In addition to supporting melatonin synthesis, magnesium helps regulate stress hormones, making it a good choice if melatonin doesn’t seem to work for you. “Magnesium can help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, which can spike at night,” explains Lindsay Christensen, MS, CNS, LDN, a functional nutritionist in Conifer, Colo.
In a healthy cortisol cycle, the hormone rises in the morning and declines gently throughout the day. But if you’ve awakened in the middle of the night with a spinning, anxious mind, you may have a disrupted cortisol cycle to thank. “Optimizing magnesium intake in the evening can downregulate cortisol production.” (For more on optimal cortisol timing, see “How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels“.)
This mineral may regulate other hormones as well, Christensen notes. Magnesium and calcium help metabolize estrogen, which may help address the hormone-related sleep disturbances that are a hallmark of perimenopause and menopause.
Magnesium is also needed for relaxation, Meyer adds. “It can help prevent migraines, menstrual cramping, muscle contractions — those things that are enough all by themselves to wake you up in the middle of the night.” It also stimulates the brain’s receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.
One small 2012 randomized clinical trial found that daily magnesium supplements helped relieve insomnia in elderly subjects; the participants also showed improvements in their melatonin and cortisol levels. Another study using animal subjects found that a magnesium-deficient diet was correlated with light, restless sleep. (See “Magnesium: Your Body’s Spark Plug” to learn more about this critical nutrient.)
Whole-Food Sources: Because of declining soil health, magnesium is increasingly difficult to get from food, says functional nutritionist Jesse Haas, CNS, LN. “It’s disappearing from our food system as a side effect of conventional agricultural practices.” Still, pumpkinseeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, brown rice, and edamame are all good sources of magnesium if the soil in which they’re grown is nutrient dense.
Supplements: As far as magnesium supplements for sleep are concerned, the Cleveland Clinic advises opting for magnesium glycinate (200 mg) or magnesium citrate (200 mg) about 30 minutes before bedtime. Avoid magnesium oxide, which is primarily a stool softener.
This was excerpted from “Which Nutrients and Supplements Can Help Me Sleep?” which was published in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.