Will Magnesium Help My Child Sleep Better?

This post is inspired by my friend Beth Conlon, PhD, RDN, the dietitian behind @fromthestartnutrition.

Because I’m an expert in sleep – not nutrition – I figured I’d bring one of my most frequently asked questions to Beth, and see what she had to say – “What supplements (if any) can help my child sleep?”

Read her guest post here, then make sure you bring your attention back here because I’m going to dive a little deeper.

As a parent, I KNOW you want to do anything and everything in your power to help your child sleep well. I’m right there with you!

Obviously, we know that what we put in our bodies either helps us or hurts us…so, what are the key nutrients that help us sleep better? Melatonin (I bet you’ve heard of that one!), tryptophan, B vitamins, omega-3s + vitamin D, and – our focus for today – magnesium.

Before we get into magnesium a little more, I want to quickly mention the others and how they play a role in your child’s (and your) sleep. 

Melatonin is the hormone that helps us fall asleep. When it gets dark, serotonin gets converted to melatonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps with the production of serotonin…as do the B vitamins and the combination of omega-3s + vitamin D. Basically, if you can get your child outside daily and feed them foods that contain these nutrients, you can naturally help your child sleep better!

But, let’s get back to our focus today – magnesium.

What is magnesium’s role in the body?

Magnesium is present in more than 300 enzyme systems that help regulate our bodies – it’s rather important! It helps regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. It is key in constructing protein, bone, and DNA.

Because of this, it’s really not surprising that it may be used to help with lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, as well as lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

NO, this doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a magnesium supplement. You should always consult with your child’s doctor before any supplementation. You should also, first, try to include magnesium-rich foods in your child’s diet. As Beth mentions, “Most children do get enough for magnesium through diet and #toddlers and #infants have lower magnesium intake recommendations so supplementation due to deficiency is rarely needed for children under age 4 years.”

What’s the connection between magnesium and sleep?

Magnesium has been shown to decrease hyperactivity in children with ADHD, so it’s no surprise that it has a calming effect on most people. There is a correlation between insomnia and lower magnesium levels, and magnesium can be used to help with restlessness and anxiety, a few common problems many face when it comes to poor sleep.

This article from Psychology Today gives a great summary of all the ways magnesium can benefit sleep.

Which foods are rich in magnesium?

As Beth mentions, it’s important to include magnesium in your child’s diet, and supplementation is not usually needed. Consult with your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about low magnesium levels.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Milk and milk products

Make sure your child has a well-balanced diet and you’re on the right path!

And don’t forget…

In addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet, there are other things you can do to help your child sleep better, naturally:

  • Implement a bedtime and nap time routine
  • Feed your child upon waking instead of when falling asleep
  • Set up a sleep-inducing environment
    • Dark – 10/10 dark – remember, light and darkness play a role in sleep and wake hormones
    • White noise – set it around 60 dB and let it play all night and through the duration of naps
    • Safe – your baby should be placed in their crib alone and on their back…you can include a small lovey item after they’re 12 months old
    • Boring – it doesn’t need to be stimulating in your child’s room, you want them to sleep!
    • Cool (68-72* F) – dress your baby in one layer plus a swaddle or sleep sack, depending on their age
  • Make sure your child is on an age/child-appropriate schedule
  • Utilize an appropriate bedtime (for most children, between 6:00-8:00 p.m., roughly 11-12 hours before they need to be awake for the day)
  • Get outside daily – once in the morning and once later in the day – to help set your child’s circadian rhythm

You got this, mama! And don’t forget…make sure you follow Beth for more nutrition tips for your little one!

June 2021