Sleep problems including insomnia are frequently experienced by people of all ages. In fact, it is estimated that up to one-third of people experience sleep problems. This is a significant concern as poor sleep affects work and academic performance and is associated with an increased risk of most mental and physical disorders. Poor sleep greatly increases the likelihood of suffering from depression and is a major trigger of a manic episode in people with bipolar disorder. Poor sleep also increases the risk of medical diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity and metabolic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Magnesium is a mineral that has hundreds of crucial roles in the body. It is essential for hormone and neurotransmitter production, blood sugar regulation, immune response, and helps fight the damaging effects of free radicals (just to name a few). Low magnesium levels have been confirmed in depression, anxiety, and other medical disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.
Although more research is required, it seems that magnesium can be reduced by poor sleep.
For example, in one study, healthy male college students were monitored over a 4-week period, commencing 4-weeks prior to their final exams. Blood levels of magnesium were found to be significantly lower during periods of high stress and poor sleep compared to non-stressed/ good sleep periods. In another study  blood magnesium levels were measured in males after three conditions comprising:
- a day following a night of good sleep (control condition)
- a day preceded by less than 3 hours of sleep (temporary sleep deprivation)
- a day preceded by a month during which sleep was less than 60% of the control condition (chronic sleep deprivation).
Magnesium levels were lower after temporary sleep restriction compared to the control condition. What is even more concerning is that chronic sleep deprivation was associated with even greater reductions in magnesium concentrations compared to the other two conditions.
These findings are alarming as magnesium is an essential nutrient and its depletion can have a negative effect on our body’s ability to fight and prevent disease. Interestingly, magnesium supplementation may be beneficial as a sleep aid as it has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality .
These studies suggest magnesium supplementation may be important for people with sleep problems and/or people experiencing high stress. While magnesium may have the added benefit of improving sleep, at the very least it can prevent magnesium deficiency which is an increasing problem in people of all ages.
- Takase B, Akima T, Satomura K, et al. Effects of chronic sleep deprivation on autonomic activity by examining heart rate variability, plasma catecholamine, and intracellular magnesium levels. Biomed Pharmacother. 2004 Oct;58 Suppl 1:S35-9 [Abstract]
- Tanabe K, Osada N, Suzuki N,et al. Erythrocyte magnesium and prostaglandin dynamics in chronic sleep deprivation. Clin Cardiol 1997 Mar;20(3):265-268 [Abstract]
- Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 26;9(5):429 [Full Text]