Response to Stress
Magnesium aids in calming the nerves and relaxing the muscles, which in turn can help individuals to fall asleep. Similarly, a deficiency of the mineral is sometimes responsible for the nervousness that prevents sleep. Magnesium deficiency hampers the ability of the body’s motor nerves, which carry electrical impulses from the brain to the muscles to send the correct messages. Magnesium deficiency is common in the United States, usually due to insufficient dietary intake. Physical and emotional factors can complicate matters more by increasing depletion of the mineral through urinary excretion. Low magnesium levels can also cause the release of certain stress hormones in the body, particularly high levels of norepinephrine, which increase under stress. When a person feels stressed, hormones signal cells to release magnesium into the blood. From there, the mineral is excreted in urine. The more stressed a person becomes the more magnesium is lost from the body. Sleep deprivation itself is a chronic stressor that can lower magnesium levels.
Calcium and Magnesium Balance
Magnesium is essential for regulating calcium levels in the body. Supplies of both these minerals must be constantly renewed in order to maintain a healthy nervous system. Low magnesium levels in the body put a drain on calcium supplies. Once calcium is exhausted, nerves cells stop functioning. Magnesium acts as a depressant calming the nerves and inducing sleep. Calcium has a role in making muscles contract while magnesium is needed to make the muscles relax. When magnesium levels are low, a person may experience symptoms, such as irritability, muscle twitching and nervous fatigue. Calcium levels within the body’s cells increase when an individual is under stress, causing muscles to tense. Magnesium helps push calcium out of the cells so that muscles can relax. But if there is not enough magnesium present to do its job, calcium will continue to make the muscles to tense. Too much calcium in the body can actually deplete magnesium levels.
Calms Nerve Activity
Lack of magnesium can cause leg cramps or restless leg syndrome, disrupting restful sleep. Loss of sleep or poor quality sleep over time has been associated with high blood pressure. Results of a study published in the June 2009 issue of the journal of “Archives of Internal Medicine” reports that there may be a link between sleep deprivation and hypertension. Magnesium suppresses the release of catecholamines, which stimulate activity in the sympathetic nerves. Increasing dietary intake of magnesium may also help to regulate blood pressure. According to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that eating more fruit and vegetables and low fat dairy foods rich in magnesium may help to lower blood pressure. When the body is relaxed you sleep better. Food sources naturally rich in magnesium include wheat bran, blackstrap molasses, lima beans, kidney beans, broccoli, spinach and nuts, including almonds, cashews and hazel nuts. If you take magnesium supplements to help you sleep, take tablets about 45 minutes before going to bed. Check with your doctor as to how many milligrams you should take on a daily basis.