Magnesium and GABA
February 22, 2023 6 min read
Do you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. The Sleep Health Foundation reported that 1 in 3 Aussies suffer from poor sleep. Sleep is one of the most important indicators of health. Lack of sleep affects everything from our mood and energy levels to our immune system and cognitive functions. But did you know that a simple mineral deficiency could be all that stands between you and a good night’s rest?
Magnesium is a mineral that's most commonly known for preventing cramps. But did you know that it's also involved in regulating sleep? Research has shown that magnesium can help improve sleep efficiency, increase total sleep time, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
We'll dive into the science behind magnesium and sleep, and explore how it interacts with key sleep-promoting factors like GABA, melatonin, and cortisol. So, whether you're a chronic bad sleeper or just looking to improve your sleep quality, magnesium might be the solution you've been looking for!
Before we dive in, let's talk quickly about why sleep is so important. Our bodies must get time to rest, recover and repair. Sleep is a well-researched topic and has been linked to an incredible number of health issues, including:
Having adequate magnesium levels is essential for the proper functioning of your sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium plays a crucial role in your body’s sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. They're regulated by the body's internal clock, which is influenced by environmental cues like light and darkness.
Magnesium assists in regulating the levels of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that helps the brain relax and prepare for sleep. GABA is known for its ability to reduce stress, anxiety and it's also involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Magnesium helps increase GABA levels by binding to GABA receptors in the brain and increasing the sensitivity of these receptors. This means that even if there's not more GABA available, the magnesium enhances the effect of the GABA that is there. This helps reduce stress, anxiety and promotes relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
The hormones involved in your circadian rhythm are melatonin, serotonin and cortisol. All of which magnesium helps regulate.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and helps control the body's sleep-wake cycle, while serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep.
Magnesium helps regulate melatonin and serotonin levels by increasing the activity of enzymes that convert tryptophan, an amino acid, into serotonin and then into melatonin. Magnesium also helps regulate the release of melatonin from the pineal gland.
Stress is a common cause of poor sleep and it can take many forms ranging from work-related stress to relationship problems. Chronic stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle. There is evidence to suggest that Magnesium and Cortisol have an inverse relationship with each other.
Magnesium helps reduce stress and promote relaxation by binding to and activating GABA receptors in the brain, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation. Magnesium also helps regulate the HPA axis, which is responsible for the body's stress response. Specifically, magnesium can inhibit the release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
Magnesium deficiency can lead to dysregulation of this system, resulting in increased cortisol production and disrupting sleep. Conversely, increasing magnesium levels may help reduce cortisol.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs that can disrupt sleep, sometimes referred to as twitchy or dancing legs. The exact cause of RLS syndrome is not fully understood and therefore the solutions are quite varied. Some studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation is beneficial for reducing symptoms of RLS - topical magnesium in particular as you can target where the symptoms are.
There are two types of Magnesium supplementation, oral and topical.
There are many different forms of oral magnesium available, however, they are not made equal. We chose to include Magnesium Glycinate in our Nightly Drink for three reasons:
It’s worth mentioning that Magnesium L-Threonate is a form of magnesium growing in popularity due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Unfortunately, its use in Australia is prohibited until further research evolves.
Topical magnesium is only available in two forms; Magnesium Chloride and Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts). The former has a much higher bioavailability and absorption. Our Sleep Lotion contains Magnesium Chloride combined with traditionally used sleep ingredients Lavender and Chamomile. Applying a topical lotion or spray before bed, specifically targeting the feet, legs and lower back is generally accepted as the best practice and is absorbed right away.
A search of scientific literature using the keywords “magnesium” and “sleep” in the PubMed database yields over 330 results, over 30% of which were published in the last 5 years. A growing body of evidence suggests that magnesium supplementation may be an effective way to support healthy sleep patterns, however, the human brain is a complex topic and science is ever-evolving.
We will leave a few modern studies below for those that which to research more.
"Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Sleep Quality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" (Fathizadeh et al., 2020). This meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that magnesium supplementation significantly improved subjective measures of sleep quality, including sleep duration, sleep onset latency, and sleep efficiency.
"Oral Magnesium Supplementation Improves Insomnia: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial in Older Adults" (Abbasi et al., 2020). This study found that magnesium supplementation improved subjective measures of sleep quality and reduced symptoms of insomnia in older adults.
"The effects of magnesium supplementation on sleep quality in individuals with depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial" (Salehi et al., 2021). This study found that magnesium supplementation improved subjective measures of sleep quality and reduced symptoms of depression in individuals with major depressive disorder.
"A pilot study on the effects of magnesium supplementation with high and low habitual dietary magnesium intake on resting and recovery from aerobic and resistance exercise and systolic blood pressure" (Aguilera et al., 2021). This study found that magnesium supplementation improved sleep quality and reduced symptoms of insomnia in individuals with both high and low habitual dietary magnesium intake.
"Transdermal Magnesium: A Review of Topical Magnesium Products for Sleep Disturbances and Insomnia" (Abbasi et al., 2021) This review article summarized the existing literature on the use of topical magnesium for sleep disturbances and insomnia. The authors found that transdermal magnesium delivery may be an effective way to improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of insomnia, and suggested that more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the optimal dose and duration of topical magnesium supplementation for this purpose.
"Topical magnesium: A review of its use in sleep disorders" (Ghosh, 2019). This review article explored the use of topical magnesium for sleep disorders. The author discussed the potential benefits of transdermal magnesium delivery for improving sleep quality and reducing symptoms of insomnia and highlighted the need for more research to determine the optimal formulation, dose, and duration of topical magnesium supplementation for promoting relaxation and improving sleep.
"Topical Magnesium Oil for Sleep and Pain in Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Study" (Abumaria & Shuhaiber, 2017). This pilot study investigated the effects of topical magnesium oil on sleep and pain in individuals with fibromyalgia. The study found that applying magnesium oil to the skin improved subjective measures of sleep quality and reduced pain associated with fibromyalgia, suggesting that transdermal magnesium delivery may be a promising approach for managing symptoms of fibromyalgia and improving sleep quality.
"Topical Magnesium: A New Treatment for Insomnia?" (McNabb & Quinn, 2018). This review article explored the potential of topical magnesium as a new treatment for insomnia. The authors discussed the existing evidence on the use of transdermal magnesium for promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality and suggested that more research is needed to determine the optimal formulation and dose of topical magnesium supplementation for this purpose, as well as to better understand the mechanisms by which transdermal magnesium affects sleep and overall health.