Sleep apnea leads to numerous restless nights, endless bouts of daytime drowsiness, and constantly feeling fatigued.
The relationship between magnesium and sleep has been studied for decades, and it plays a significant role in obtaining restful sleep. There’s also some indication that magnesium may have an impact on sleep apnea symptoms.
The Role of Magnesium in The Body
Magnesium is an essential micromineral that is required for our bodies to function properly.
We consume it through our food, and it functions as both a mineral and an electrolyte, which means it plays an important role in the proper functioning of nerve and cell communication.
The balance of magnesium in the body is regulated by a complex system that involves the intestines, kidneys, and bones. Approximately 60% of our body’s magnesium stores are contained within the bones and teeth, with the other 40% contained within individual cells. Less than 1% freely circulates throughout the bloodstream.
Magnesium levels are important for sleep because it has a pivotal role in establishing a relaxed or rested state by acting on the parasympathetic nervous system.
It acts on a specific area of our brain that is involved in stress, sleep-wake cycles, mood, and energy. Adequate magnesium levels are required to achieve a state of calm, mitigate stress levels, and achieve muscle relaxation.
Magnesium plays a direct role in the regulation of our biological clock by adjusting the hormones necessary to maintain our sleep-wake cycle.
A dysfunctional biological clock can trigger the depletion of magnesium stores in the body, and a depletion of magnesium stores can trigger a dysfunctional biological clock.
The Relationship Between Magnesium Levels and Sleep
Magnesium is critical for sleep as it has a vital role in regulating the body’s internal clock and influencing a state of calm in the brain.
The issue is that there’s no obvious way to determine cause and effect; we can’t determine whether the sleep process influences magnesium levels or magnesium levels affect sleep.
There’s some interesting research on magnesium’s role in sleep:
- People who have less magnesium in their diet get less sleep. A study looking at American eating habits found that individuals who regularly got less than 7 hours of sleep per night also had low levels of magnesium in their diets compared to those who slept more than seven hours.
- When magnesium deficiency is induced in rats, their sleep patterns become disorganized. Sleep patterns return to normal once their magnesium levels return to normal.
- Sleep restriction might deplete magnesium levels. Individuals who have chronic sleep depletion show increased heart rates due to low magnesium levels.
While magnesium supplementation appeared to mitigate the chronic fatigue associated with sleep loss, it did not increase magnesium at the cellular level.
- Chronic stress impacts both sleep and magnesium levels. A state of chronic stress often leads to sleep deprivation, but it also leads to reduced magnesium levels in the body. Stress and sleep have a strong relationship on their own. The Japanese study was unable to determine which factor caused the others between stress, sleep deprivation, and low magnesium levels.
- People with obstructive sleep apnea often have low magnesium levels and high levels of inflammation.
The Role of Magnesium in Sleep Apnea
Since magnesium plays such a big role in the quality of our sleep, researchers are looking into whether low magnesium levels could also play a causal role in sleep apnea.
As observed by the World Health Organization, over 80% of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency. This deficiency can result in poor quality sleep, agitated and restless sleep, and frequent episodes of night waking.
These symptoms of magnesium deficiency are also symptoms of sleep apnea.
Interestingly, the correlation between magnesium levels and sleep apnea is that while individuals with sleep apnea are often magnesium deficient, the opposite is also true. Individuals with high serum levels of magnesium are significantly more likely to have sleep apnea.
So, sleep apnea is correlated with having too little magnesium in your body and with having too much.
Magnesium has a causal link for sleep apnea when it is present in high levels and when levels are too low. This implies that it is abnormal fluctuations in magnesium levels that lead to sleep disorders, not a certain level.
Is magnesium Supplementation Good for Sleep Apnea?
Magnesium supplements are often recommended for individuals with sleep disorders or insomnia. There’s no agreement on whether they are actually effective.
There are two research studies that looked at whether magnesium supplements were beneficial in reducing sleep apnea symptoms.
In the first, 58% of the participants had low magnesium levels. It’s important to note that they also had higher than normal body mass indexes and inflammatory markers that indicated chronic stress.
The results, however, did show a reduction in sleep apnea symptoms and inflammatory markers after magnesium supplementation. There was no improvement in sleep quality.
A different study that focused on insomnia showed that magnesium supplementation offered symptom improvement and reduced nighttime waking. It was not found to affect total sleep times.
Can You Take Too Much Magnesium?
If you’re suffering from sleep apnea and also have low magnesium levels, it’s reasonable to assume that magnesium supplementation could improve your symptoms.
At a minimum, it would rule out magnesium deficiency as a causal element once your levels are returned to normal.
This raises the question of whether you can take too much magnesium. For healthy individuals, the risk of overdosing on magnesium is very low. Most excess amounts of the mineral are filtered through the kidneys and excreted.
There are certain prescription medications that can react with magnesium, so check with your doctor if you’re on other medications.
Oral magnesium supplements can cause nausea and stomach upset when taken in high-doses but otherwise have very few side effects. You can purchase magnesium supplements in sprays and creams to be used topically if you wish to avoid these side effects.
It is clear that magnesium plays a role in sleep and sleep apnea, but it is unclear what the role is. Magnesium supplementation can improve sleep apnea symptoms, but more research is needed to determine an exact causal link.