Experts say we need around eight hours of sleep every night for optimal health. However, when you’re having more sleepless nights than restful ones, you know that this is easier said than done! If you’re struggling to get the recommended eight hours every night, you might have heard that magnesium glycinate can help you sleep. In this article, we’ll look at what the science says (spoiler alert: yes!) and explain exactly how magnesium glycinate helps you sleep better for longer.
What is magnesium glycinate?
Magnesium glycinate is a combination of magnesium and glycine.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s involved in hundreds of vital processes in your body, including some that relate to sleep and mood. That means magnesium deficiency, which is estimated to affect a large number of adults, can interfere with your ability to get a restful night’s sleep and lead to insomnia. It can affect your sleep indirectly, too, as magnesium deficiency is also linked to depression and anxiety.
Glycine is an amino acid, a molecule used by the body to make proteins. We usually think of proteins as the “building blocks” for muscle, but they’re also used to create substances like hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. In the case of glycine, some of these substances play an important role in sleep and mood.
Can magnesium glycinate help you sleep better?
There is evidence to suggest that magnesium glycinate can be helpful for improving your sleep in various ways, both directly and indirectly.
Regulates your natural sleep-wake cycle
Your sleeping patterns are controlled by something called your circadian clock, or “body clock”. Over each 24-hour period, your circadian clock takes cues from your environment and uses hormones to tell you when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. This 24-hour cycle is also known as your sleep-wake cycle.
Magnesium helps your body clock to keep time, making sure your circadian rhythm runs according to schedule. It’s also needed to create serotonin, which is needed to make melatonin. This hormone controls the “sleep” part of the sleep-wake cycle, rising after sunset to create a feeling of tiredness.
Improves sleep onset and quality
Magnesium has long been a popular natural sleep remedy. Like many popular prescription sleep medications, magnesium binds to receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA, simulating its deeply relaxing effects on the brain and body. For people who are apprehensive about using sleep medications due to side effects or potential for dependency, that makes magnesium feels like a gentler, safer alternative.
Glycine is also known for its sleep-boosting qualities, calming the brain and relaxing the body in preparation for sleep. In a number of different sleep studies, participants reported that taking glycine supplements improved sleep quality, with the positive effects extending to the next day, too. After a good night’s sleep, people reported feeling less fatigued and sluggish, and more lively and clear-headed.
When taken together, the benefits of magnesium and glycine seem to be amplified, with people reporting:
- Faster sleep onset.
- Longer sleep duration.
- Greater sleep efficiency (the proportion of time in bed spent asleep).
Soothes anxiety and stress
Sometimes, no matter how tired you feel, it can still be difficult to get to sleep. This is especially true if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Unfortunately, this can affect your mood and stress levels the next day, making the next night’s sleep even harder.
This happens because stress activates your sympathetic nervous system — the high-alert, ready-to-go state you feel when you’re under pressure or threatened. Levels of cortisol then rise in the body. Cortisol also happens to be the hormone that controls the “wake” part of your sleep-wake cycle, and when cortisol is high, melatonin is suppressed. That means that even if you’re exhausted, you might still find yourself wide awake — “tired but wired” — or tossing and turning all night.
Magnesium glycinate may help sleep indirectly by improving stress and mood. Magnesium activates your parasympathetic nervous system — the opposite of your sympathetic nervous system. This lowers cortisol and returns you to a state of calm that’s essential for restful sleep.
Magnesium is also essential for producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s heavily involved in mood and well-being. (That’s why magnesium deficiency is associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety.) Studies have found that certain types of magnesium supplements:
- Improved symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Improved the effectiveness of certain antidepressants.
- Worked as effectively as a common antidepressant.
Of course, if you’re experiencing mental illness or mood disorders, magnesium glycinate is no substitute for professional medical care. However, researchers do believe it has a lot of potential as part of a wider treatment plan. So if stress or mood difficulties are interfering with your sleep, it’s worth discussing magnesium supplements with your doctor or another healthcare professional.
How much magnesium glycinate should I take for sleep?
The Nation Institutes of Health recommends a maximum daily dosage of 420 mg of magnesium for men and 320 mg for women, below is the recommended dosage by age and gender:
|Birth to 6 months
Taking a little more than the recommended dose of magnesium is not necessarily harmful, but your risk of side effects does increase (see below). When you check the label of your supplement, be aware that a daily dose might consist of more than one serving and/or be spread throughout the day.
Is magnesium glycinate safe?
Yes, magnesium glycinate supplements are safe for most people. There can be some mild side effects, such as nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, these are associated with extra-high doses and certain types of poorly tolerated magnesium. Magnesium glycinate is not one of them; in fact, it’s one of the gentlest types of magnesium on the stomach, so it’s ideal even for people with sensitive stomachs. If you take your magnesium glycinate supplement as recommended, then, your risk of side effects is low.
All types of magnesium, including magnesium glycinate, should be used with caution if you have certain health issues. Some conditions, such as kidney disease, affect how much magnesium you absorb, potentially leading to dangerous levels of magnesium in your system.
Magnesium also interacts with medications, including those that you might be taking for insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Depending on the medication, magnesium may cause you to have too much or too little of the drug in your system, both of which can be dangerous. If you do have a health condition, check with your doctor to discuss how to take magnesium supplements safely.
What time should I take magnesium glycinate for sleep?
Magnesium glycinate’s calming effects take around an hour to kick in. If you’re taking magnesium glycinate for sleep, take your supplement around 60-90 before bedtime for best results.