Members of the millennial and Gen Z generations have some of the highest rates of anxiety when compared to older generations – putting them at a higher risk for poor sleep. Which is why social media videos on platforms like TikTok and Instagram are filled with “hacks” for sleeping better – like taking melatonin, mouth taping and the latest supplement du jour, magnesium.
Social media influencers are mixing up “sleepy girl mocktails”– a combination of tart cherry juice and magnesium powder – and taking capsules of magnesium as a part of their bedtime rituals. Even the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health are taking notice, recently issuing a bulletin on the trend that cautions against relying on magnesium as a sleep aid.
“What little research does exist on the connection between magnesium supplements and sleep isn’t high-quality enough for health experts to fully endorse their use. There’s also inconclusive evidence about using magnesium supplements to treat mild anxiety,” said Dr. Angela Seabright, care management physician at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “What is important to know about any supplement – including magnesium – is that they could potentially interact or interfere with medications you’re already taking or affect your health if you have a chronic condition. You need to talk with your doctor before adding any supplement to your routine.”
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a key nutrient that helps support many of the body’s functions, like regulating muscle and nerve functions, regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure, as well as making protein, bone and DNA. It helps muscles contract and makes the heart beat steadily. It is present in many foods, and can be taken as a supplement. It is also sometimes used as an ingredient in antacids and laxatives.
The amount of magnesium you need varies depending on how old you are and your gender. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, here are the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance amounts of magnesium that you need, in milligrams (mg).
|Birth to 6 months
|Infants 7–12 months
|Children 1–3 years
|Children 4–8 years
|Children 9–13 years
|Teen boys 14–18 years
|Teen girls 14–18 years
Foods high in magnesium
- Legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables (like spinach)
- Fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods
- Milk, yogurt and some other milk products
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is key to supporting your whole health.
However, many diets of people living in the U.S. are low in magnesium. Men older than age 70 and teenage girls and boys are the most likely to have diets low in magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, if you have food restrictions or lack access to a balanced diet, you may not be consuming enough magnesium. Talk with a health care provider about your diet and overall health.
Different types of magnesium
In addition to dietary sources of magnesium, there are supplement forms of magnesium available. The body processes magnesium from dietary sources in a different way than it processes magnesium from a supplement.
Talk with your health care provider before adding a supplement to your routine, as magnesium may interact with any medications you may take or affect any chronic health conditions you may be managing.
There are several different types of magnesium. It’s important to understand the difference, as they have varying effects on the body.
Common types of magnesium dietary supplements include:
- Magnesium glycinate: this is a compound of magnesium and glycine, an amino acid.
- Magnesium citrate: this is a popular form of dietary supplement. It is used as a treatment for constipation, but this may lead to side effects like diarrhea.
- Magnesium malate: this is a compound of magnesium and malic acid.
- Magnesium lactate: this is a compound of magnesium and lactic acid.
Common types of magnesium for laxative use include:
- Magnesium hydroxide: this elemental form of magnesium is used in some laxatives.
Common types of magnesium for topical use include:
- Magnesium chloride: this is a type of salt that can be found in topical products, like magnesium oil and some bath salts. There is no research to suggest it is an effective way for the body to absorb magnesium.
- Magnesium sulfate: this is the form of magnesium found in Epsom salts, used in baths and foot soaks to ease muscle pain. There is no research to suggest it is an effective way for the body to absorb magnesium.
Consuming more than 350 milligrams of magnesium supplements a day can cause side effects, including diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps. Extremely high intake of magnesium supplements can cause irregular heartbeats and cardiac arrest, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Additionally, magnesium supplements may interact or interfere with certain medications – including bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis, antibiotics, diuretics and prescription drugs used to treat acid reflux or peptic ulcers. Always talk with your health care provider before taking a supplement.