayanan EA, Comas M, Chapman JL, Yee BJ.. Magnesium Supplementation For The Treatment Of Restless Legs Syndrome And Periodic Limb Movement Disorder: A Systematic Review. December 2019. Sleep Medicine Review. Link.
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