Did you catch the item on the news the other day about the full moon and disrupted sleep? I heard it on BBC 4 and found it intriguing. Researchers at Basel University in Switzerland were carrying out some sleep studies and by chance discovered that more disrupted sleep patterns in volunteers coincided with periods of full moon.
No it’s not psychobabble or a werewolf story! And of course the first reaction of researchers was that it was due to increased light at times of full moon – problem was their research was carried out in conditions where this would not have been applicable.
“Findings revealed that around the full Moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by nearly a third. Melatonin levels also dipped. The volunteers also took five minutes longer to fall asleep and slept for 20 minutes less when there was a full Moon.” (BBC News, link below)
It has been suggested that the likely reason was simply human evolution – thousands of years where cycles of the full moon had greater relevance to our ancestors for reasons perhaps such as hunting, being hunted and celebrations and ceremonies. So this innate awareness is still in use and we are simply more restless when the moon is full.
And the story got me thinking about the nutritional deficiencies that may commonly affect sleep. The mineral magnesium is certainly the most talked about nutrient linked to poor sleep. Magnesium is an essential mineral most commonly associated with bone health as nearly 70% of the body’s supply is located in the bones. And one of many approved scientific health claims from EFSA the European Food Safety Authority for Magnesium is “Magnesium can contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue”.
Magnesium is a relaxer of smooth muscles and a shortage of magnesium gives rise to muscle twitching and disrupted nerve signalling. Calcium contracts muscles whilst magnesium relaxes and relaxation is a precursor to peaceful sleep. By virtue of the fact that suitable magnesium levels help with efficient muscle and energy use (optimum entropy) and therefore the likely quality of sleep this should help reduce tiredness and fatigue and promote restful sleep. Magnesium is used in many enzyme systems in the body and if it is not present in sufficient quantities for their optimum function these systems do not work efficiently and further drain compensatory resources.
Low magnesium levels may be a factor in restless leg syndrome (RLS), agitation, anxiety and sleep disorder. It is most unlikely that a high dietary intake of magnesium would increase your levels to a point where it caused health problems. This is due to the availability and levels of magnesium in foods today. However you could take too much magnesium in a supplement form and this would of course not be a good idea. And there have been reported instances where people consider magnesium supplementation has worsened their sleep making them ‘stimulated’.
It is probable that too much magnesium causes insomnia – and the reason is because it starts the body ‘detoxing’ and this causes all sorts of aches and pains and stops the body resting and sleeping. We would suggest that 200mg elemental magnesium (I stress ‘elemental’ here) is great for promoting sleep and relaxation, whilst the sort of supplemental level that generally tips the balance is 300mg+ (elemental) which will start the body detoxification and this will give rise to symptoms that appear to have the opposite effect (to relaxation) in the short term.
We would always stress that everybody seeks suitable and qualified advice when looking at purchasing a food supplement – the right advice is very much based on each individual. And as an example you may already be taking a multivitamins and mineral with magnesium in it.
Good natural sources of magnesium are fresh, green vegetables, raw un-milled wheat germ, soya beans, milk, whole grains, seafoods, figs, corn, apples and oil-rich seeds and nuts, especially almonds. Fish, garlic, tofu, peaches, apricots and lima beans are also good sources.
Magnesium Citrate is the best of the non-food form forms of magnesium and also available as a food supplement. As a citrate it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream via the citric acid cycle. The current approved ‘scientific health claims (from EFSA the European Food Safety Authority) for Magnesium are:
- Magnesium can contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue;
- Contributes to normal psychological functions;
- Contributes to electrolyte balance;
- Magnesium contributes to the maintenance of normal bone/teeth;
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism;
- Contributes to normal muscle function including the heart muscle;
- Contributes to normal nerve function;
- Contributes to normal protein synthesis;
- Magnesium contributes to normal cell division
If you have any questions regarding this article or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.