Nutrition with NIna Blog_Best magnesium for sleep

Sleep issues are surprisingly common, so today’s focus is on magnesium, a mineral relied on to improve the quality of your sleep. But with multiple forms on offer, choosing a supplement can be confusing. This lowdown will help you find the best magnesium for sleep.

Magnesium Revealed
(How to Choose The Best Magnesium for Sleep)

In this article you’ll find a quick overview of magnesium which discusses the following: 

  • what is magnesium and what it does in the body
  • 2 reasons why your magnesium levels are low
  • the best magnesium-rich foods to eat 
  • the recommended amounts of magnesium for women over 18 

Next, 5 forms of magnesium are rated: 

  • magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, magnesium L-threonate, magnesium taurate or magnesium glycinate – are they good supplements for sleep?

About the Mineral Magnesium

What is Magnesium and What Does It Do?

Magnesium is a mineral which is also know by some pretty cool names – ‘the spark of life’ and ‘nature’s valium’. 

As suggested, magnesium is an element which is fundamental to life. A jack-of-all trades, it may seem that there’s nothing that magnesium can’t do. 

  • Does magnesium help remove damaged DNA from your cells? Yes! 
  • Does magnesium activate more than 300 different enzymes helping to produce energy, burn sugars and transport minerals around your body? Yes!! 
  • Is magnesium an essential player for a healthy immune system? Heck, yes!!! 
  • Does magnesium have an affinity for the nervous system and muscular system, and help promote calm, reduce excitation and encourage your muscles to relax? It certainly does!

The Connection Between Magnesium and Sleep

As you’ve just read, magnesium has a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system and muscles. This helps us understand the symptoms associated with low magnesium levels. 

When your magnesium intake is inadequate and levels are low, you might feel irritable, tense and restless. You might also suffer from heart palpitations, tight muscles and cramps. Low magnesium status can also make it difficult to relax at night and sleep.

In the recent CARDIA study, the highest magnesium intake was associated with the best quality sleep and with sleeping for more than 7 hours.

So increasing your intake of magnesium could help you to relax and unwind and improve your sleep.

Reasons Why Your Magnesium Level Is Low

Nutrition with NIna Blog_Best magnesium for sleep - Eat magnesium rich foods
Eating more magnesium-rich foods can address a low intake

The typical way for your body to get the magnesium it needs is through the foods you eat.

Foods which are rich in magnesium include: 

  • leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
  • herbs and spices including basil, coriander, fennel seed and sage
  • avocado
  • seaweed 
  • pulses including black beans and edamame beans 
  • nuts, including almonds, brazils, cashews and walnuts
  • seeds like pumpkin and sesame seeds  

However, many people struggle to eat pulses on a regular basis, or fail to include green leafy veg in their meals.

Not eating enough magnesium-rich foods is one reason why your magnesium levels can be low.

In addition, there are other food-linked factors which decrease magnesium bioavailability

Some foods may impede the absorption of magnesium in the gut, due to the phytates, oxalates and plant fibres present. 

Diuretics like salt, caffeine, alcohol and energy drinks can also increase excretion of magnesium.

Over-consuming foods which are high in oxalates and phytates or drinks with a diuretic effect is another reason why your magnesium levels are low.  

How Much Magnesium Do You Need Each Day?

In the UK, recommendations for total daily magnesium intake are set for women.

  • From age 40-65, the recomended daily allowance (RDA) for women is 270mg of magnesium.

In other guidance from the National Institutes of Health recommendations are slightly higher.

  • From aged 40 and over, the estimated average requirement (EAR) for women is 320mg of magnesium.  
  • An extra 40mg of magnesium each day is recommended during pregnancy.

Are You At Risk of a Magnesium Deficiency?

According to NHANES data (collected in America), low-level, chronic magnesium deficiency is rampant in women aged 51 to 70.

Study data revealed that over 6 out of 10 women failed to meet the magnesium EAR. 

Instead their average daily magnesium intake was just 246mg.

Amongst Mexicans and African-Americans intake was even lower, at just 185mg and 169mg respectively.

How much magnesium do you think you’re getting? 

Today it’s estimated that around 70% of adults in the UK have non-symptomatic or symptomatic magnesium deficiency. 

With the average diet providing around 170–250mg of magnesium each day, a  magnesium supplement is one way to overcome any short-falls.

Choosing a Magnesium Supplement for Better Sleep

There are many forms of magnesium supplements to choose from. Check the label and you might find your magnesium is a citrate, glycinate, threonate, malate or taurate. The form of magnesium you take is important as they each have unique effects in your body. 

If your focus is on taking magnesium to help you sleep better at night, use the following summary to find the high-quality supplement that actually meets your needs.

Nutrition with NIna Blog_Best magnesium for sleep - Choose the right form of magnesium
The right form of magnesium supplement can support your sleep

What is Magnesium Citrate?

Magnesium citrate is an everyday, commonplace form of magnesium and a good all-rounder for general health.

  • Magnesium bound to citric acid.
  • One of the most common forms of magnesium.
  • Can be used to replenish low magnesium stores. 
  • Has a laxative effect – generally noticeable when taken at higher concentrations. 


Magnesium citrate may be a good choice of magnesium supplement to support sleep. One to consider if you struggle to eat magnesium-rich foods.

What is Magnesium Malate?

A less commonly used form, magnesium malate is a particularly restorative form of magnesium, especially when your energy levels are low. 

  • Magnesium bound to malic acid.
  • A less common form of magnesium which can be used to replenish low magnesium stores.
  • Malic acid is used in the metabolic cycle which creates cellular energy. 


As magnesium malate is the preferred form where energy is chronically low, it might interrupt your sleep at night and is likely better taken during the day.

What is Magnesium L-threonate?

Typically available only through practitioner recommendation, magnesium L-threonate seems to have the advantage of crossing the blood brain barrier.

  • Magnesium bound to threonic acid, which is a metabolite of vitamin C.
  • A less common form of magnesium.
  • Generally well absorbed. 
  • May support cognition and memory in humans. One study (in mice) reports magnesium L-threonate elevates magnesium levels in the brain.


Magnesium L-threonate is one to consider as it may help support sleep, particularly in conditions where metabolism of glucose and the production of energy in the brain is impeded.

What is Magnesium Taurate?

With its potential to support cardiovascular health and have an anti-diabetes effect, magnesium taurate seems most suited to help tackle the common chronic health conditions of today.

  • Magnesium bound to the amino acid taurine.
  • A very well absorbed form of magnesium so less likely to cause loose stools.
  • Both magnesium and taurine impact cardiovascular health – through their blood pressure lowering effect and taurine’s influence on blood circulation. 
  • One study reported improvements in blood sugar and glucose control with magnesium taurate.


Magnesium taurate could be a good choice of magnesium for improving sleep. Consider strongly if you have poor blood glucose regulation and hypoglycaemic events are causing you to wake up during the night.

What is Magnesium Glycinate?

When it comes to finding a magnesium supplement with a calming effect, magnesium glycinate packs a double punch.

  • Magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine.

  • A very well absorbed form of magnesium so less likely to cause loose stools.

  • Delivers glycine, a stand-alone nutrient used to promote ease, efficiency and quality of sleep. Glycine works in a variety of ways: by lowering core body temperature, encouraging the switch into slow-wave sleep, and supporting your levels of serotonin. 
  • A good option if night sweats and hot flushes are interrupting your sleep.


Magnesium glycinate could be an ideal supplement to support your sleep. It’s one to consider if you sleep poorly because of hot flushes or night sweats, if you suffer from low moods or you find it hard to switch off and calm down at night.

The Takeaway

Sleep does so much more than give you the opportunity to dream – it’s how your body enjoys a head-to-toe reboot. But for many women, life after 40 is plagued with disturbed, insufficient or interrupted sleep. Their goal is to sleep well at night. 

The mineral magnesium may become your favoured supplement, as it has a calming, inhibitory and relaxing effect on your nervous system and muscles. With magnesium deficiency a common occurrence, a magnesium supplement is a good starting point when you want to know how to get better sleep.

However, there are many forms of magnesium supplement on offer, each with different effects. As you saw from the summary above, magnesium glycinate, magnesium taurate and magnesium citrate are amongst the top picks for a magnesium supplement to help improve your sleep.

Images by Slaap Wjsheid, Hermes Rivera and Amjd Rdwan at Unsplash