Whenever we read "good" information about maintaining our health nutrition is usually one of the top priorities, but there are other lifestyle factors that are just as important, such as not smoking, not drinking too much, getting vaccinated, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. Of course some of these lifestyle factors are intertwined, including the impact of sleep on a person's ability to lose weight and control their blood glucose levels (Link). So when I noticed a recommendation on taking magnesium supplements if you have trouble sleeping, I was curious.
Naturally, I was wondering why a supplement was recommended when you can get magnesium from food sources. I started reviewing food sources of magnesium (some in my head, others off the web, as my memory isn't that good) and realized that the foods higher in magnesium were various whole wheat products, soybeans and other legumes, nuts, yogurt, and a few leafy greens like spinach (list here). The website I was reading was geared towards people like me who do not tolerate grains, soy, dairy, or legumes. My digestive system doesn't do well with nuts either, so I realized that some us "extra-special" folks (even though I really love spinach) might want a supplement if our food sources are limited. Fair enough.
But is there any evidence that magnesium helps with sleep? Well maybe, if you are an adult older than 51 years of age who is deficient in magnesium, at least according to this study. What about the rest of us who are having trouble sleeping though? Well, first of all I would take a look at other factors that might be affecting your sleep. Are you spending too much time in front of the smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer before bedtime (Link)? Are you taking in too much caffeine? Is your room too hot or too cold? Is there too much light shining in from the outside? Are you drinking too much alcohol (Link)? Are your cats running across the bed in the middle of the night? (Oh, that's just me, sorry). And getting those food sources of magnesium won't hurt either as you need enough for bone health.* If you've taken care of all of those things, and you are still having trouble sleeping (and you don't mind taking a pill), taking 300 mg magnesium citrate about 45 minutes before bed probably won't hurt you.
*And remember when I say increase your food sources of magnesium, portions still count. Instead of snacking on chips in the afternoon, eat a handful of nuts (not the whole bag). If you tolerate yogurt, eat the lowest carbohydrate version that you can find (often a good quality Greek yogurt). Add spinach and other leafy greens wherever you can (not too many problems with calories or excessive carbs there!). And if you do tolerate grains and legumes, make sure they are the unprocessed grains and keep everything within your carbohydrate budget.
Take home message--Eating an adequate amount of magnesium is important for many aspects of your health, including sleep. If you have trouble sleeping look at your sleep hygiene and consider boosting your food sources (and supplement if necessary).