Sleep is a finicky thing. Some nights you lie awake for hours willing it to come even though you did everything right. You ate well, exercised, and turned off all of your electronics hours before you climbed into bed. Other times sleep comes when you least expect it (e.g., during one of those dreaded 3 p.m. slumps). In this scenario, you find yourself trying your hardest not to drowse off at your desk. You enlist the help of caffeine, which throws off your sleep that night—it's a big ugly tiring cycle.
If you've tried natural sleep remedies (like cherry juice, for example), and listening to white noise (or pink noise, perhaps), then it's possible you could benefit from a magnesium supplement. There are people who swear a daily magnesium dose boosted their energy and enhanced their sleep. Keep scrolling to learn the science behind magnesium and sleep, and whether or not an expert thinks it's a safe supplement to take.
Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified and nationally acclaimed dermatologic surgeon who practices medicine in NYC. She tells us she's a proponent of magnesium supplements since the element is critical to the body's healthy functioning. "Our body uses magnesium in over 300 biochemical reactions, and we're often deficient in this vital element," she says.
As for its efficacy, Engelman says there's no doubt it can work wonders for someone who struggles with sleep. "Magnesium aids in alleviating anxiety and improving sleep quality. Magnesium works as a natural muscle relaxant, which is why many people swear by it to help with sleep issues," she says. It's so effective, Engelman explains, because it has the unique ability to relax the GABA receptors in the brain. These receptors directly affect the activity and control of the nervous system.
The best part is that you don't necessarily need to take a traditional magnesium supplement (in other words, you don't have to swallow a magnesium tablet to reap all of its benefits). According to Engelman, magnesium is an element that can be readily absorbed through the skin. Seriously.
"Magnesium chloride is readily absorbed through the skin (even better than ingesting it as magnesium sulfate)," she tells us. "It's actually a salt, but it feels oily to the touch, so it is called an oil." Here's the kicker: This type of magnesium is found in Epsom salts. That's why athletes, celebs, and medical professionals alike swear by Epsom salt baths to de-stress, heal, and rejuvenate their bodies.
Not only can it help multiple inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis, but it also contributes to a calm, a sense of well-being, and muscle relaxation. Because of this, regularly taking Epsom salt baths or exposing yourself to more magnesium might cause you to fall asleep more easily (and stay asleep longer).
Because it can be absorbed into the skin so effectively (and treat skin conditions and calm the mind along the way), Engelman suggests getting your magnesium fix that way. If you would prefer a traditional supplement, though, that works too. Either way, it's safe. "It's almost impossible to overdose magnesium by supplementing, but consuming too much magnesium is still not a great idea.
"Too much of the mineral could lead to some side effects like irregular heartbeat or slowed breathing. Similar to oral ascorbic acid C, there is a bowel tolerance threshold that brings on diarrhea if exceeded." So even though these issues are few and far between, be sure to talk with your doctor to make sure you're taking the most beneficial dosage for you and your sleep quality.
Engelman likes BetterYou, a UK brand, for fulfilling all her magnesium needs. Mist the lightweight oil spray over your body; then massage it in. The magnesium absorbs into your skin, preparing you for a restful night's sleep. The brand says dermal application is the optimal way to raise the body's magnesium levels, and promises the spray will raise magnesium levels much more quickly and more effectively than traditional tablets and bottled supplements.
Next, read up on the breathing trick people swear by for falling asleep fast.