bottle of magnesium pills, magnesium to get to sleep, trouble sleeping

Adequate sleep is a cornerstone of good health, but far too many of us don’t get enough. We stay up late staring at screens, whether for work or entertainment. Perhaps we get up early for a long commute or maybe we work shifts. There is no end to the reasons to miss out on sleep, but the consequences could eventually be deadly. How do you cope? Might you take magnesium to get to sleep?

Magnesium as a Sleep Aid:

Q. I read about magnesium helping with sleep a couple of weeks ago in your column. Thank you for writing about this. I am very fit and healthy, but I have struggled with poor sleep for years. Often I wake up around 3 am and can’t go back to sleep.

I run a small business and am somewhat of a type A personality. That might play a role in my wakefulness before dawn. I am incredibly happy to report that from the very first night of taking 400 mg of magnesium, I have slept very well. It must calm my nerves. Since it is dirt-cheap and natural, I am even more pleased.

A. Magnesium is an essential mineral, but nearly half of Americans don’t get the recommended amount in their diets (USDA, July 2009).  Certain medications contribute to the problem. Diuretics, corticosteroids and acid-suppressing drugs (PPIs) increase magnesium requirements and can lead to deficiency.

Taking Magnesium to Get to Sleep:

Many people are surprised to learn that magnesium supplements have been shown to improve sleep (Abbasi et al, Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, Dec. 2012).  Changes in the intercellular concentration of certain ions, including magnesium, in the brain control the sleep-wake cycle (Ding et al, Science, Apr. 29, 2016). This may explain why a magnesium supplement could help promote sleep.

You can learn more about natural approaches to overcoming insomnia and early-morning waking in our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. Access to this online resource (not a printed booklet) may be purchased at

Dangers of Magnesium:

Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea. If the supplement you are taking causes diarrhea, reduce the dose.

Most important, don’t take magnesium supplements if you have kidney problems. When kidney function is subpar, the body can’t get rid of the magnesium it doesn’t need. This could lead to toxicity.

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  1. Jed

    When do you take magnesium morning or evening?

  2. Toddie

    Yes, I’ve been taking magnesium-potassium-aspartate tablets each night for years. W/in 15 minutes they seem to start dissolving in the stomach and it is hard to stay awake. Dr Norm Shealy (sp) recommended them in a series he put together w/ Caroline Myss on natural healing and common problems across the U.S. and contemporary societies–like insomnia, depression, mind-body illnesses.

    He recommended it to all patients w/ depressive tendencies, unless contraindicated, and said (years before all these recent studies) that indeed most Americans were deficient in magnesium. My mother has Alzheimer’s and was wandering about at 2 a.m., driving my father bonkers.

    He now gives her 2 of these tabs each night and she sleeps until 6:30. He himself is on warfarin, so I don’t think he is allowed to take magnesium–it thins the blood–to the point where I’ve heard that if you ever suspect someone’s having a stroke and you’ve called 911, a swig of Phillips Milk of Magnesia may just save them from brain damage, as it should temporarily thin blood around any clot in a pinch.

  3. Honin

    I take divided daily dose (600 mg) of magnesium bisglycinate. I sleep well (my 2nd 300 mg dose is taken before bedtime). It is important to research the company that both makes and sells your magnesium supplement.

  4. Rachel
    Chapel Hill

    When I go to purchase a magnesium supplement, I find a wide array of choices. Does anyone know of an easy-to-read, concise article describing the differences in magnesium supplement products?

  5. Cindy M. B
    Seattle, WA

    Interesting to hear about the kidney angle; I didn’t know that! I do, in fact, take quite a bit of magnesium, because I keep reading stuff about how “older” people (like me) don’t process magnesium very well and how many of them are deficient in magnesium. So I take “magnesium malate” (1275 mg/day) which is a form of magnesium that’s supposed to be better for bones and doesn’t cause such loose stools (and no, it doesn’t!).

    I do take A LOT of supplements besides that, though; and I always worry about my poor kidneys being able to process it all. This just gives me a little more cause for concern.

    I’d love to find a naturopath or other MD who’s really up on supplements, to let me know if I’m doing things right… but so far I haven’t been able to find anybody who’s more knowledgeable than me. And I don’t know enough to answer many pertinent questions. I’m sure there are tests and such, but both my dr. and my “medicare advantage” plan are hesitant to order/fund this kind of labwork and I sure can’t pay for it myself. So there we are.

  6. Tyler

    This might work for you!

  7. Janne

    There are several forms of magnesium, the cheapest and most common is Mag oxide. This is the one most likely to cause diarrhea (and for any one suffering from constipation, this is a great reliever of symptoms.) Mag threonate (sp?), citrate, malate are usually more absorbable. There are a couple more types, that do not come to mind at present.

  8. Dorothy

    About 25 years ago, my physician said to take magnesium. He said that it “helps everything.” My husband and I have taken 400 mgs every evening since. If husband forgets to take his, he gets leg cramps.

  9. Deirdre

    A word of caution with magnesium supplements: according to Labdoor, most brands they tested had somewhat elevated levels of heavy metals. Ideally, try to eat a magnesium-rich diet.

  10. Lise

    Magnesium glycinate does not cause diarrhea and it is highly absorbable.

  11. JUNEBUG14
    Houston, TX

    I had heard about magnesium deficiency due to taking PPIs in an article by the Health Ranger Newsletter. Upon reading the symptoms I could recognize myself perfectly. I now take the same magnesium pictured in this article and I am feeling and sleeping so much better. I have to take Naproxen (only as needed) for arthritis flare ups so the two pills that I take with breakfast and dinner have helped to ease my constipation problems. The leg cramps that I use to experience at night are also greatly eased, as I walk for 1 mile every evening after dinner. I told my physician that I had added magnesium to my diet and he seemed pleased. For me taking the supplement has been a win-win situation and I am so happy to have had all this good advise.

  12. Foncell

    I use 6 mg of meclizine for helping me sleep at night. What are the side-effects of this med?

    • Terry Graedon

      It can cause urinary retention, making it difficult to urinate. It can also lead to constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, palpitations, sweating and erectile dysfunction, among other reactions. That constellation of symptoms suggests it is anticholinergic; if so, prolonged use might contribute to confusion.

  13. Leonorah

    I take 750 mg of magnesium every night. I sleep much better and it also helps to keep me “regular.”

  14. Joan
    Baltimore MD

    Magnesium Citrate eliminates the diarrhea problem (no pun intended).

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