magnesium for strong bones

Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Shift work, late night television and various health problems such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome can all contribute to inadequate rest. Sleep deprivation, in turn, can lead to health consequences such as obesity, depression, diabetes, hypertension, cancer or age-related macular degeneration (Touitou et al, Life Sciences, online Feb. 15, 2017). But sleeping pills carry many risks of their own. Can you use magnesium to get the sleep you need?

When Should You Use Magnesium?

Q. I listened to you talking on the podcast about the trouble with OTC sleeping pills. Why does no one mention magnesium as a sleep aid? I know it works because I can’t keep my eyes open when I take it, whether morning or night.

A. Some people are super sensitive to the sedative effects of magnesium. On August 20, 2001, we published this letter:

“Years ago I was visiting my sister who urged my husband and me to start taking magnesium with our vitamins. We took the first dose the morning we left for home.

“We usually split the driving. I drive in the evening, when I am most alert, and my husband drives in the daytime while I drowse. But that trip neither of us could keep our eyes open. We nearly pulled over into a rest stop to sleep, but we managed to get to our destination.

“I mentioned this to my sister, and she said, ‘Sleepiness is a side effect. We take magnesium at night.’ I’ve used it for insomnia ever since.”

Changes in the concentration of potassium, magnesium, calcium and hydrogen ions between brain cells are linked to sleep and wakefulness cycles (Ding et al, Science, Apr. 29, 2016). A magnesium supplement of 400 mg/day probably won’t change the amount of magnesium within cells (Wienecke and Nolden, MMW Fortschritte der Medizin, Dec. 2016). But it can reduce stress as measured by heart rate variability. According to the authors, this could help manage “restlessness, irritability, lack of concentration, sleep disorder or depression.”

How Much Magnesium Should You Take?

As we suggested above, some people are especially sensitive to the calming or sedative effects of this mineral. Others are particularly sensitive to its laxative effects. It won’t help your sleep if you need to leap out of bed in the middle of the night and race to the bathroom. A dose of 400 mg/day of magnesium will do that for some people. That is why it is important to find the right dose for you if you want to use magnesium.

Readers Weigh In:

Here is one reader’s question from 2013:

Q. What can you tell me about using magnesium as a sleep aid? I think I read about it in your newspaper column but could not find the information again. Do you have a guide you can send me?

A. Magnesium has been used to help control nighttime leg cramps that wake people up (Allen and Kirby, American Family Physician, Aug. 15, 2012). One small study in an Italian nursing home found that magnesium supplements together with melatonin and zinc at bedtime improved sleep quality (Rondanelli et al, Journal of the American Geriatric Society, Jan. 2011). The supplement contained 5 mg melatonin, 225 mg magnesium, and 11.25 mg zinc, mixed with 100 g of pear pulp. It was given one hour before bedtime.

To learn more about magnesium and other non-drug approaches to overcoming insomnia, you will find our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep helpful. Another reader reported this experience:

“I have suffered from episodes of insomnia for years and have tried many remedies without relief. A friend suggested magnesium (250 mg) at bedtime. Magnesium has helped my insomnia more than anything else I’ve ever tried. There are still occasional nights when I don’t sleep well, but they are few and far between.”

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  1. kate

    When people are talking about how much magnesium they are taking, are they referring to the elemental magnesium dose. Most magnesium products list an amount on the label. Following in brackets is listed the elemental quantity which is a much smaller amount.

  2. Moe

    I want to get off zolpidem. I have magnesium 250 mg dietary supplement zinc 50 mg and melatonin 5 mg. will this combo help me sleep. I don’t want to take the wrong mg of any of this combo.
    I want to replace zolpidem.

  3. Sheri
    BC Canada

    I take two 150mg Magnesium Citrate in the morning because I have always had constipation issues. But I never found any relief though I continue to take them for health requirments. In the last two years I have had body pain every time Fall and Winter come round. My entire body aches steady, never lets up..UNTIL I just was informed to take two before bedtime as well. Well it was the first good night sleep I have had in I do not know how long. Not only slept through the night like a baby I had no body aches and pains.. gone! PTL

  4. Ray

    Some people get wired on magnesium, and it has an adverse effect as far as a sleep aid.

    • Beth

      That happened to me..stayed awake all night and all next day, my advice is to try it on a weekend or day off to see how your body will react. It amazes me at how different we all are.

  5. Charles
    Dallas, TX

    I have been using magnesium for restless leg and insomnia for years and works great.

  6. Lola

    I’m using high potency magnesium 400 mg for 3 months now. I tried it for my regular bathroom routine. I didn’t know that it will help my sleeping also. I took it after dinner with my vitamins, and I never failed my morning visit to bathroom. And am sleeping like a baby. I thought I just add this with my vitamins.

  7. Gail
    London, UK

    Is magnesium in powdered form stronger than in tablet form.

    • Lizzy

      Yes magensium oil spray is stronger and more easily absorbed into the system than tablets. I’ve tried both.

  8. Kathleen

    I have been taking Magnesium Oxide for many years and my levels (magnesium) are normal. I do not see Oxide listed in your article. Is Oxide good for proper absorption of Calcium for bones?
    I want to take the correct Magnesium.

  9. Olivia

    I got some magnes malate yesterday, I had missed what had been taking, which was from marine minerals. This this, am, I was rather groggy and hard to get out of bed! That’s almost as bad as not sleeping! But i’ll try it a few more days. Melatonin has never sat well with me.

  10. Katie

    Does anyone wake up with headaches after talking CALM? Helps me with sleep but wake up with horrible headache?

  11. LF

    I have to say that magnesium has done absolutely nothing for my chronic severe insomnia in the 4 years I’ve taken it at bed-time. However, I’ve discovered that it is a wonderful way to mange my also-chronic constipation, which has plagued me all my life. It also seems to help control my night-time foot cramps. Too bad it doesn’t help with the insomnia, though.

    • wes

      Pick up Magnesium L Theornate and chealated magnesium. I take a combination of these just before lying down to sleep. It has changed my life. It does take a few days to figure out the right doses. In the first few days of taking these I had awful cramping however by the fourth night I slept soundly and continue to sleep soundly for over a year now. I suffered with insomnia for over 16 years. I also take Magnesium glycinate during the day. I found that I function so much better by having a “steady” stream of magnesium in my body.

      • Wendy

        Have you tried magnesium glycinate?

    • Carolyn

      You may want to check out taking calcium… with the magnesium. Like CalMax… is something you put in water.. and it helps you sleep. My mother use to get up all the time during the night.. she started taking them together.. before she went to bed.. and now she gets a sound sleep. You may want to speak with your dr… to check to see if it will interact with any other type of medication you are on. Good luck.

    • Krz

      I have also had severe insomnia for 8 years. A month ago, I began an online program CBT program for insomnia, which I never expected to work, and also added 1000 mg of magnesium glycinate before bedtime. I am very calm, and finally sleeping through the night!

      • Noelle

        What was the name of the CBT program? I am a chronic insomniac and I require prescription sleeping pills to sleep at night. I would love a more natural approach.

      • B
        danville ca

        I would like to know the name of the online CBT program, thank you

      • Jan

        CBD oil works, but I’ve had trouble with the companies being scamers,,,robbing me of all my monies, so I’d like to know what program and with whom, if possible.

  12. Lori

    I was told that I should use this for my 7yo daughter who has trouble sleeping due to her ADHD. I started tonight with her first dose of Magnesium Citrate 100mg about an hour before bed. She is pretty restless. Any suggestions? Increase gradually? They are capsules, so I am limited to only go up by 100’s. She has been on melatonin recently but have heard so many negative things, some of which I’ve seen with her.

    • Lisa W
      Peterborough nh

      Try a different form of magnesium like magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate is really good for insomnia and muscle discomfort

      • Jan

        I’ve tried all kinds of magnesium….., glycinate, citrate, orotate, malate, oxide and combinations of different kinds. I do get relief from chronic constipation, but the only thing that actually helped my insomnia was cbd, and I’ve not been able to find a reputable company. Please help. janh

        • Tony
          Beaver Dam, WI

          Have you tried hempworx? I have been using this company for several months. They are very up front about their product all ingredeints are listed. Good customer service.

  13. lucy
    brooklyn, NY 11228

    I have severe bone loss due to osteoarthritis, what would be the best type of magnesium for me? Is magnesium citrate a good choice? Is there a chelated form? Also, my husband has afib. Is there a type if magnesium that is best for him? Thank you for your input.

    • Terry Graedon

      Magnesium citrate should be fine for both of you. It is readily absorbed. You may have to take more pills to get the 200 to 400 mg of elemental magnesium that you will need. Do not take so much magnesium that it gives you diarrhea.

  14. Diane

    I am 75 years old and I have had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep for the last 15 years. I started taking OTC sleep aids and they worked well but I grew more cautious as I got older because my mother had Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years of her life. My greatest fear is that I might have inherited that tendency. So I have spent time searching and talking about sleep aids and after many trials I finally found what works for me. I take a 400 mg magnesium pill every night at bedtime and a 1/2 glass of organic tart cherry juice. I now go to sleep very soon after I get in bed and don’t wake up until 7-8 hours later. I can’t begin to tell you how good I feel now and how full of energy.

    • Camry
      Toronto, Canada

      Hi Diane,
      Which brand and type of Magnesium are you taking? Also do you take it with water first before the tart cherry juice? Thanks.

  15. Mimi

    Magnesium is also useful to stop facial tics.

    • Del

      What is the cherry juice for?

      • Stacy
        Austin, TX

        Tart cherry juice helps your body produce melatonin, from what I understand. As we age, our bodies produce less and less, which leads to sleep issues as we get older.

  16. Rita
    Dallas, TX United States

    Can anyone tell me specifically what KIND OF MAGNESIUM is best for helping with sleep deprivation or disruption? There’s oxide and two or three others on the grocery store shelves; I don’t know which one is recommended – AND, what dosage? Need your help – not sleeping well at all since hip replacement surgery two years ago. I keep thinking things will level-out but not so far. Please send info to my email address. thanks!

    • Marla

      There is a really good book called the Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, which will answer your questions about Magnesium in more detail. But in the meantime, look for a product called Calm. Almost every store sells it, it will just be tricky figuring out where it is hidden on the shelf. It will be in the Vitamin section or conversely you could buy it on Amazon. Calm is a drink that has 225 mg of Magnesium, which most people do not have a gastrointestinal reaction to it.

      • Mary

        I use magnesium Glycinate. 200 mg at night. Works well. Magnesium Citrate upset my stomach.

    • Jims3D

      See my reply below about Epsom Salt bath! Very relaxing before sleep also. Plus, I find taking minerals before bed helps absorption.

    • Stacy
      Austin, TX

      I’m a severe insomniac (can go over a week sometimes with zero sleep, it’s that bad), but magnesium glycinate by Pure Encapsulations really helped me last night. I’d tried Calm previously with zero help. If the Mag Calm doesn’t help you (which a lot of people really swear by it), you may try the Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate to see if it helps!

  17. Geri

    I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea about 10 years ago. I am such a restless sleeper that it does no good for me to use the sleep machine. I wake myself up getting tangled up with the hose or the mask being uncomfortable.

    After reading the above article about Magnesium at bedtime, I am going to give it a shot. I have nothing to lose and a lot of sleep time to gain!

    Thanks for the article,

  18. Lise

    Magnesium glycinate has no laxative effect. I’ve been taking it at bed time and have never had any incidents to get out of bed during the night. It makes me sleep like a baby despite having had depression (with severe sleep problems)

  19. Jims3d

    I find magnesium bicarbonate to be an excellent way to get Mg. Easy DIY instructions on the web to make from milk of magnesia and seltzer.

  20. Lynn

    As a person sensitive to the intestinal side effects if magnesium, there is a product out there in most health orientated stores as well as Whole Foods, etc that is a loose powdered product. It comes in various flavors as well as unflavored , and therefore you can take as much or as little as you choose. I take a small amount before bed myself and dilute this product in warm water.
    Those that have trouble sleeping might also consider homeopathy as well. There are various formulations and the cost is quite reasonable. I found one that works for me and I find if I this solution helps when I have an issue. No drowsiness, etc.

  21. ron

    I get upset reading articles about using magnesium when it doesn’t say which one. All magnesium is not alike, there are several different kinds. So which one?

    • Stacy N

      This thread indicates Magnesium Glycinate has no laxitive affect.

  22. Judith

    I have Crohn’s disease and I cannot orally take magnesium. However I found a magnesium oil that helps me. What I don’t know is how much of that I should take there are times when it irritates my skin please advise.

    • Pia

      From what I understand, the magnesium works on the skin quite quickly and you can wipe it off after 20 minutes or so.

  23. Judy

    Different forms of magnesium (chelated, citrate, etc.) have varying effects when it comes to causing diarrhea. Which is least likely to cause diarrhea?

    • Jims3D

      Loose stools mean it’s not being absorbed, so try a chelated form like magnesium taurate or magnesium glycinate. Or, try an Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) bath/foot soak.

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