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  • Writer's picturejuliadavie

Improve Your Child's Sleep with Magnesium

A child sleeping. Magnesium improves sleep.

Recently I have noticed my children are having a harder and harder time falling asleep at night. They seem restless, agitated and have a hard time settling at the end of the day. This makes bedtimes pretty rough. When we are already dealing with so much during the day, adding a prolonged bedtime to the schedule can be enough to put parents over the edge. Parents, I might add, who are often not sleeping well themselves!

Issues falling asleep, and staying asleep, can be due to many different reasons including diet, stress, or nutrient deficiencies. There is one mineral, in particular, that is extremely important to, and beneficial for sleep … magnesium!

You may have heard more about magnesium over the last few years. No wonder if you consider that it is involved in over 300 different metabolic processes in the human body. From glucose balance to skeletal integrity, magnesium is a very important mineral.

So, how does magnesium support healthy sleep? It plays a role in activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has two branches, the sympathetic nervous system (think fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (think rest and digest). Considering how full and busy our lives often become, many of us are spending more time with the sympathetic nervous system active. This includes our children! Everything from exciting movies or video games to managing the family and the societal stressors of living through a pandemic, can tip the balance and activate the sympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is in charge, it is extremely difficult to fall asleep. Using magnesium to help activate the parasympathetic nervous system helps our children’s little bodies feel safe, relaxed and calm.

Magnesium also promotes healthy levels of an important neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that is naturally produced in our brain. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps our brains relax. GABA is calming and soothing for the nervous system. GABA deficiency has been associated with both insomnia and restless sleep.

Finally, magnesium helps regulate melatonin production in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that tells our body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake. The body is supposed to produce more melatonin at nighttime. If our children’s bodies are not making enough of this important hormone, they may not be getting the hormonal signal that it’s time to sleep!

As you can see, magnesium is extremely beneficial for improving quality of sleep, both in ourselves and our children. But how much magnesium is enough? The RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) in Canada per age group is listed below. It is important to note, however, that depending on biochemical individuality, a person may need more or less than a given nutrient.

  • 0-6 months: 30 mg

  • 6 - 12 months: 75 mg

  • 1-3 years: 80 mg

  • 4-8 years: 130 mg

  • 9-13 years: 240 mg

  • 14-70 males: 410 – 420 mg

  • 14 - 70 females: 320 – 360 mg

  • Pregnancy: 360 – 400 mg

  • Lactation: 320 – 360 mg

Whenever possible I prefer to correct nutrient deficiencies through food first. When it comes to Magnesium, implementing a whole foods diet is important for they contain the highest amounts of the mineral. The following whole foods are the most abundant in magnesium:

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Whole grains

  • Beans and legumes

  • Animal protein

  • Raw cacao and dark chocolate

However, even someone whose diet is a diet includes liberal amounts of these whole foods may still require supplementation. In fact, it’s estimated that 75% of people are deficient in Magnesium!

The reason being that modern conventional farming has depleted our soil of magnesium. As time goes on, these foods contain less and less of this important mineral. Other factors to take into account are that most of us are not eating a whole foods diet and if your child is a picky eater they will be even less likely to have optimal amounts of magnesium in their diet.

Magnesium can help your child fall asleep. Child sleeping..

Therefore, while a whole foods diet is incredibly beneficial, many individuals do require supplementation. Taking a high-quality magnesium supplement before bed is an amazing way to encourage easier bedtimes and deeper more fulfilling sleep for parents and children alike.

When considering magnesium supplementation, it’s important to remember that not all forms of magnesium are suitable for all concerns. Magnesium comes in many different forms and each provides different benefits. Also, different people need different doses of magnesium. Age and individual health concerns will affect the amount of magnesium someone should take.

Bottom line, be sure to get a recommendations from your natural healthcare practitioner! Please consider scheduling a virtual appointment with me so that I can make recommendations that are customized to your specific needs. I offer both in person consultations (Ottawa and Gatineau) and virtual nutrition appointments.


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