“A good night’s rest” are four magical words that we all dream of, yet can’t seem to get enough of. During the week, most of us are plagued with to-do list after to-do list that we end up forgetting to put our sleep hygiene first. (Plus, it doesn’t help that we’re constantly tethered to our phones.) But what if we told you that you can improve your poor sleeping habits by including a mineral into your everyday routine through a healthy diet? What mineral is it you ask? It’s a little thing called magnesium.
According to the Washington Post, nearly half of Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diets and don’t even realize that they need it. So don’t worry, if you find yourself tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning — you’re not alone in this, amiga(o)s. Good news is magnesium not only regulates sleep but is known to ease your anxiety and stabilize your mood, so this multihyphenate mineral will change your life. Need even more reasons to jump on this magnesium train? Scroll below to get all the info you need for this little natural sleep inducer.
So What is This Magical Mineral?
Magnesium is an essential macromineral that we need in large quantities to maintain the health of our bodies and brains. It is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and can be found in basically every one of our cells. A few of the vast functions we depend on magnesium for include: converting energy into food, creating new proteins from amino acids, gene maintenance, muscle movements, and nervous system regulation.
That being said, not all magnesium types are created equally and do the same things. Certain types of magnesium are better suited for certain bodily functions. Magnesium glycinate is best for improving one’s sleep by bonding to the amino acid glycine. Nutritionist Adrienne Dowd, RD, states this mineral “has increased bioavailability and has a calming effect. It can be used for relaxation, increased sleep quality, and stress relief.”
Meanwhile, magnesium chloride is best for soothing skin issues, often used as the base of shea butter, where it’s found to be effective in treating conditions such as acne, eczema, and dermatitis. Magnesium chloride also comes as magnesium oil and can be made as an at-home DIY project by combining magnesium chloride flakes with distilled water.
Since there are so many variations in magnesium forms, you should be mindful when choosing to take a supplement. Specifically, Dowd urges one to be cautious with magnesium aspartate and glutamate, which are “considered ‘excitatory neurotransmitters’ and excess amounts can cause ‘excitotoxicity’ and lead to death.” Not to get morbid and scare you, but moral of the story being check with your doctor first.
How to Get Your Fill of Magnesium?
Since the body does not produce magnesium itself, it is reliant on outside sources to get its daily fix. The easiest way to get the necessary amount of magnesium is by eating magnesium-rich foods. You can find the mineral naturally in a variety of foods such as dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, broccoli, squash, legumes, dairy products, meat, whole grains, coffee, and chocolate. To remember which foods are high in magnesium, an easy trick is to think of foods high in fiber — those foods rich in fiber are generally rich in magnesium, as well.
If you find you are still not getting enough magnesium through your diet, the other option is to take magnesium supplements. Some indicators that you may be low in magnesium include muscle twitches and cramps, muscle fatigue, and mental numbness. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is about 310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men, with the higher bracket of doses being recommended for those 30 and above. Typical over-the-counter supplements are sold in 400 mg dose sizes, which equates to about the average amount your body needs per day. But please be wary of taking too much magnesium—when too much is consumed, side effects can include cramps, nausea, diarrhea and in extreme cases, irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest, which again, underscores the importance to consult with a doctor.
Magnesium for Sleep and Stress
If you are one of those 30 percent of adults who suffer from insomnia, it is possible that you could have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is greatly involved in both sleep and stress regulation, so not having enough of it could prevent you from sleeping throughout the night. As for stress, Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, states that when you are under stress, your body’s stress hormones can catalyze physical effects, which then consume and deplete your magnesium levels.
Magnesium allows you to get a deep, restful sleep by activating the neurotransmitters that calm the body and mind. It helps your body maintain its GABA levels, which is key because GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps you relax by quieting nerve activity and regulating sleep. Low levels of magnesium are associated with increased stress and anxiety levels, as the mineral keeps you calm and able to turn down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for your zen. By being able to stabilize one’s mood, magnesium can even relieve mild anxiety and depression. Lastly, it regulates the hormone melatonin, which governs your body’s sleep cycles.
Given magnesium is so involved in one’s ability to chill out and sleep restfully, it may be a good option to take higher levels of this mineral (either through diet or via supplements) for those with difficulties sleeping. So, if you find yourself to be anxiety-ridden or unable to sleep, magnesium—and specifically, magnesium glycinate—may be the solution you’ve been long looking for.
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