30/07/2014 10:30 BST | Updated 28/09/2014 06:59 BST

Insomnia and Sleep Disruption - Is Magnesium the Solution?

2014-07-29-InsomniaandMagnesiumHuffPost.jpgIt is widely reported, including via the NHS website, that around a third of people in the UK have episodes of insomnia. Sleep disruption can affect our health in many ways including increased stress, impaired mental acuity and weakening of the immune system. It is unfortunately often hard for people with poor sleep patterns to easily adjust potentially detrimental aspects of their life, such as work stress, to help remedy this situation. Nutrition and a healthy digestion both play an important role in good sleep patterns.

The mineral magnesium is certainly the most talked about nutrient linked to poor sleep. Magnesium is an essential mineral most commonly associated with bone health as nearly 70% of the body's supply is located in the bones. And one of many approved health claims from EFSA the European Food Safety Authority for Magnesium is "Magnesium can contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue". Unfortunately the levels of magnesium in many foods today are poor.

Magnesium is a relaxer of smooth muscles and a shortage of magnesium gives rise to muscle twitching and disrupted nerve signalling. Calcium contracts muscles whilst magnesium relaxes and relaxation is a precursor to peaceful sleep. By virtue of the fact that suitable magnesium levels help with efficient muscle and energy use (optimum entropy), and therefore the likely quality of sleep, this should help reduce tiredness and fatigue and promote restful sleep. Magnesium is used in many enzyme systems in the body and if it is not present in sufficient quantities for their optimum function these systems do not work efficiently and further drain compensatory resources.

Low magnesium levels may be a factor in restless leg syndrome (RLS), agitation, anxiety and sleep disorder. It is most unlikely that a high intake of magnesium solely from dietary sources would increase your levels to a point where it caused health problems. This is due to the availability and levels of magnesium in foods today. However you could take too much magnesium in a supplement form and this would of course not be a good idea. And there have been reported instances where people consider magnesium supplementation has worsened their sleep making them 'stimulated'.

It is probable that too much magnesium does causes insomnia - and the reason is because it starts the body 'detoxing' and this causes all sorts of aches and pains and stops the body resting and sleeping. We would suggest that 200mg elemental of magnesium (I stress 'elemental' here) is ideal for seeking to promote sleep and relaxation, whilst the sort of supplemental level that generally tips the balance is 300mg+ (elemental) which will start the body detoxification and this will give rise to symptoms that appear to have the opposite effect (to relaxation) in the short term.

2014-07-29-AlmondsMagnesiumSupplements.jpgWe would always stress that everybody seeks suitable and qualified advice when looking at purchasing a food supplement - the right advice is very much based on each individual, for example age, gender and pre-existing medical conditions. And furthermore you may already be taking a multivitamins and mineral with magnesium in it, and thus need to be mindful of the total daily dose of the mineral.

Good natural sources of magnesium are fresh green vegetables, raw un-milled wheat germ, soya beans, milk, whole grains, seafoods, figs, corn, apples and oil-rich seeds and nuts, especially almonds. Fish, garlic, tofu, peaches, apricots and lima beans are also good sources.

Magnesium Citrate is the best of the non-food forms of magnesium and available as a food supplement. As a citrate it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream via the citric acid cycle. The current approved EFSA health claims for Magnesium are:

  • Magnesium can contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue;
  • Contributes to normal psychological functions;
  • Contributes to electrolyte balance;
  • Magnesium contributes to the maintenance of normal bone/teeth;
  • Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism;
  • Contributes to normal muscle function including the heart muscle;
  • Contributes to normal nerve function;
  • Contributes to normal protein synthesis;
  • Magnesium contributes to normal cell division

Amanda Williams

PG dip Nutrition mBANT. CNHC. RANA

Amanda Williams is the Managing Director of Cytoplan Ltd who are based in Worcester. Amanda has a Post Graduate Diploma Nutritional Therapy (Worcester University), a Diploma in Allergy Intolerance Therapy (Dip AIT), she is a Registered Member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy), Member CNHC, Member of Nutrition Society and RANA.

Cytoplan are suppliers of food based supplements comprising 'Food State' and 'Wholefood' vitamins, minerals, multi-formulas and natural nutrients.

Photos supplied by iStockphoto