(Natural News) Having trouble sleeping? While there are a number of things that can affect your sleep quality, most mainstream doctors are quick to dole out prescription medications that will drug you into slumber. But what if a nutritional supplement could help adjust your sleeping patterns just as well (or really, even better) than some pharmaceutical monstrosity. Research has consistently pointed to magnesium as a natural sleep aid — and its a nutrient that a surprising number of people are deficient in.
Magnesium is one of 24 essential nutrients and it plays a role in a variety of bodily functions. In addition to being a necessity for healthy bones, magnesium is integral for proper functioning of your heart, brain and muscles. Being such an important,yet also under-acknowledged, nutrient means that magnesium deficiency can cause a number of symptoms — including poor sleep.
Magnesium and sleeping troubles: What you need to know
As Psychology Today explains, magnesium deficiency-related sleeping symptoms can include restless sleep as well as insomnia. Writer Michael J Breus Ph.D. explains:
Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to deeper, more sound sleep. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
One function of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is to “quiet” neural activity — which helps lull you off to dreamland. Moreover, magnesium actually binds to GABA receptors and can help calm your system in a similar manner.
But that’s not the mineral’s only mode of action; magnesium is also a precursor to serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Magnesium is essential to the production of serotonin. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are also linked to insomnia, anxiety and other issues.
Magnesium also helps manage the production and release of melatonin, the hormone which maintains your circadian rhythm.
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As sources note, the sleeping drug Ambien is actually modeled after magnesium’s effects on the brain — which raises the question, why not just prescribe a magnesium supplement instead?
Getting enough of the good stuff is essential
As Dr. Breus explains, magnesium is one of the seven essential “macro-minerals,” which means your body needs substantial quantities of it for optimal health. But in today’s world where nutrient-depleted foods are the norm, many people are deficient or low in magnesium — and they don’t even know it. In fact, it’s been estimated that nearly half of all adult men and women in the U.S. are not getting enough magnesium on a daily basis. Older adults are particularly susceptible to magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium isn’t just a sleep aid; its an electrolyte, it facilitates the transport of other vital nutrients (like calcium and potassium), it plays a role in energy production and so much more. It is, without a doubt, one of the most widely used minerals in the body. And yet, despite epidemic-level deficiency, few people are even aware of how valuable it is as a nutrient.
Fortunately, magnesium is readily found in a variety of healthy foods. Dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach are a great choice, for instance. Nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are also rich in magnesium. Legumes like peas are also another surprising source of this vital nutrient.
Bananas, oatmeal, and tofu are also good sources of magnesium. Fresh raw milk and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef are also good choices for boosting your magnesium intake. Despite this wide array of nutrient-rich foods, supplementation is sometimes necessary. There are many magnesium supplements to choose from, but you should always speak with your naturopath or other chosen healthcare provider before trying out a new supplement — especially if you are concerned about a nutrient deficiency.
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