Several researches have revealed to us that sleep is one factor that could either make or mar our health. Poor sleeping habits can cause depression, obesity and general stress and fatigue. So we all need to take time to craft out a healthy sleeping routine and patterns no matter how busy we think we are. Let’s take a look at some factors and behaviours that can help us get those much-needed zzz’s.
Magnesium – a mineral we may be lacking
When it comes to basic vitamins or minerals to help with sleep, magnesium is at the top of my list. But, despite its importance for many aspects of health – restful sleep, muscle relaxation, heart health, bone health, nerve health, and the list goes on – many of us consume less than optimal amounts of magnesium. According to World Health Organization statistics, as many as three out of four U.S. adults do not meet the FDA’s Recommended Daily Intake for magnesium.
Why is it so difficult to get adequate magnesium?
Many things can contribute to a magnesium deficiency. Some chronic diseases, like diabetes and metabolic syndrome, increase the need for magnesium, while some medications can cause low magnesium levels. But even if you’re healthy, have a good diet, and take no medications, you could still not be taking in an optimal amount of magnesium. For example, a decreased intake can occur because of magnesium depleted soil where vegetables and fruits are grown.
By some estimates, the magnesium levels in vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, and spinach have dropped 80 percent in the past 100 years.
An increased dependence on quick to prepare processed foods has also resulted in decreased magnesium intake. Soft drinks with phosphates (that provide the fizz) interfere with magnesium absorption, while the diuretic-like effect of caffeine and alcohol increases magnesium loss in the urine.
Why does magnesium help with sleep?
In addition to muscle relaxation, low magnesium levels are associated with a low level of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which disrupts circadian rhythms and makes your body feel like it’s not time to go to sleep.
A study of older adults – in which half reported difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep – showed that supplementation with magnesium had a significant positive impact on sleep time, sleep quality, and melatonin concentration.
Just about everyone can benefit from magnesium supplementation, so why not optimize its benefits by taking it before bed.
When it comes to magnesium, form matters.
When choosing a mineral supplement – in this case, magnesium – there are several things to consider when trying to maximize your supplementation. The primary goal is to absorb the most amount of the mineral from the fewest number of capsules and without side effects. So, how can this best be accomplished?
Absorption: One factor should always be considered – by their nature minerals are not particularly well absorbed by the human body. One barrier to absorption that can be overcome is optimizing the form the mineral comes in. This is simple chemistry – certain forms of minerals are better absorbed than others.
Magnesium in the forms of magnesium bisglycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium citrate are better absorbed than magnesium oxide. In one unpublished study (see graph below), blood levels of magnesium over eight hours were highest for magnesium bisglycinate, closely followed by magnesium malate; much less well absorbed was magnesium oxide.
Although magnesium citrate was not included in the above study, two other studies comparing absorption of magnesium citrate with magnesium oxide found significantly more magnesium is absorbed from the citrate form compared to the oxide form.11,12
Concentration: In addition to its capacity to be absorbed, the concentration of a mineral in a supplement formula is important. This is especially true when the mineral is in an encapsulated product. The concentration – or how much of the ingredient is mineral compared to the substance the mineral is bound to in the ingredient – will determine how much of the mineral can be squeezed into the capsule.
Finding a supplement with an optimum balance between absorption and concentration is hugely important. Magnesium malate and magnesium citrate are two good examples of magnesiumforms that are well absorbed and have higher mineral concentrations.
Magnesium malate and citrate are more concentrated than magnesium bisglycinate (20% magnesium in magnesium malate and 16% in magnesium citrate, compared to 8% in magnesium bisglycinate).
Melatonin can regulate your sleep-wake cycles
The hormone melatonin, naturally produced by your body, plays an important role in sleep. However, as you age, your body produces less melatonin, which can contribute to sleep problems. Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol can also drive down melatonin levels. How are your melatonin and cortisol levels?
Daily darkness signals the pineal gland in the brain to secrete melatonin. According to the Harvard Health Letter, although any light exposure before bed can suppress melatonin and interfere with sleep, the blue light from computer screens, smartphones, tablets, TVs, and even energy-efficient LED light bulbs, has been shown to suppress melatonin levels more than light waves in the warmer spectrum.
The Harvard researchers compared 6.5 hours of blue light exposure to the same intensity of green light and found that the blue light suppressed melatonin twice as long as green light.
If you can’t avoid exposure for a couple of hours before bedtime, then consider supplementing with melatonin. A melatonin supplement taken an hour before bedtime can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
Why take whey protein before bed?
Other research supports using whey protein before bed to support restful sleep and to promote muscle recovery during sleep. Whey protein is a good source of tryptophan – the amino acid that makes you fall asleep on Thanksgiving after stuffing yourself with turkey. One study found that 28 grams of protein in a recovery drink before going to bed after strength training resulted in an increase in muscle size and strength compared to a group who had a drink with no protein.
Researchers at Purdue University in 2016 examined the effect of diet on sleep quality in overweight and obese patients who were attempting to lose weight. The individuals who consumed a higher amount of protein – 1.5 grams of protein per kg body weight – ranked their sleep quality better than the individuals who consumed less protein.