Is a Lack of Magnesium Causing Your Insomnia?

Written by Andy Mobbs
Reviewed by Lamia A Kader, MD
magnesium is in charge for the GABA receptors in brain which make you relaxed and sleep better

Most of us don’t get enough sleep. In today’s stressed out and super busy world, lack of sleep is one of the most common complaints in the doctor’s surgery. Beyond just not getting enough, around one-third of us every year suffer from full insomnia, which rises to 50% in people over 60 years of age (1). However, there may be a lack of one vital mineral in our bodies that’s the cause of this — magnesium. Even if you’re looking to sleep a little longer or a little more restfully, adding magnesium to your diet or through supplementation is something that can help you feel calm and relaxed, and improve your sleep. Finally, a lack of magnesium could be causing insomnia!

Out of all the tricks, pills, and potions out there designed to help us get a better night’s sleep, magnesium is the most likely to make a difference within 24 hours. It’s utterly vital for making the systems work that allows us to relax and go to sleep. However, the problem is that 80% don’t get enough magnesium in our diets (2).

Nowadays, we have less magnesium in our water, salt, fruits, and vegetables. Our fruits and veggies grow more quickly, so they have less time to absorb magnesium from the soil(3). Also stress in itself leaches the body of magnesium, so that 80% of us are deficient is no surprise.

How Can You Tell If You Need More Magnesium?

There are a few telltale signs to look for.

  • Firstly if you are having trouble going to sleep
  • You are worked up easily or generally awake before your alarm
  • You get regular cramps
  • You need the toilet a lot after drinking fluids
  • Have cold hands and feet
  • Get tight in the neck and shoulders
  • You are noticing twitches in the small muscles like the eyelids.
research says that magnesium can help with insomnia

Any magnesium deficiency can also get worse with age as bad nutritional habits and the effects of stress built up and hit our gut function, meaning our absorption levels go down.

How Does Magnesium Help With Insomnia?

Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of GABA receptors in the brain and the central nervous system. GABA is the neurotransmitter that makes us relax, it’s the ‘chill pill’. It’s known as the natural valium because these benzodiazepine drugs act in place of GABA on the GABA receptors. Turning on the GABA receptors allows us to switch off and stop our racing minds. Magnesium also helps to reduce the stimulatory neurotransmitter glutamine, which can keep our minds racing and prevent us from sleeping. It also helps to deactivate and lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline the stress hormones (4).

Research: Magnesium and Insomnia

A study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences on insomnia in the elderly found that during an eight-week trial in which the subjects were either given 500mg of magnesium daily or a placebo, that the group taking magnesium experienced a significant increase in sleep time and sleep quality. Also, reduction in the perceived effects of insomnia (the stress they felt from not sleeping), as well as reduction in cortisol and an increase in melatonin (a hormone that controls sleep and wake cycles) (5).

The authors concluded by saying that magnesium was an excellent treatment option in the elderly that should apply to the whole population. Given the results and the fact that magnesium is cheap and very safe to take, it seems an excellent option for anyone suffering from disturbed sleep. Try it and judge it’s effectiveness based on your own results!

So What’s the Best Magnesium Supplement to Get?

Magnesium needs to be combined with another molecule to make it stable. That means there are many different types available, for example, Magnesium citrate, ascorbate, or orotate. The different molecules magnesium is combined with actually changes the effectiveness of the magnesium, so choosing the right one is very important to get the maximum benefits available.

At Intelligent Labs, we’ve created the most effective magnesium for sleep that’s available. We have three different types of magnesium in our supplement, specifically chosen for their unique properties.

  • Firstly we have Magnesium-L-Throenate. This scientifically advanced magnesium was developed by scientists at MIT to explicitly pass the blood-brain barrier, which is a protective barrier between the blood and the fluid of the brain. Most magnesium supplements cannot cross this barrier. However, Magnesium-L-Throenate does and can raise brain magnesium levels 2000% over ordinary magnesium supplements. This means more of the magnesium can work on the GABA receptors, and help to produce more melatonin directly aiding sleep
  • Secondly, we use Magnesium Taurate. Taurate also acts directly on the GABA receptors as well as magnesium to bring further feelings of calm and better aid sleep.
  • Finally, we use magnesium glycinate, the most absorbable form of magnesium for the bones and muscles (where most of the magnesium in the body is stored). This form is the most effective for reducing deficiencies outside of the brain and means you can rest assured that your whole body will have enough magnesium so that it can be as healthy as possible.


(1) Insomnia in the elderly: a review for the primary care practitioner.

Ancoli-Israel S, Sleep. 2000 Feb 1; 23 Suppl 1():S23-30; discussion S36-8.

(2) The Magnesium Miracle, Carolyn Dean

(3) Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?Donald R. Davis HortScience February 2009 vol. 44 no. 1 15-19

(4)Blood and brain magnesium in inbred mice and their correlation with sleep quality.

Chollet D, Franken P, Raffin Y, Malafosse A, Widmer J, Tafti M

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2000 Dec; 279(6):R2173-8.

(5) The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, Behnood Abbasi, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M. Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati, and Bahram Rashidkhani, J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec; 17(12): 1161–1169.