Are You Having Trouble Sleeping?

We are a restless group of people, and by that I mean many of us don’t get enough sleep, we wake up feeling unrefreshed, or we just have difficulty sleeping overall. We have a lot of company: about 40 million people in the United States live with persistent sleep disorders and an additional 20 million people have occasional sleep issues. More than 33 percent of US adults don’t get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. These statistics are worrisome, because sleep deficiency has a negative impact on physical, emotional, and mental health and safety.

But there are ways to remedy our sleep issues. We have read or heard about numerous sleep tips, such as making sure your sleep environment is comfortable in terms of temperature, pillows, sound, light, and covers; and establishing a steady sleep pattern, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time every night and morning. Anyone who may have sleep apnea also should talk to their doctor about how to remedy this sleep disorder.

But even when all of these suggestions are followed, many people still don’t get the sleep they need. Sometimes we need to explore other alternatives when conventional approaches aren’t enough.

A natural sleep aid: magnesium

One such alternative is the use of magnesium supplementation. Low levels of magnesium and magnesium deficiency are common; approximately 80 percent of people in the United States are believed to fall into these categories. Since magnesium plays a key role in several activities that have a significant impact on the ability to get restful sleep, resolving any deficiency of this mineral could go a long way toward restoring the ability to sleep well.

Read about 8 ways magnesium makes you healthier

For example, magnesium:

  • Releases muscle tension, which in turn allows both your body and mind to relax so you can drift off to sleep. In fact, Mark Hyman, MD, best-selling author and Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, encourages us to “Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral,” because “Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.”

  • Can help relieve restless legs syndrome. Low magnesium levels can cause neurons to be hyperexcited and trigger abnormal activity, such as restless legs, which in turn disturbs sleep.

  • Facilitates the production of melatonin, a hormone that is essential for healthful sleep.

  • Alleviates symptoms of magnesium deficiency and inflammatory stress in people older than 51 who have poor sleep.

According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a Medical Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association, many doctors don’t let their sleep-deprived patients know how a magnesium supplement could improve their sleep. If such information is shared, it’s important that the correct supplement be recommended; that is, magnesium citrate powder, which is highly absorbable, rather than magnesium oxide, which poorly absorbed and can cause loose stool or diarrhea.

Read about sleep deprivation and what to do about it

Natural sleep aids to try

By all means, incorporate positive changes to your sleep environment and lifestyle, such as refraining from drinking liquids (including alcohol) several hours before bedtime, not exercising within two to three hours before retiring, and eliminating electronic devices (including cell phones, laptops, and TVs) from your sleeping space. All of these factors have been shown to have a negative impact on sleep quality.

In addition, here are a few other natural sleep aids to try.

Magnesium soak. One way to relax before bedtime and enjoy the health benefits of magnesium at the same time is to soak in a tub of warm water and Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or Natural Calm Bath from Natural Vitality. The absorption of magnesium through your skin will contribute to feelings of relaxation and balance.

Meditation. What better way to quiet the mind than to meditate? Get into a comfortable position in bed and choose your meditation method, whether it be focusing on breath, a sound (e.g., rain or waves from a sleep machine), or simply practicing mindfulness. If a racing mind prevents you from getting the sleep you need, then meditation could be helpful.

Magnesium supplementation. Perhaps soaking in a tub isn’t something you want to do, so try magnesium supplements. Dr. Hyman points out that the best supplement choices are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate and the least desirable (and most poorly absorbed) are magnesium oxide, gluconate, sulfate, and carbonate. A recommended range of dosing is 400 mg to 1,000 mg daily. Start with the lowest dose and gradually increase. Diarrhea is a sign you’ve taken too much. (Note: Talk to your doctor before starting magnesium supplementation, especially if you have severe heart disease or kidney disease.)

Tryptophan. This amino acid acts on the brain in a way that is similar to that of melatonin and serotonin; it is a relaxant. A light snack containing tryptophan-rich foods about 60 minutes before retiring may help you drift off. Options include 100 percent whole grain oats, quinoa, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and tart cherry juice.

Passion flower. If anxiety or tension is preventing you from falling asleep and staying asleep, then the calming powers of passion flower (Passiflora incarnate) could help. In a double-blind study that pitted passion flower against the benzodiazepine oxazapam, both options were equally effective, although oxazepam worked faster while passion flower did not cause the side effects associated with oxazepam use, such as daytime drowsiness. As a natural sleep aid, passion flower tea or supplements (which are often combined with hops and/or valerian) can be effective.

[Editor's Note: We recommend the magnesium products from Natural Vitality including their Natural Calm Bath and Natural Calm Sleep. The highly absorbable, water-soluble ionic formula is the best-selling magnesium supplement for ten straight years and is a multi-award winner.]

Image via donlreewalker

HealthCommunities. Overview of sleep disorders.
Hornyak M et al. Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study. Sleep 1998 Aug 1; 21(5): 501-5
Hyman M MD. Magnesium: meet the most powerful relaxation mineral available Magnesium: An invisible deficiency that could be harming your health Magnesium—The missing link to better health
Nedelec M et al. Sleep hygiene and recovery strategies in elite soccer players. Sports Medicine 2015 Nov; 45(11): 1547-59
University Health News. 2 passionflower benefits: anti-anxiety and insomnia without the side effects

By Deborah Mitchell| March 02, 2017
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at

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