Magnesium is a mineral not only involved in relaxing our muscles but also our minds. Those experiencing anxiety or any anxiety-related condition are often deficient in magnesium. Therefore, many studies have proposed magnesium supplementation as a therapy for anxiety, and interesting results have been found.
Researchers have also explored magnesium supplementation for insomnia relief. In general, magnesium has been show to be helpful in studies for several conditions.
Biochemically, magnesium increases a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA encourages relaxation in our bodies and helps regulate the body’s stress-response system. Without adequate amounts of GABA, individuals are more prone to stress and anxiety and have a harder time falling asleep.
The body’s ability to respond to stress relies on magnesium, as one of many “keystones” in maintaining good health and a regulated stress response. A review published in 1995 noted the consequences of magnesium deficiency on stress responses in particular.
A low magnesium to calcium ratio increases the release of catecholamines. Catecholamines are also released during stress and when magnesium is low in the blood and tissue. Stressful events such as a physical burn or an emotional heart-ache increases the need for magnesium too.
The Cruel Cycle of Magnesium Deficiency and Anxiety
A cruel cycle occurs when magnesium deficiency produces anxiety and stress, and contrarily when anxiety and stress depletes magnesium. This negative feedback loop suggests that magnesium is essential to keep the body’s anxiety and stress signals in check.
Researchers in 2017 completed a systematic review to evaluate magnesium’s effect on subjective anxiety in patients. In 18 studies, magnesium was provided as a stand-alone supplement or part of a collection of supplements. The analysis found that there was evidence of anxiety relief in participants who were given magnesium.
A randomized, double-blind, crossover study in 2000 found a synergistic effect of magnesium with vitamin B6 to help relieve anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms. Fourty-four women participated in the study and the study lasted over a course of one menstrual cycle. The study randomized the women to receive magnesium alone, vitamin B6 alone, magnesium plus vitamin B6, or a placebo.
Taking magnesium plus vitamin B6 produced a significant reduction in anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms. These symptoms included nervous tension, mood swings, irritability, and overall anxiety.
The researchers concluded that both magnesium and vitamin B6 should be supplements included to help those experiencing hormonal related anxiety.
Individual experiencing insomnia
It’s important to know that magnesium is a mineral also found in foods. A randomized controlled trial in 2020 looked at diets including magnesium for anxiety relief to see if there was a link. The researchers randomized participants to either consume a Mediterranean diet supplemented with tryptophan and magnesium or just a Mediterranean diet alone.
After 16 weeks, participants completed anxiety questionnaires such as the Profile of Mood States (POMS-29), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and Trait Anxiety Inventory.
The researchers noted that participants whose diets also included magnesium reported a reduction in anxiety.
Magnesium Use During Hospitalization
Researchers in 1995 found IV magnesium to be beneficial for patients hospitalized in a psychiatric intensive care unit. The participants were given the equivalent of 2.5 g magnesium sulfate followed by 1 gram magnesium sulfate per hour.
Another clinical study found intramuscular administration of 1 g of magnesium sulfate to support sedation in agitated hospitalized patients.
Time to Sleep: Using Magnesium for Insomnia and Sleep
Have you ever seen those CALM chocolates when waiting in line at the grocery store? Those contain magnesium to help you sleep!
A typical “Standard American” diet does not meet the recommended dietary intake of magnesium. Therefore many people find improved sleep after magnesium supplementation.
A double-blind placebo-controlled study in 2012 recruited 46 adults with chronic insomnia. Half of the group received 500 mg of magnesium every day for eight weeks while the other week received a placebo.
After two months, the participants who took magnesium reported that they had improvements in their sleep and insomnia symptoms. These benefits were measured by an improved ability to fall asleep each night and a reduction in the number of times they woke up in the middle of the night.
Individual experiencing insomnia
A systematic review and meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials in 2021 compared the effects between magnesium supplementation and placebo on insomnia. The researchers found that the participants who received magnesium supplementation were able to fall asleep 17.36 minutes faster than the placebo group.
A clinical trial in 1998 administered magnesium as a therapy for periodic leg movements related to insomnia. The number of movements allowed the researchers to quantitatively evaluate the influence of magnesium on the experience of insomnia. The study administered oral magnesium every evening for 4-6 weeks.
After magnesium dosage, periodic leg movements associated with insomnia decreased significantly. In comparison to the placebo group, the participants who received magnesium only experienced on average of 7 versus 17 events per hour of sleep. The study additionally found sleep efficiency to improve too!
Some Final Thoughts on Using Magnesium for Anxiety
Anxiety and Insomnia are triggered by many factors. Magnesium is a valuable mineral to help with both anxiety and insomnia and should be additions discussed with your health care providers.
One approach to increasing magnesium is checking foods in your diet – how about some pumpkin seeds or spinach?