|According to the National Institute of Health, our bodies use magnesium in more than 300 metabolic reactions. Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, steadies heart rhythms, and supports our immune systems. Additionally magnesium regulates blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and enhances metabolism. Yet, one recent government study shows that 68% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily intake of magnesium.
A lack of magnesium underlies our epidemic of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, according to Lawrence Resnick, M.D., a professor of medicine at Cornell Medical Center. Decreased levels of magnesium are related to high blood pressure, kidney stones, heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias.
In a study done at the Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., women with magnesium deficiencies had higher heart rates and required more oxygen to do physical tasks than they did after their magnesium levels were restored.
While television commercials hawk patented drugs and doctors readily prescribe them, studies suggest that if the 68% of Americans who are magnesium deficient simply added a magnesium supplement to their diet, many health problems, including sleep disorders, could be resolved without expensive medications.
For decades, statisticians have demonstrated that the majority of Americans do not get the government’s minimum daily requirement for magnesium and unfortunately, these statistics have been largely ignored by the traditional medical community.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, as early as 1977, fifty studies completed in nine countries indicated that magnesium deficiency might result in death from cardiovascular disease. The Academy estimated that the addition of calcium and magnesium to soft water might reduce the annual cardiovascular death rate by 150,000 in the United States.
To date, over 200 published clinical studies document the importance of magnesium. Many of these studies were completed within the last decade, supporting the theory that changes in the American diet have further depleted our bodies’ reserves of magnesium.
Eating a balanced diet can help ensure your body gets the magnesium you need. Most nuts, seeds, and legume are replete with magnesium. However many modern diets include highly processed foods and these processes deplete magnesium.
- Nearly 85% of the magnesium in grains is lost during milling.
- Soaking and boiling foods leeches magnesium and other minerals into water, so that the "pot water” may be better for you than the fresh green beans you cook in it.
- Oxalic acid in vegetables such as spinach and the acids in some grains may form insoluble salts with magnesium, causing it to be eliminated rather than absorbed.
- Drinking soft water decreases magnesium intake.
- Alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all cause magnesium loss.
- Diuretic drugs often eliminate magnesium before the body can absorb it.
- Meals high in protein or fat decrease magnesium levels. In fact, experts suggest that if you eat more than two meals of fast food per week, you magnesium level is probably too low.
- Supplements of Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus can proportionately alter magnesium levels. For example, calcium and magnesium work together. If you supplement calcium and not magnesium, your magnesium levels will be “out of kilter” which may result in that “out of sorts” feeling that haunts your day.
How Magnesium Helps You Sleep
When the things that “go bump in the night” seem like sonic booms and wake you from sleep, the problem could be magnesium deficiency. Among its many important qualities, magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system. In fact, magnesium has recently received considerable attention as an inexpensive dietary supplement that can resolve and alleviate many sleep disturbances.
Magnesium is considered the "anti-stress" mineral and is a natural tranquilizer. In the elderly, magnesium supplements were found to improve sleep by decreasing the release of cortisol, a known cause of sleep disruption. Stress depletes magnesium and magnesium relieves stress. When your magnesium levels are low, your nervous system gets out of balance, and you feel on edge, naturally resulting in tightening muscles.
Although we expect sleep to relax us, when magnesium levels are low, it may not. When we sleep, muscle groups move and stretch, in preparation for the next day’s activity. However, magnesium works with the calcium in our bodies to help our muscles first contract and then relax again. Muscles contract with the help of stored calcium. Magnesium is the mineral that helps them relax. Without enough magnesium, muscles are unable to relax fully after contraction and nighttime muscle cramps develop, causing another sleep disruption.
Studies suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia, a condition that is experienced by an estimated one out of two Americans. Magnesium eases anxiety, relaxes muscles and nerves resulting in an overall improvement of your night’s sleep.
Several studies show a lack of magnesium can alter electrical activity in the brain, causing agitated sleep and frequent awakenings. "It looks like magnesium is important for a good night's sleep," says USDA researcher Forrest H. Nielsen.
A water-soluble magnesium powder like Natural Calm can alleviate, if not eliminate, all of these problems and help you sleep restfully throughout the night.