Magnesium is a mineral the human body uses in more than 300 enzymatic processes including those that support deep, restful sleep. It is abundant in many foods we consider healthy – nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, spinach, etc. – and yet many Americans miss the mark on meeting their magnesium needs.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults ranges from 310-420mg per day depending on age, sex, pregnancy, and lactation. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 2013-2016 indicates that 48% of Americans don’t get enough dietary magnesium. The people that do get enough tend to use nutritional supplements, more on those later.

When it comes to sleep, magnesium supports relaxation of the mind and body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, you can consider this your “Rest and Digest” system. Magnesium helps regulate melatonin production, the sleep hormone, and binds with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to quiet down nerve activity. Without adequate magnesium, these actions are impaired and can lead to poor sleep.

Many people can support better sleep by enjoying magnesium-rich foods throughout the day. The following combination meets the 320mg RDA for women 31-50 years old:

  • ½ cup oatmeal, 138mg
  • ¼ almonds, 107mg
  • 1 cup uncooked spinach, 24mg
  • ½ cup cooked black beans, 60mg

For more magnesium-rich food ideas check out this list:

Some people may want to up their magnesium intake immediately while they gradually work more magnesium-rich foods into their nutrition routine, supplements can help bridge that gap.

Magnesium comes in many supplement forms, for the purposes of sleep support the most common supplements will be magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate in a dose ranging from 200-350mg taken before bed.

Before using a supplement, it’s important to discuss the options with a healthcare provider and assess for any medication interactions.

While potentially beneficial for sleep, there are downsides to magnesium supplements, most notably they can cause diarrhea, nausea, and GI cramping. If you already experience GI distress, a magnesium supplement may not work well for you. To prevent negative effects of using supplements, starting with a lower dose of 100mg is recommended, you can then increase the dose if needed and as tolerated, never exceeding 350mg.

If you suffer from poor sleep, ensuring you are meeting your daily magnesium needs may be the key to getting a good night’s rest. Enjoying magnesium-rich foods throughout the day is always the best and tastiest way to provide your body with enough magnesium.

To learn more about magnesium and magnesium supplements, check out the resources below:

Healthline Article on Magnesium Supplements

NIH Magnesium Fact Sheet

To learn more about the sleep process and how to get a better night’s sleep for you and your patients with CKD and ESRD be sure to check out our webinar Sweet Dreams: The Relationship Between Nutrition and Sleep.

Also, don’t forget to log on our Dietitian Portal for more tools on this on other subjects!