Examining the Research on the Sleep Health Benefits of Magnesium (Part 1)

Posted: March 16, 2021

Did losing an hour’s sleep with Daylight Saving Time change leave you feeling a bit groggy? Curious how Magnesium from Balchem could help? Join us as we dive into some of the research discussing Magnesium’s role in finding better rest.

Sleep, like food and water, is a physiological need of the body.  It allows our bodies and minds to recharge.   We are aware of some of the physical dangers when we do not have sufficient sleep, such as those associated with drowsy driving.  Some professions require mandatory rest periods so that they are operating at high levels.  For example, the U.S. Army is very concerned about the amount of sleep that combat soldiers are getting because adequate sleep promotes mental acuity, situational awareness, improved reaction times, and creative problem-solving abilities (1).  This same rationale can certainly be applied to other professions such as airline pilots, bus drivers, etc.

Sleep is important other physiological processes in the body.   Sleep loss and disruption has been shown to weaken immune system function, disrupt neuro-endocrine function, change glucose metabolism and impair healing and recovery processes (2). Insomnia, or lack of sleep, can be problematic particularly in the elderly (3).  It can increase cognitive impairment and gait instability and other physical dysfunctions.  Gait instability is a particular risk for elderly as they may be mortally injured as result of falling.  Insomnia often results in poor quality of life, ill health, stress and depression (3).

There is conventional wisdom about modifying environmental conditions to promote healthy sleep, such as routine bedtimes, light and sound adjustments, and temperature adjustments.  Dietary nutrition intake can also affect our sleep.  On nutrient that has gained interest is magnesium.  Magnesium is important to the regulation of the central nervous system excitability.  It acts as N-methyl-D-aspartate and gamma-aminobutyric acid agonist (3).  In this role, magnesium can promote sleep.

In mice, it was found that there was a small but significant shift in extracellular magnesium concentrations between sleep and waking states (4).  When the mice transitioned from a sleeping to a waking state, the extracellular Mg content decreased and then returned when the animal went back to sleep.  The researchers saw the same phenomenon during anesthesia. In another study on mice, researchers found that there was a correlation between brain magnesium in certain sites of the brain and sleep with the highest levels in the frontal cortex (5).

In a recent review of NHANES data set of 2005-2016, researchers were examining micronutrient inadequacy in subjects who reported short sleep (6).   They found in all adults who reported short sleep, that about 59% of them had below EAR intakes for magnesium as compared to 51% who did not report short sleep.  In breaking it down by sex, females who reported short sleep had a higher percentage wo did not consume adequate magnesium.  There was also differences by age with older adults reporting more inadequate intake.  These data let the researchers to conclude that supplemental nutrients may have a beneficial effect on sleep duration.

 One issue that can prevent good sleep in some people is periodic leg movements and restless leg syndrome.  These are repetitive movements of the lower extremities that can cause disturbed sleep with frequent awakenings.  Pregnant women often suffer from repeated and painful leg cramping Magnesium bisglycinate has been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of leg cramping in pregnant women (7). The reports of the effectiveness of magnesium in pregnancy-related leg cramps and some similarities of the cramping to restless leg syndrome prompted some researchers to examine the effectiveness of magnesium supplementation for restless leg syndrome (8). In this study, they examined the effect of 12.4 mmol magnesium (approximately 300 mg) as magnesium oxide given orally in the evening for 4-6 weeks on symptoms of restless leg syndrome.  They found that sleep efficiency significantly increased, and the subjects reported better quality of sleep and fewer symptoms of restless leg syndrome (8).

  1. Wesensten NJ, Balkin TJ. The U S Army Med Depart J. 2013;Oct-Dec:109-118.
  2. Sterniczuk R, Rudak B, Rockwood K. Clin Interv Aging. 2014; 9:969-977.
  3. Jayakumar P, Sharma A, Lippman S. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent) 2020;33(1):47-48.
  4. Ding F, O’Donnell J, Zu Q, Kang N, Goldman N, Nedergaard M. Science. 2016;352(6285):550-555.
  5. Chollet D, Franken P, Raffin Y, Malafosse A, Widmer J, Tafti M. Am J Physiol Regulatory Integrative Com Physiol. 2000;279:R2173-R2178.
  6. Ikonte CJ, Mun JG, Reider CA, Grant RW, Mitmesser SH. Nutrients. 2019;11:2335-2353.
  7. Supakatisant C, Phupong V. Matern Child Nutr. 2015;11(2):139-45.