Can’t sleep? Check your magnesium level!

Sleep is essential to health. During sleep, the body goes into a resting and restoration state. Many people, especially older adults, often find it had to get enough sleep. Sleep problems can include difficulty in falling asleep, waking up frequently in the middle of the night, and awakening earlier in the morning than desired. These are symptoms of insomnia.

Insomnia is not only frustrating but also has negative health implications.

Insufficient sleep for a few nights can increase stress and affect cognitive, memory, and performance. Long-term sleep deficiency can be detrimental as it is linked to many chronic conditions such as hypertension, cholesterol imbalance, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and colorectal cancer [1].

Magnesium (Mg) is a mineral that is crucial to the functioning of over 300 enzymes in the body. It helps to regulate cell and tissue integrity, energy productions, neurotransmission, muscle contraction, and many other functions [2]. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in Mg concentration in the cells and thus affect the body’s essential functions [3]. As Mg is needed for the nervous system and muscle relaxation, the deficiency of Mg is also linked to increasing neural excitability, which is a cause of insomnia [4,5]. Hence, for people who have insomnia, it is crucial to keep enough Mg in the body.

Mg is needed for nerve transmission and muscle relaxation.

The daily recommended intake of Mg for an adult is around 300-400mg per day, but many people do not take enough from their diets [6,7]. It was estimated that about 30% of the population may be at risk of deficiency in Mg [7]. Hence, increasing intake of Mg-rich foods is the first step to ensure sufficient Mg to combat insomnia. Foods that are high in Mg contents are nuts and seeds, spinach, soy, black beans, brown rice, banana, and oatmeal [8].

Some great sources of magnesium: black bean, almond, brown rice, oatmeal, and spinach.

A study in China tracked the Mg intake of a sample of 1487 men and women over five years. A higher intake of dietary Mg was found to associate with a lower risk of daytime falling asleep, an indication of disordered sleep, in women but not men [9]. The results demonstrate the importance of high intake of dietary Mg, especially for women, who are 1.3 to 1.8 times more prone to develop insomnia than men [10].  Such gender difference can be due to the underlying hormonal differences as well as the way women and men report symptoms [11].

More women suffer from insomnia than men – take more magnesium-rich foods!

Taking Mg supplement can be an option for those who find it hard to maintain high Mg intake from diet.  Mg supplementation has been shown to improve sleep among elderly people with insomnia in a clinical trial [12]. Forty-six volunteers older than 60 years old participated in this study. They were randomly assigned to take either 500mg/day of Mg supplement or placebo for eight weeks. The researchers found evidence of better improvement in insomnia in the Mg group, compared to the placebo group, with longer sleep time, better sleep quality, lower stress, and easier to get into sleep [12]. Therefore, taking Mg supplement can be helpful for insomnia.

In summary, if you can’t sleep well, make sure to check your Mg intake. Increase Mg intake through diet or supplementation may help to resolve your sleep problems.        


[1]        G. Medic, M. Wille, M.E. Hemels, Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption, Nat. Sci. Sleep. 9 (2017) 151–161. doi:10.2147/NSS.S134864.

[2]        W. Jahnen-Dechent, M. Ketteler, Magnesium basics, Clin. Kidney J. 5 (2012) i3–i14. doi:10.1093/ndtplus/sfr163.

[3]        B. Takase, T. Akima, A. Uehata, F. Ohsuzu, A. Kurita, Effect of chronic stress and sleep deprivation on both flow-mediated dilation in the brachial artery and the intracellular magnesium level in humans, Clin. Cardiol. 27 (2004) 223–227. doi:10.1002/clc.4960270411.

[4]        J.C. Levenson, D.B. Kay, D.J. Buysse, The pathophysiology of insomnia, Chest. 147 (2015) 1179–1192. doi:10.1378/chest.14-1617.

[5]        L. Galland, Magnesium, stress and neuropsychiatric disorders., Magnes. Trace Elem. 10 (n.d.) 287–301.

[6]        M.S. Razzaque, Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?, Nutrients. 10 (2018) 1863. doi:10.3390/nu10121863.

[7]        J.J. DiNicolantonio, J.H. O’Keefe, W. Wilson, Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis, Open Hear. 5 (2018) e000668–e000668. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668.

[8]        Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health, Magnesium – Health Professional Fact Sheet, (n.d.). (accessed June 28, 2020).

[9]        Y. Cao, S. Zhen, A.W. Taylor, S. Appleton, E. Atlantis, Z. Shi, Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up, Nutrients. 10 (2018) 1354. doi:10.3390/nu10101354.

[10]      C. Frange, C.V. Banzoli, A.E. Colombo, M. Siegler, G. Coelho, A.G. Bezerra, M. Csermak, M.F. Naufel, C. Cesar-Netto, M.L. Andersen, M.J.B.C. Girão, S. Tufik, H. Hachul, Women’s Sleep Disorders: Integrative Care, Sleep Sci. (Sao Paulo, Brazil). 10 (2017) 174–180. doi:10.5935/1984-0063.20170030.

[11]      M.P. Mallampalli, C.L. Carter, Exploring sex and gender differences in sleep health: a Society for Women’s Health  Research Report., J. Womens. Health (Larchmt). 23 (2014) 553–562. doi:10.1089/jwh.2014.4816.

[12]      B. Abbasi, M. Kimiagar, K. Sadeghniiat, M.M. Shirazi, M. Hedayati, B. Rashidkhani, The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A  double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial., J. Res. Med. Sci.  Off. J. Isfahan Univ.  Med. Sci. 17 (2012) 1161–1169.

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