I Took Magnesium to Help Me Sleep for a Month—Here’s What Happened

Some certified health professionals suggest that magnesium is better for sleep than even melatonin. During a few weeks of insomnia, our health editor put that theory to the test.

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As a kid, I was always a little envious of my best friend, who fell asleep seconds after our heads hit the pillow at sleepovers. Like most everyone, I’m typically tired in the evenings…but bedtime usually goes one of two ways: either I drift off swiftly (which does seem to come a little easier as I age)—or, on more frustrating nights, my mind might take an hour to quiet down and let me fall asleep peacefully.

But this past fall, I experienced a sleepless spell that lasted a couple months. In the past 10 years, melatonin usually came to the rescue for that maybe one-night-a-week when it took hours to fall asleep. (That was usually Sundays, which science shows is common.) But when melatonin wasn’t helping my insomnia, nor were even the CBD gummies I tried, suffice it to say I was not at my best. It was time to turn to wellness professionals for advice.

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When should you try magnesium for sleep?

Los Angeles-based, board-certified holistic nutritionist Katie Bressack, INHC, AADP revealed the answer to me: melatonin can be effective to bring on sleep when your difficulty sleeping is temporary and circumstantial, like when you’re jet-lagged or have indulged in an extra-long sleep the night before (like over the weekend).

But, if a lack of sleep continues for an extended period, Bressack explains: “Magnesium works better for sleep consistently.”

She added that’s particularly true when you’ve gone through hormonal changes—and, indeed during this phase I spoke with my board-certified medical doctor, who ran diagnostic tests and confirmed that I’d experienced some significant fluctuations in my hormone levels.

Similarly, if you’re considering taking magnesium for sleep (or changing your nutrition or sleep regimen), always talk with a licensed healthcare professional. Registered dietitian Sally Twellman, RDN, has told us that in particular, people taking diuretics, antibiotics, or heart medicine could see an interference with medication absorption. Also, people with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease should also avoid taking a magnesium supplement without medical supervision.

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Magnesium capsules on an orange background
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What are the benefits of magnesium?

US Department of Agriculture data in 2019 suggested that almost half of Americans were at risk for a magnesium deficiency. Maybe this is part of why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated one-third of Americans report trouble sleeping.

In addition to the fact that magnesium regulates and helps optimize the release of the body’s hormones that play into sleep, like serotonin and melatonin, magnesium is a mineral that:

  • relaxes your muscles,
  • calms your mind,
  • and balances blood sugar.

These three magnesium benefits will also help contribute to a gentle wind-down and restful night.

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Ailing Woman Rests in Bed
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How long does it take for magnesium to help you sleep?

Even though magnesium might not work, well, overnight, I did notice that the effects didn’t take long to set in. While Bressack says an hour before bed is a good time to take magnesium, I simply took it in the morning with my multivitamin and coffee to let it work in my system at a time of day that I typically carve out for my vitamins. (Drinking water too close to bedtime can also keep me up at night!)

The first night or two, I was a little untrusting that magnesium would actually help me sleep. However, after the first couple weeks, I definitely noticed that I was getting much better rest and feeling more like myself. Three weeks in, I felt great; and after a month, I was getting what I have since been calling the best sleep of my life. (I’ve noticed excellent sleep for about three months now.)

Bressack says she’s witnessed many of her clients experience a restful effect of magnesium after “just a few days—not too long.”

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Nature Made Extra Strength Magnesium Oxide 400 Mg

Which form of magnesium is best for sleep?

Some healthcare professionals have suggested that magnesium glycinate is the ideal form of the supplement. That’s because glycerinate is an amino acid that helps your body best absorb the magnesium.

Bressack says that if you’re looking to get a boost of magnesium from your diet, eat more dark, leafy greens and avocados. The National Institutes of Health has listed black beans, chia seeds, potatoes (skin-on), and almonds as a few of the highest-magnesium foods.

After consulting with Bressack and my doctor, I took an extra-strength magnesium supplement from Nature Made. The 400-milligram dose is a little higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults of 310 to 320 milligrams for women and 400 to 420 milligrams for men. Under the supervision of two healthcare professionals, for me, this supplement at this dosage has worked.

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top view of an assortment of foods high in Magnesium
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Magnesium benefits beyond sleep

Another observation I’ve made in the past few months is that, thanks to the brain-calming effects of magnesium, I am indeed less worked up about everyday stressors. Even though my workload hasn’t changed, it’s less frequent that I get that clenched, “I-have-so-much-to-accomplish-RIGHT-NOW” feeling in my chest and gut.

Taking magnesium is also a reassuring to start my day, combined with my usual water-multivitamin-coffee combination. I just ran out of my first bottle and immediately stocked back up. I believe this morning blend is helping me feel more balanced all around.

And overall, I’m in a better mood…something that probably can be attributed, at least in significant part, to a healthy night’s sleep.

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Kristine Gasbarre
Krissy is the senior editor leading content for The Healthy @Reader's Digest. For two decades she has worked in digital media, books, and magazines and is a #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling ghostwriter. Her work has been featured in Reader’s Digest, People, the New York Times, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Sirius/XM Oprah Radio, and more. With degrees in psychology and cultural media studies, she assisted with a clinical research project at the Cleveland Clinic and is a certified group fitness instructor, the owner of two irresistible rescued dogs, and the partner of a physician leader in healthcare quality who is also a stage IV lymphoma survivor.