Getting sufficient sleep is not optional.
In fact, it is an extremely important component to overall health and wellness.
In the conversation surrounding healthy habits — eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, etc. — sleep cannot be neglected.
Your body needs it.
Sleep gives your body time to rebuild and rejuvenate.
Your body is performing many important functions even as it goes through the stages of the sleep cycle — cells are repaired and restored, new information is stored, and energy is conserved. These functions are critical for overall health.
Poor sleep can disrupt these functions and contribute to various health issues.
Poor sleep and health effects
- Blood sugar levels: Insufficient sleep may affect metabolic function. According to research conducted by the Nurses’ Health Study, poor sleep increases risk for insulin resistance and other metabolic issues such as type 2 diabetes.
- Normal immune function: The immune system is your body’s defense against illness and it is a key component to maintaining overall health. For example, chemical messengers called cytokines — they help communicate and coordinate immune responses — are released during sleep. Poor sleep can disrupt this vital immune function.
- Weight management: Studies have shown that a lack of sleep, or those who slept less than five hours per night, had a higher body mass index (BMI) than those with sleep patterns with the normal range of seven to eight hours. A higher BMI can indicate a higher percentage of total body fat; which comes with its own health concerns.
- Cardiovascular health and hypertension: Blood pressure directly affects heart health. A survey conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination found that participants who claimed to sleep five or less hours a night were twice as likely to also be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
- Memory and mood: Most people have experienced “brain fog,” that feeling when memory or focus isn’t as sharp as normal. Poor sleep contributes to this feeling of impaired memory. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown a link between poor sleep and a higher rate of depression.
Sleep experts offer many tips and advice for those wishing to get a good night’s rest; to wake up on the right side of the bed for once. Some advice, just like diet and exercise, require good habits and a good routine.
Here are just a few simple tips:
Turning off the lights
While getting natural sunlight exposure during the day is good for helping your body keep up with that internal clock (circadian rhyme), large amounts of artificial light exposure at night can disrupt this pattern and confuse that internal clock.
Limit the noise
This may be hard, depending on where you live and other factors, but some noise can disturb sleep as well. Ear plugs and even soothing noise machines may help block out unwanted sounds.
Food and caffeine before bed
Eating right before bed can also contribute to poor sleep; as digestive function may keep sleep at bay. It is usually recommended to eat no less than three hours before turning in.
Furthermore, avoid caffeine late in the day and prior to bed as it can also make sleep more elusive for some people.
Irregular sleep patterns can also be an issue for getting proper sleep. Developing consistent sleeping patterns and habits -- going to bed and waking up at similar times -- can be very beneficial.
Natural sleep aids
Magnesium and its Benefits
Magnesium is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in the body. It is vital for maintaining optimal health.
This dietary mineral is one of the most versatile minerals in the body, playing a role in more than 300 enzyme reactions, in systems such as protein synthesis, nerve and muscle function, and metabolism to name a few.
The adult body contains roughly 25g of magnesium, with most being present within the skeletal system and the soft tissue.
Magnesium as a macromineral is usually consumed through various foods; especially green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Even so, many people still have magnesium deficiency due to low dietary intake.
Magnesium is a key mineral for optimal health. Magnesium-rich foods should be incorporated into your daily diet —leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans — but you can also bolster magnesium intake through supplemental means if you are unable to get it through dietary means alone.
Here are just a few of the many health benefits of magnesium:
- Muscle health – As stated above, magnesium works alongside other essential vitamins and minerals and is instrumental in over 300 enzyme reactions, including the muscular system. It can help alleviate minor involuntary muscle twitching caused by stress.
- Heart health – Magnesium can also help support healthy heart function, with particular benefits related to blood pressure. One study suggests that magnesium supplementation may help lower blood pressure in healthy adults with higher blood pressure.
- Metabolic health – It is well known that high blood sugar acts as a diuretic in the body, leading to constant urination and the loss of water-soluble nutrients — which can lead to deficiencies in magnesium and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, a study from the National Institute of Environmental Medicine found that an increase in the daily intake of magnesium (100mg) reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 15 percent.
- Anxiety - According to a systematic review published in the Nutrients journal of MDPI, magnesium deficiency may have links to higher levels of anxiety, due to its role in working within the stress glands. Although the researchers admit the need for more studies, magnesium supplementation may have a role to play in reducing anxiety.
Magnesium for improved sleep
Magnesium supplementation has also shown to be a natural way to help promote better sleep by aiding those with magnesium deficiency and who suffer from insomnia by fostering relaxation.
Magnesium helps regulate an important neurotransmitter called GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid). As an amino acid, GABA plays a vital role in promoting overall sleep health as it helps to slow down the communication between the central nervous system and the brain. This allows your brain to power down and relax, ultimately leading to sleep.
Magnesium promotes the maintenance of healthy levels of GABA within the body; aiding in the calming effect needed to fall asleep.
When to take magnesium for sleep
When diet or dietary restrictions won’t allow the daily maintenance levels of magnesium, supplemental magnesium alternatives are available. Supplemental magnesium comes in various forms: Citrate, aspartate, orotate, taurinate, oxide, and glycinate. All are acceptable forms of supplemental magnesium.
It acts differently than a common sleep aid known as melatonin, as it helps facilitate calming and relaxation of the body as opposed to the hormonal changes of melatonin.
It is recommended to take magnesium supplements 1-2 hours before bed if you plan on adding it to your sleep routine as a natural sleep aid.
Moderate dosing ranges of magnesium for adults usually fall between 310 - 420 mg. The recommended daily allowances of magnesium intake per the ODS for adults are as follows:
- Ages 19 to 30 years – 400 mg for males; 310 mg for females
- Ages 31 to 50 years – 420 mg for males; 320 mg for females
- Ages 51+ years – 420 mg for males; 320 mg for females
Discussions on health always include a balanced diet and regular exercise, however, sleep is just as vital in the discussion. Proper sleep is not optional, it is essential to health and wellness. It gives your body an opportunity for your body to recharge and rebuild. A lack of sleep can produce detrimental effects on the body, from the metabolic system to immunity.
There are numerous tips and tricks to help improve sleep, many of which consist of forming healthy habits: No caffeine before bed, sticking to a sleep routine, etc. But sometimes people opt for natural sleep aids to help them catch those elusive zzz’s.
Magnesium, as an essential trace mineral, has an important role to play in overall health. Its benefits reach from the muscles to the brain. However, research is showing that magnesium supplementation may also be a natural option for those looking to complement their sleep routine and habits.