by Jon Herring
As we grow older our sleep becomes lighter and more restless. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 67% of people over 55 suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. With this in mind, Forrest H. Nielson, PhD, of the USDA Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, decided to conduct clinical trials on the subject.
His theory? Magnesium deficiency.
You know it takes more than just dozing off while tossing and turning to wake up feeling energized. You need to fall into deep, slow wave sleep for your muscles to really relax, your nerves to calm and your brain waves to go on idle.
A sleeping pill might make you drowsy – and make you think you are sleeping – but studies show that most over-the-counter sleep aids keep you in the lighter stages of sleep.
And the Chronic Results…
When you’re not getting decent sleep, things really snowball. You become more vulnerable to infection. Your un-relaxed muscles and nerves generate chronic pain. The human body does its best repair work in deep sleep.
In 2002, researchers at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry did a double-blind, placebo-controlled sleep study and found that patients who took magnesium supplements experienced a significant increase in slow wave (deep) sleep. Further blood testing showed that the magnesium effectively reduced their cortisol levels – a stress hormone that promotes alertness.
Other studies, again from USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, revealed that low magnesium levels disrupted brain waves (electrical activity) when the patients were asleep. This resulted in very agitated sleep patterns and excessive awakenings.
Head researcher Nielsen concluded, “It looks like magnesium is important for a good night’s sleep.”
Chronic Deficiency… Why is this Happening?
So what are the dietary sources of this mighty little mineral, magnesium? That’s the interesting question – and the answer is very telling…
The best sources of magnesium are whole, unprocessed foods. There has been widespread removal of minerals from processed foods. The result is that Americans’ intake of magnesium has dropped 50% in the last century.
Another significant source of magnesium? Mineral rich drinking water. But not the softened, de-mineralized water that most of us drink.
In August, 2004, the World Health Organization issued guidelines for drinking water quality. They noted that magnesium levels have a protective effect on the smooth muscle cells found in blood vessels. This can help to lower blood pressure. Their studies showed that restoring calcium and magnesium to drinking water directly reduced heart disease mortality!
Caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake can increase magnesium loss. Diuretic drugs and overloading on calcium supplements can flush it from the body. And gastro-intestinal disorders such as diarrhea, Crohn’s disease and intestinal surgeries can impair its absorption.
More Marvels of Magnesium
Magnesium helps to regulate more than 300 enzymes. A deficiency in this mineral can affect virtually every system in your body. It helps to regulate your heart rhythms and control blood pressure. It helps to maintain insulin sensitivity and keep your blood sugar stable. It helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. It plays an important role in bone-building. It is vital to your immune system. It can relax cramping muscles and calm nerve impulses.
I could tell you lots more about this little powerhouse known as magnesium…
Like how it has a direct effect on conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, memory loss and migraine headaches.
And how it has an anti-aging effect because it helps stave off inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome.
Oh, Magnesium, Where Art Thou?
Excellent sources of magnesium that I would recommend include dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, legumes, avocado, almonds, cashews and walnuts, wild shrimp, wild salmon and halibut.
Whole grains are also a rich source. But most of us should keep the grains to a minimum. They can spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The sources I recommend most highly are raw cacao beans or cacao nibs (these are the crushed beans). They have a crunchy texture just like nuts and a rich, chocolate flavor. Cacao beans are incredibly high in magnesium. They are also one of the richest antioxidant foods on the planet.
You can eat them by the handful straight out of the bag. If they taste too bitter, mix them with nuts and a few organic raisins.
Keep those magnesium levels up and running and you’ll enjoy the natural health you were meant to have. Not to mention turning back the clock to restful sleep and Sweet Dreams!