Written by Kendra Whitmire | Wednesday, 16 August 2023
We love a good night’s sleep, but sometimes it can allude us. And while a bad night’s sleep now and then is okay, ongoing sleep issues may cause long-term health issues. Kendra Whitmire, nutritionist and technical writer at Designs for Health, delves deeper into magnesium and how it may help you to get a better night’s sleep.
Firstly, how can lack of sleep affect us?
Studies have shown that 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%. On top of this, 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.
Factors that impact sleep quality
Numerous factors impact sleep quality, including 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. Discover how you can improve your sleep with 5 simple tips.
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 seven weeks followed by a normal diet experienced a significant increase in wakefulness. Another group in the study consumed the magnesium-deficient diet for nine 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, randomised clinical trial of 46 elderly participants with insomnia, one group took 500 mg of magnesium for eight 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.
Food as medicine: magnesium-rich foods
Consuming a diet full of magnesium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables (check out this recipe for crispy skin barramundi with kale slaw), 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.
Interested in learning more about magnesium and sleep quality?
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Kendra Whitmire, MS, CNS, is a nutritionist and technical writer for Designs for Health. Kendra received her master's in nutrition and functional medicine from the University of Western States and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist.
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