Magnesium and sleep
Magnesium is an amazing element and is in fact the 8th most abundant element in the Earth's crust. It is also the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater. This means that, because of the amount of magnesium in our world, the link between magnesium and humans is very strong. In fact, in the human body magnesium is not only essential, but is responsible for over 600 enzymes in the body.[i] It plays an amazing role in DNA synthesis[ii] muscle function[iii], energy production[iv] and also in the regulation of our blood pressure.[v]
Magnesium is also involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate ATP in the body without adequate magnesium your energy will be low and you simply won't function at your optimal. You need energy to sleep as it isn’t just a “shutting down” of the body as some people perceive it.[vi]
Magnesium is probably best known to alleviate muscle cramps the way that magnesium works is by regulating the amount of calcium that goes into cells. It works like a calcium channel regulator as calcium entering the cells cause the cell to activate.[vii] In the brain, magnesium helps to regulate the amount of calcium that enters the cell, which is why it is so useful to help us sleep. In athletes with low magnesium or when they run out of magnesium via their sweat, they can experience muscle cramps and restless legs which all benefit from the supplementation of magnesium.[viii]
A healthy sleep is vital for good health. While the science is still out on what sleep does, we all know that lack of sleep causes extreme fatigue and is not conducive for wellbeing. We know that sleep is broken up into two distinct cycles which is a rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement cycle. A complete cycle lasts about 90 minutes and a goodnight sleep consists of multiple cycles lasting about 7 to 8 hours.[ix]
Sleep deprivation leads to significant effects on both the physical and mental health of the individual. Lack of sleep can impair attention, memory, cognitive function and many decision-making abilities. If you have chronic sleep deprivation it can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and numerous mental health disorders.[x] When you sleep you also detoxify your brain and clear toxins[xi] that, if not detoxified, can lead to severe neurological disorders. In short, we all need a good night sleep.
Another very popular used for magnesium is its calming effect on the central nervous system. Magnesium has been found in studies to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. The mechanism by which magnesium works is by the increase of gamma aminobutyric acid which is a common neurotransmitter in the brain.[xii]
There are many forms of magnesium on the market. There is a type of magnesium called magnesium citrate which is an excellent all-round form of magnesium to replenish depleted magnesium levels in the body and the citrate part of magnesium citrate contributes to the energy cycles of the body. Magnesium aspartate is an excellent form of magnesium if you are going to work out in the gym. On the other hand, if you have a disease such as epilepsy, a keto form of magnesium is ideal (magnesium methyl-buterate). Many years ago, a ketogenic diet which is a diet that produces ketones has been found to be beneficial for individuals suffering epilepsy.[xiii]
For sleep disorders, magnesium bisglycinate is probably the most researched form of magnesium to promote sleep. Not only does magnesium help you sleep, the glycine also helps you sleep, so you get bang for your buck when it comes to a supplement.[xiv] While all forms of magnesium will help you sleep, there are forms of magnesium that you must avoid if you want to promote a good sleep. For example, magnesium oxide is a poor form of magnesium because it is not very well absorbed in the body. You also have to avoid magnesium sulfate because this can have a laxative effect in the body which is something you definitely don't want when you sleep!
The take home message is that you need magnesium for hundreds of biological functions in the body. Has magnesium has been found to help you sleep, the best time to take magnesium is in the evening after dinner. The best form of magnesium to take is magnesium bisglycinate because not only is it very well absorbed, it will help you sleep through the night which is good for your body and your brain.
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[ii] Hartwig A. Role of magnesium in genomic stability. Mutat Res. 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):113-21. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(01)00074-4. PMID: 11295157.
[iii] Reno AM, Green M, Killen LG, O'Neal EK, Pritchett K, Hanson Z. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2022 Aug 1;36(8):2198-2203. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003827. Epub 2020 Oct 1. PMID: 33009349.
[iv] Buelens FP, Leonov H, de Groot BL, Grubmüller H. ATP-Magnesium Coordination: Protein Structure-Based Force Field Evaluation and Corrections. J Chem Theory Comput. 2021 Mar 9;17(3):1922-1930. doi: 10.1021/acs.jctc.0c01205. Epub 2021 Feb 22. PMID: 33616388; PMCID: PMC8023659.
[v] Dibaba DT, Xun P, Song Y, Rosanoff A, Shechter M, He K. The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or noncommunicable chronic diseases: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Sep;106(3):921-929. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.155291. Epub 2017 Jul 19. PMID: 28724644; PMCID: PMC5573024.
[vi] Jung CM, Melanson EL, Frydendall EJ, Perreault L, Eckel RH, Wright KP. Energy expenditure during sleep, sleep deprivation and sleep following sleep deprivation in adult humans. J Physiol. 2011 Jan 1;589(Pt 1):235-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197517. Epub 2010 Nov 8. PMID: 21059762; PMCID: PMC3039272.
[vii] Libako P, Nowacki W, Castiglioni S, Mazur A, Maier JA. Extracellular magnesium and calcium blockers modulate macrophage activity. Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(1):11-21. doi: 10.1684/mrh.2016.0398. PMID: 27160489.
[viii] Pollock N, Chakraverty R, Taylor I, Killer SC. An 8-year Analysis of Magnesium Status in Elite International Track & Field Athletes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2020 Jul;39(5):443-449. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1691953. Epub 2019 Dec 12. PMID: 31829845.
[ix] Patel AK, Reddy V, Shumway KR, et al. Physiology, Sleep Stages. [Updated 2022 Sep 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526132/
[x] Medic G, Wille M, Hemels ME. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017 May 19;9:151-161. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S134864. PMID: 28579842; PMCID: PMC5449130.
[xi] Reddy OC, van der Werf YD. The Sleeping Brain: Harnessing the Power of the Glymphatic System through Lifestyle Choices. Brain Sci. 2020 Nov 17;10(11):868. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10110868. PMID: 33212927; PMCID: PMC7698404.
[xii] Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9. PMID: 23853635; PMCID: PMC3703169.
[xiii] Martin-McGill KJ, Bresnahan R, Levy RG, Cooper PN. Ketogenic diets for drug-resistant epilepsy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Jun 24;6(6):CD001903. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001903.pub5. PMID: 32588435; PMCID: PMC7387249.
[xiv] Kawai N, Sakai N, Okuro M, Karakawa S, Tsuneyoshi Y, Kawasaki N, Takeda T, Bannai M, Nishino S. The sleep-promoting and hypothermic effects of glycine are mediated by NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 May;40(6):1405-16. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.326. Epub 2014 Dec 23. PMID: 25533534; PMCID: PMC4397399.