It’s always fantastic to see many of you engaging with me through my emails. Many of you have come into the pharmacy or emailed me for the past week asking about B vitamins and the non-prescription drug approaches to have a restful sleep. I had one of my regulars ask me about magnesium for sleep while she was picking up her prescription. I thought I would share parts of our conversation with you:
“So Chris, what do you think about taking magnesium? My friend told me that it helps her with sleep.”
I’m glad you asked, I often talk with my patients about the importance of magnesium and the under-recognised role it plays in sleep and overall health.
I’ve seen many of my patients’ sleep benefit greatly from increasing the intake of magnesium either through diet or supplements.
Magnesium deficiency is common among adults. In particular, the elderly are more vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Women are also at higher risk for low magnesium. Some medicines, for example, heart and indigestion (Proton Pump inhibitors – omeprazole) medicines can affect the way we absorb magnesium from our diet. It’s not uncommon for those people to have less than optimal magnesium levels.
One of the roles magnesium plays in our body is to assist us in having a restful sleep. Low magnesium levels can throw our quality sleep off course, hence affecting our energy levels. The problem with magnesium is that our body does not produce it naturally nor store it. This means that the magnesium your body needs must come from outside sources (e.g. eating the right food or supplements).
“What kind of food shall I eat to receive magnesium?”
You can increase your magnesium levels by eating dark leafy greens, seeds & nuts (e.g. sunflower and sesame seeds, cashews and almonds), broccoli, legumes, dairy products, meat and unprocessed whole grains. They are all rich in magnesium.
“How does magnesium improves my sleep?”
Magnesium has a widespread role in the body’s functioning. So it’s no surprise that sleep can also be affected by the level of magnesium in our body.
Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with a low level of magnesium often experience restless sleep and frequent waking during the night.
A deeper and restful sleep can be achieved by maintaining adequate levels of magnesium. Magnesium increases the level of GABA – a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation and promotes sleep. People with low GABA levels usually find it hard to relax.
Research indicates that supplementing with magnesium in people with poor sleep or restless-leg syndrome can improve sleep quality.
“There are many magnesium supplements out there. How do I know which one to choose?”
The number of magnesium products available in the market makes it relatively difficult to find the one that’s right for you. Besides different brands of magnesium supplements, magnesium is also available in numerous forms – including:
· Magnesium carbonate
· Magnesium chloride
· Magnesium citrate
· Magnesium oxide
· Magnesium phosphate
· Magnesium sulphate
· Magnesium diglycinate
I usually suggest my patients avoid salt forms of magnesium for 2 reasons:
- The absorption rate between different salt forms of magnesium varies greatly. Most magnesium salts are only absorbed to the extent of about 5 to 10%.
- People poorly tolerate salt forms of magnesium because it has a laxative effect. This explains why many people can experience loose bowel motions when they take magnesium supplements.
The form of magnesium I believe is better absorbed and tends not to cause diarrhoea is an amino acid chelate form (e.g. magnesium aspartate). By attaching an amino acid structure to a magnesium molecule, it makes the mineral less foreign to our body (as our body is made up of building blocks of amino acids). Hence, allowing magnesium to be recognised by the body as such, so they’re absorbed much faster and more efficiently into the bloodstream compared to the salt forms.
The following is what I usually tell my patients to look for when deciding on a magnesium supplement:
- Magnesium amino acid chelate for enhanced absorption and reduced stomach intolerance.
- Added L-glutamine for muscle repair and recovery.
- Added B vitamins to support energy production and mental focus (do not choose a magnesium supplement containing B vitamins if you intend to use it for sleep – as mentioned in my last email).
- Added sour cherry to improve sleep duration, efficiency and quality.
- Added vitamin B6 for the relief of PMS including muscular pains and cramps.
As always, talk to one of our pharmacists or your doctor if you are intending to start magnesium supplements. This is because magnesium supplements may not be ideal for certain people with specific health conditions or certain medicines.