Magnesium is a calming mineral. It has been used for a long time in the treatment of mania or severe agitation. It may well be used intravenously to stop severe heart arrhythmias (irregular heart beats). 1 It is a mineral vital to our health and well-being. Not only is it found in very low quantities in our diet, several studies have shown that stress and lack of sleep also lower magnesium levels. As the second magnesium blog went into, low magnesium levels are associated with developing non-insulin dependant diabetes and weight gain. This blog goes into the commonest symptom of low magnesium levels, and that is poor sleep patterns. If we do not sleep well, we do not cope with our lives as well as we could.
So what is it to sleep well? It means falling asleep easily and waking without an alarm, refreshed and ready to go for the day ahead. There was no waking up or getting up to wee in the night. We are aware we dreamt, but the dreams were not especially vivid. How much sleep we need is individual, but it seems to be between 6 and 9 hours a night. If we are sleeping well and enough, we really do feel very well during the day; not tired nor hyper-excitable: running on adrenalin.
A small study on the effects of chronic sleep deprivation was published in 2004 and was done on 30 male college students who were facing their final exams.2 It was done over a 4 week period ending immediately after their last exam. So the students were under stress, studying hard and cutting back on their sleep. The study looked at the effect of all this on their magnesium levels.
It is concluded that chronic sleep deprivation causes an autonomic imbalance and decreases intracellular magnesium, which could be associated with chronic sleep deprivation-induced cardiovascular events.
In other words, the lack of sleep caused an imbalance in the stress/relaxation system – the autonomic nervous system, it lowered magnesium levels and disrupted regular heart beats. The report also stated that magnesium is an antagonist to calcium and makes muscles relax – including the heart muscle, so preventing spasms. 3
Which brings us to a study on restless leg syndrome. This very small study found that magnesium supplementation significantly reduced waking due to restless legs or from a similar syndrome called leg movements-related insomnia. 4 So again, magnesium helps muscles relax properly, allowing us to sleep well. Furthermore, this study used the magnesium supplementation with the poorest uptake, magnesium oxide. So if we take a decent quality supplement, the results will be even better.
There was a study done in 1993 on the effects on sleep if magnesium was deficient. 5 It was done on rats and they were fed a diet devoid of magnesium. After 6 – 7 weeks on this diet, their magnesium levels had dropped and this resulted in an increased time in wakefulness at the expense of slow wave sleep. After 9 weeks, their sleep was ‘desorganized’ and there was a marked increase in brain excitability. When magnesium was re-introduced to the diet, their sleep returned to the original pattern. The study did say that this effect would carry over to humans.
So magnesium helps the brain calm down to enable sleep. Finally there was a review published in 2007 that looked at various therapies to promote healthy moods. 6 In the section on magnesium, it noted that magnesium helps the body make serotonin gained from the diet. Good serotonin levels help us relax and feel appropriately sleepy. The review also noted that magnesium suppresses seizures, and helps balance glutamate levels in the brain. Excess glutamate makes us feel wired and anxious, as if we have drunk too much coffee.
To sum up, chemical fertilizers do not replace the magnesium taken up by the plants from the soil, so it is very difficult to get sufficient magnesium from the diet. Stress and lack of sleep further lower magnesium levels. Low magnesium levels disrupt proper sleep patterns, make us feel anxious and it is hard to relax. It causes muscles to spasm and can cause problematic irregular heart beats. I have repeatedly found that, given a high quality magnesium supplement, people sleep much better. The supplement has to be good though. Magnesium oxide will do very little, magnesium citrate, if taken in enough quantity to feel the difference, will cause the trots – we’ll have to leap out of bed in the middle of the night to sort out those side effects. And it won’t be merely a wee. The magnesium to look out for will have magnesium orotate in its make up. Other forms of magnesium supplementation that have some good effect can come in cream form and also Epsom Salts added to a warm bath helps a bit.
- http://youtu.be/GUWL1o2hSrs This is a Youtube video by Dr Mark Hyman about magnesium generally. In the opening minute he talks about how magnesium is administered in emergencies upon admission to hospital. [↩]
- Takase B, Akima T, et al. Effects of chronic sleep deprivation on autonomic activity by examining heart rate variability, plasma catecholamines and intracellular magnesium levels. Clin. Cardiol. vol 27. Issue 4. pp2230227. April 2004. [↩]
- There are other studies on stress and magnesium depletion, including an often quoted one done in Kosovo which found that under chronic war stress conditions, magnesium was lost from the body through the urine. I failed to find this study so cannot cite it. [↩]
- Hornyak M, Voderholzer U, Hohagen F, Berger M, Riemann D. Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study. Sleep, Vol 21 no 5 1998 [↩]
- Depoortere H, Françon D, Llopis J. Effects of magnesium deficient diet on sleep organization in rats. Neuropsychobiology 1993; 27. 237-245. Abstr [↩]
- Kemper KJ, Shannon S. CAM therapies to promote healthy moods. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec; 54(6): 901-x. [↩]