How to Get Into Ketosis Fast
The low-carb, high-fat keto diet has been shown to improve body composition and increase endurance performance. But getting into ketosis is difficu...
Updated November 13, 2019
Reading this with tired eyes? You might just be deficient in the one of the most important substances for increased performance. No, we aren’t talking protein or BCAAs—you may be deficient in sleep.
If so, you’re missing out on the mental and physical performance benefits that a night of restful sleep can provide. But, after trying so many different solutions, maybe you’ve found yourself still unable to get quality shuteye.
As it turns out, one small but essential mineral may play a not-so-small role in how well you sleep. That mineral is magnesium, and it might just be the Sandman of nutrients. Can magnesium help you lull off to a restorative slumber?
Magnesium (Mg) is one of the 24 essential minerals and vitamins. Essential, meaning that we need to consume these nutrients in our diet since our body cannot synthesize, or manufacture them, on its own.
Found in food sources like dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, squash, broccoli, dairy, meat, legumes, and unprocessed whole grains, magnesium has a role in more body functions than you may think (and some pretty critical ones too). Whether it’s making sure your heart beats properly or helping to promote bone mineral absorption, magnesium is a real physiological M.V.P.
The problem is, many of us may fail to get enough of certain nutrients from dietary sources alone. Whether due to an inadequate intake of nutrient-rich foods or the fact that many of our foods are now themselves nutrient-deficient, it may sometimes be hard to get enough. About 50% of Americans aren’t getting as much magnesium as they need.
Conversely, magnesium deficiencies are associated with a high blood pressure and a greater risk for many diseases of the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system, among other negative health conditions.
Could it be a coincidence then, that research shows nearly one-in-three adult men and women don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, and 35% report trouble sleeping and getting “poor” to “only fair” sleep quality?
The fact that magnesium helps regulate several aspects of sleep points to a possible link between magnesium deficiencies and the epidemic of sleep loss seen around the world.
Even those who aren’t deficient, however, can benefit from the role that magnesium plays in a restful sleep. Sleep is one frontier where the benefits of magnesium supplementation are being realized. What role could this essential mineral have for you in slumberland?
Among the many symptoms of magnesium deficiency, (including muscle cramps, changes in mood, or muscle weakness) trouble sleeping may be one of the most annoying and detrimental symptoms as far your well being is concerned. We need proper sleep to think, perform, and be civil human beings to each other. How does magnesium work into the equation?
Running low on magnesium could throw off sleep cycles, leading to some restless nights and not-so-productive next mornings. The ability of magnesium deficiencies to impair sleep is likely because magnesium plays a major role in the central nervous system, controlling excitability and activation of certain neurons.
Magnesium deficiency may also impair sleep by increasing overall worry and anxiety. Patients with anxiety and depression have been shown to have low levels of magnesium.
Put some greens on your plate. Lower dietary intake of magnesium is associated with symptoms of poor quality sleep.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with sleep disturbances, nighttime agitation, and depression.
While correlation doesn't equal causation, the findings that a low intake of magnesium is associated with poor sleep indicate the possibility that the two are intricately related.
In a study of rats, a magnesium-deficient diet induced alterations in sleep patterns. Restricting magnesium intake in the diet increased nighttime wakefulness by 50%, reduced recovery-promoting slow-wave sleep (SWS) by 24%, and lowered the total time spent sleeping.
Why might a low amount of magnesium (especially in the brain) correlate with poor sleep? It may have to do with adrenaline, one of the sympathetic “fight or flight” hormones, since lower magnesium is associated with increased stress hormone signaling. No doubt about it, if you’re trying to escape a tiger, there isn’t much time to hit the hay. Stress hormones are perfect for game time, but not so perfect for bedtime.
Magnesium also regulates a variety of neurotransmitters, cardiovascular processes like blood pressure and temperature, and muscular relaxation—all of which play a role in promoting (or preventing) sleep. So, reversing even a minor deficiency or boosting your magnesium levels above your baseline could have major impacts on your health. For this reason, magnesium supplements may be a great way to promote sleep for rest and recovery along with many other wellness gains.
Sleep like a baby...or your grandma? Newborn babies with higher levels of magnesium have better overall sleep,
One reason for the sleep-promoting effects of magnesium is that it quiets the body and the mind, priming the nervous system for sleep, and acting as a stress reducer.
Magnesium is a massage therapist for your brain, relaxing neurons and relieving the tension of stress and worry which promote a calmer state of mind.
Supplementing with magnesium helps improve biomarkers of stress including a higher heart rate variability (HRV) and increased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity
Pull an all-nighter? Magnesium might help you recover. After a night of sleep deprivation, higher magnesium levels were shown to be protective and promote longer and higher quality recovery sleep.
Poor sleep is often a consequence of a disturbed circadian rhythm, the “clocks” in all body organs that regulate metabolism and sleep-wake cycles. Magnesium has been shown to play a critical role in regulating these biological timekeepers by maintaining proper function of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), our body's master clock.
Sleep cycles are also kept in line by the “sleep molecule” melatonin. Levels of magnesium and melatonin are correlated, and supplementing with magnesium has been shown to increase the amount of melatonin floating around the brain and body by 35%.
The potency of magnesium for regulating sleep is evidenced in its ability to help in one of the worst sleep disorders of them all—insomnia, known as habitual sleeplessness, trouble sleeping, or the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. This may be you, if countless nights are spent staring at the ceiling thinking of past mistakes (“why did I tweet that!?”) or worrying about an upcoming project. Have no fear, magnesium is here to help.
Magnesium has been used extensively and effectively to treat insomnia. Giving 500mg of magnesium per day for eight weeks increased the sleep time, efficiency, and melatonin levels of insomnia patients.
A diet that promotes overall adequate levels of magnesium should be goal number one when it comes to improving your sleep and health. A first step might be trying to incorporate some magnesium-rich foods into your diet, including leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, even dark chocolate. But, sometimes diet isn’t enough, and supplementing becomes the next best option.
For sleep specifically, dosing supplemental magnesium should be done carefully; as both too much and not enough of a dose may lead to sleep problems.
If taken at the correct dose in the ideal proximity to bed time, magnesium supplements can promote sleep above and beyond benefits gained from a dietary boost on its own.
While there aren’t any dosage “guidelines,” 350mg for adults might do the trick if taken 1 - 2 hours before you tuck in for the night. Along with sleep promotion, this will also help ward off general deficiencies.
Magnesium-containing nootropics may also be a great way to consume this mineral along with a cornucopia of other compounds.
One of the reasons magnesium has shown such benefits for sleep is that it works like many of the common sleep aids you can buy over-the-counter (Ambien ring a bell?) These medications work their magic by acting on GABA receptors and promoting sleep through neuro-inhibitory mechanisms.
But, the sleep induced by these common medications doesn’t resemble natural sleep. Instead, these pharmaceuticals produce a lower brain wave power during sleep, and this means a less restorative night.
Compared to over-the-counter sleep medications, the side effects of magnesium supplementation are extremely low.
Employing magnesium before bed might be easier, and less time-consuming than that nightly deep nasal breathing routine you keep trying to no avail. Supplementing with magnesium could be one simple hack to increase quantity and quality of sleep. You want to perform your best, whether that’s on the field or in the boardroom. Sleep is the way to get there. And magnesium is the way to get better sleep.
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