Magnesium may help you sleep better by enhancing stress reduction, optimal sleep-wake cycles, and relaxation. But caution is advised.

When you live with insomnia, you may lay awake for extended periods of time, experience frequent waking during the night, or find you wake up before your alarm goes off and can’t go back to sleep.

Poor sleep can be frustrating and affect your overall and mental health. Some sleep medications may have side effects, so it’s natural to wonder if supplements like magnesium can help you sleep.

Yes, for some people, magnesium may work as a sleep aid.

Magnesium is an essential mineral, required for more than 300 bodily processes, some of which influence sleep patterns. This doesn’t mean magnesium supplements are the go-to choice for everyone experiencing sleep challenges.

According to the official position of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are no herbal or nutritional supplements currently recommended as a chronic insomnia treatment due to insufficient safety studies.

Not enough is known about magnesium’s universal impact when it comes to sleep. What makes it work for one person might make it ineffective or unsafe for another.

Even though magnesium can help some people sleep better, the effects of supplements on insomnia symptoms may depend on the underlying causes of your symptoms.

Still, magnesium can help you sleep better because of these benefits:

Stress reduction

Mental and physical stress can negatively impact your sleep. Magnesium can help you relax, particularly on a physical level.

According to a randomized, controlled study in 2016, magnesium supplementation can play an important role in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that controls your ability to rest and relax.

This overall effect can be related to a number of neurotransmitter processes in the brain.

Magnesium can inhibit several excitatory chemicals in the body to promote relaxation, and can help reduce the effects of oxidative stress that can lead to cell and tissue damage.

Sleep-wake cycles

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles.

When you’re asleep, your body goes into “darkness” mode, where melatonin is produced and processes such as blood pressure and metabolism are adjusted.

Magnesium works hand-in-hand with melatonin by regulating its production. A 2019 study indicates this relationship is important in maintaining optimal circadian rhythm and cellular timekeeping, which directly affect your sleep cycles.


Magnesium may promote relaxation in your body through its interaction with the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA is your brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it’s essential for calming the central nervous system.

Magnesium and GABA are similar enough that they can both bind to GABA receptors. This helps magnesium activate the relaxation response in the brain, calming brain activity that might make you feel “switched on” or alert.

It’s possible to get all the magnesium you need through food and beverages, though the average American diet tends to come up short in magnesium.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • spinach
  • legumes
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chia seeds
  • black beans
  • brown rice
  • fortified cereals
  • bananas
  • potatoes
  • yogurt
  • mineral waters

If you’re unable to get enough magnesium through your diet, magnesium supplements may help bridge the gap.

There are many different magnesium supplements available. Overall, formulations that dissolve well in liquid are considered the most bioavailable. This means your body may be able to better absorb and use magnesium.

Types of bioavailable magnesium supplements include:

  • chloride
  • lactate
  • citrate
  • aspartate

Less soluble forms include magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

When it comes to sleep, a 2007 study found glycine was an amino acid important in healthy sleep function. Glycine can be found in combination with magnesium in many over-the-counter supplements. You’ll find it as magnesium glycinate.

Magnesium citrate is another popular type of magnesium. If you also live with constipation, magnesium citrate may be indicated. If you’re regular, this type of supplement may cause diarrhea.

Side effects from high magnesium levels in your food and beverages are rare. Your kidneys are adept at eliminating excess magnesium from dietary sources.

The recommended dietary intake of magnesium per day is:

  • adult women (non-pregnant/non-breastfeeding): 310-320 mg
  • adult men: 400-420 mg

Magnesium in supplement form isn’t processed as readily by the body and is commonly linked to symptoms like:

  • nausea
  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea

In fact, the effect of magnesium on the gastrointestinal system is one reason it’s used in laxative products.

Although rare, it’s possible to overdose on magnesium. Too much magnesium can cause:

  • gastrointestinal upset
  • urine retention
  • facial flushing
  • lethargy
  • depression
  • hypotension
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing
  • cardiac arrest

Magnesium supplementation may interfere with medications, including:

  • antibiotics
  • bisphosphonates
  • diuretics
  • proton pump inhibitors

If you live with impaired kidney function, your body may not be able to eliminate excess dietary magnesium.

Due to the potential for overdose and its ability to interact with other medications, it’s highly advisable that you discuss the pros and cons with a health professional before increasing dietary intake or starting on supplements.

Magnesium as a sleep aid should be used with caution. Limited research exists on the sleep benefits of magnesium alone, and currently, no large-scale studies have been done to determine adequate safety protocols.

If you’re curious about how magnesium may impact your sleep cycle, speaking with your healthcare team can help determine if it’s appropriate for your situation.

For some people, magnesium supplementation may help sleep by promoting stress reduction, optimal sleep-wake cycles, and relaxation.

Although rare, it’s possible to take too much magnesium. Speaking with your health team can help determine if you should be taking a magnesium supplement to sleep and if you do, how much of it you should take.