7 Reasons Why Magnesium Helps Relieve Anxiety & Promote Relaxation

Has someone ever told you to “just calm down”?

Sure they have. Has it ever worked?


We’ve all said that to other people and hear it from friends, family, coworkers. And the reaction, not great!

When anxiety or stress creeps in, what really works to calm those tense mental and physical effects? Plenty of things, actually. You could take benzodiazepenes like xanax and valium (very addictive). Do some meditation. Smoke a joint or kick back with a glass of red wine. What works for you might not work for others. Plus it might bring a host of other unwanted side effects.

Maybe there are simpler ways. Healthier, safer options.

For example, there’s one basic nutritional supplement that might work wonders to reduce stress, help you sleep better, and just make your body function better overall.


What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an element and a mineral, and it’s essential to so many mechanisms in the body, from the production of hundreds of enzymes to supporting physiological pathways that signal energy production and protein synthesis. Though the body only needs tiny amounts of magnesium, these amounts are absolutely necessary for nearly every bodily system to function well.

It is unusual for a healthy person to have a true magnesium deficiency (2), though people very often have lower levels of magnesium than they should – especially thanks to the typical American diet (hint: Pringles do NOT have much magnesium). Unless you’re eating a healthy dose of spinach, kale and other leafy greens every day, you’re probably deficient.

Your body stores most of its magnesium in its bones along with phosphorus and calcium, two other vital minerals that magnesium helps the body absorb. Besides this, magnesium helps the body metabolize potassium, the B vitamins and vitamins C and E which are both antioxidants. It regulates blood glucose, cholesterol levels and body temperature as well. And it works in conjuction with zinc, calcium and potassium.

Far and away one of the best reasons to take magnesium is to reduce anxiety and get a restful sleep sleep.

Three Ways Magnesium Helps With Sleep

So many people have reported firsthand how taking some magnesium helped them finally get a good night’s sleep.

One Reddit user submitted a post titled “My 18ish years of insomnia cured by a simple supplement” where she explained how taking magnesium aspartate along with ZMA, zinc, and vitamin b6 made a huge difference in her quality of sleep (and in turn, her quality of life). Your mileage may vary, and maybe you’ll need to adjust the dose or try a different variation of magnesium, but if such a basic supplement can bring relief, lower anxiety and help get a restful sleep, it’s worth a shot.

Here’s why magnesium might help with those things.

Engaging GABA receptors

One way magnesium helps with sleep (3) is to attach to receptors in the central nervous system that also attach to a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is an inhibitory chemical that slows down a racing mind and allows a person to relax into sleep. One study showed “that magnesium, an NMDA receptor inhibitor, exhibited anxiolytic-like activity” in mice – meaning it significantly calmed them down in a similar way that benzodiazepenes might work.

Allowing muscles to relax

The second way that magnesium helps with sleep is its ability to allow the muscles to relax. People who are low on magnesium may find that their muscles are always tense, even when it’s time for them to sleep. People who are low in magnesium may also not feel very well in ways they can’t quite put their finger on. Raising their magnesium level makes them feel better physically, which eases whatever vague, insomnia-inducing worries they have about their physical health.

Reducing stress hormones

This is a big one.

Seriously, just read the reviews on this magnesium glycinate supplement. At least half of them mention sleep benefits. You know what affects sleep? Anxiety!

While anxiety comes from many different sources, the body’s internal stress signals serve as a primary source.

Magnesium helps a person get a good night’s sleep is through inhibiting stress hormones. Stress hormones such as adrenaline eat up the body’s stores of magnesium, and if the levels of this essential mineral are low in the first place, it exacerbates stress reactions in the body, like inflammation, which can cascade into a number of other problems such as insomnia. These stress reactions also keep people up from falling asleep.

How Magnesium Helps with Anxiety

Anxiety and insomnia are closely linked (4). A person who is anxious often finds it hard to go to sleep. The mind races. You end up staring at the ceiling for hours before you (hopefully) fall asleep.

Fortunately, magnesium can help with anxiety. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case (5,6) Here’s how.

Stopping panic attacks

Magnesium can lower the risk of panic attacks. These are very distressing episodes where the person is gripped by terror and a belief that they are going to die.

Some medical researchers believe that panic attacks come about when glucose, or blood sugar levels are unstable. When blood sugar crashes, the brain does not receive the nutrients it needs to work optimally. This produces a rush of stress hormones to try to keep the glucose levels stable. One of magnesium’s jobs in the body is to regulate blood sugar levels, and many people have found relief from their panic attacks through increasing their daily intake of magnesium.

Promoting neural  plasticity

Other researchers believe that magnesium has the ability to rewire a brain that is beset with anxiety. This is called neural, or brain plasticity. Magnesium can help the brain make new connections between its nerve cells and therefore lower instances of anxiety.

Reducing inflammation

Though people may not think that there is a link between inflammation and anxiety, one does seem to exist. The more we learn about inflammation’s effect on the body, the more we understand how it contributes to feelings of anxiety and depression. Its anti-inflammatory properties are another way that magnesium reduces anxiety that is the result of chronic inflammation of the brain.

How much should I be taking?

The recommended daily intake is 400mg.

What foods have magnesium?

It should go without saying that you should eat a well balanced diet to get most of your nutrients. In the case of magnesium, you can rely on a few different kinds. Magnesium is found in small concentrations in many foods, but especially leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard. Vegetarians should not worry about being magnesium deficient, for vegetables use magnesium to synthesize chlorophyll.

  • Whole wheat
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cashews

Common Types of Magnesium

If you start looking around for magnesium supplements you’ll probably notice a few different types. They all have unique but slightly different benefits, and one might be better for your needs than another.

Magnesium oxide – One of the cheapest options, but has a strong laxative effect. Generally not recommended for supplementation, especially if you have IBS or just don’t enjoy having to run to the bathroom suddenly.

Magnesium citrate – Also a cheap option, and also comes with the heavy laxative effect.

Magnesium sulfate – Also known as epsom salts and not suitable for ingestion, but they nicely in a hot bath to relieve tired muscles.

Magnesium glycinate – This is the most widely preferred supplement for most people. It has excellent bioavailability and also doesn’t come with the unwelcome laxative effects.

Magnesium-L-threonate – Arguably the best form. This newer type of magnesium is rapidly absorbed in the body and may cross the blood brain barrier more effectively than other types. It’s more expensive, but the increased effectiveness is worth it. In one study, men and women between 50 and 70 were given this supplement and after several weeks they showed significant improvements in problem solving, reasoning, and overall cognitive performance

Stress, anxiety and depression have become standard issue for people in America. Sometimes the most effective solutions are also the most obvious – eating healthier, exercising, and getting a balance of essential vitamins and nutrients. Magnesium has plenty of evidence supporting its use as a way to relieve anxiety and help with depression.