This month our blog takes a personal look at insomnia.  Having been an insomnia sufferer in the past, I can truly empathize with anyone who has had trouble falling asleep. There is nothing more torturous than lying awake for hours, staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning, wishing your mind would just switch off!

I would get anxious about the fact that I would have to get up in so many hours, lie there calculating how little sleep I was going to get and lamenting about how tired I was going to be.

It is an awful cycle, which typically repeats every night.  Not only is it exhausting operating like this, but sleep deprivation over a long period of time can seriously affect your health and may lead to further problems, such as depression and anxiety.

So I did what most people do, trialing many of the old-fashioned remedies and suggestions - not using the computer or TV before bed, cutting back on caffeine, no chocolate…just to name a few! 

Unfortunately, this also occurred at a time in my life before I had studied Nutritional Medicine, so I didn’t have the knowledge that I have now.

Nevertheless, I was determined to solve my problem, so I began to go down the research path.

First l looked at the common symptoms of insomnia: 

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night.
  • Awakening regularly throughout the night or too early in the morning.
  • Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep.
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety.
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering.
  • Increased errors or accidents.

Then l looked into the causes of insomnia.  Obviously, there are many purported causes of insomnia, covering a broad range of medical, psychiatric and behavioural factors.  Still today a complete understanding of the causes remains somewhat elusive.  However from my personal experience, most people I knew who suffered from anxiety or depression also had trouble sleeping.  What’s more, I knew sleep deprivation could make the symptoms of anxiety or depression worse.

It was then that a close friend who suffered from anxiety herself, mentioned Magnesium and how she had noticed a difference since taking it.

So let’s get technical for one moment… how can your magnesium levels affect your sleeping behaviors?

Magnesium is a crucial mineral that your body uses for more than 300 different enzymatic processes. This means that it is in high demand!  People who are magnesium deficient may experience muscle spasms & cramps, migraines & headaches, hypertension, thyroid problems, or stress & anxiety.  Furthermore, one of the most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency is fatigue & sleep disorders.

There is a neurotransmitter called GABA, found in the brain and nervous system, which helps to calm our bodies down. When it is activated, it works to switch the brain off, stopping those racing thoughts.  For GABA receptor sites to function properly, they need magnesium. So you can see, in a very simplified way, that in order for your body to be able to relax and switch off at night, it needs enough magnesium to be able to activate GABA.

Was a lack of magnesium the cause of my insomnia??  After taking magnesium, the first thing I noticed was that within about half an hour of taking it, my whole body seemed to relax and a wonderful sense of calm washed over me. Instead of lying in bed for hours, I seemed to drift off to sleep within half an hour of going to bed. Instead of tossing and turning, I would fall into a deep, restful sleep.  I had found the cure for my insomnia!

So how much magnesium should you take? From my personal experience I found taking 400mg at night in the form of a magnesium bisglycinate an effective dose. However, it depends on your current magnesium levels, you may find you need a bit more, or that a lower dose works for you. It is worth checking to find what amount works for your body as everyone is different.

Magnesium may not solve everyone’s insomnia, but for me it was a godsend, I hope this article helps you with yours.



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