Wondering if Magnesium will help your child sleep?

Wondering if Magnesium will help your child sleep?

If you’ve done a bit of research on improving sleep, you may have heard that magnesium can help. And you may be wondering if magnesium will help YOUR child sleep. We all want a quick fix in life– so let’s investigate if magnesium is worth it.

What is Magnesium anyway?

Magnesium is one of seven essential minerals that the body needs to function normally. It’s not produced in the body, so it must be obtained through external sources. It needs to be consumed through foods or supplements. (You may have heard that it can be absorbed through the skin with oil or skin cream. See the last few paragraphs for a little more on that subject.)

What role does Magnesium play in the body?

How much time have you got? Seriously. Magnesium is the Swiss Army Knife of minerals. It literally plays hundreds of different roles. It’s involved in almost every major metabolic and biochemical process. Magnesium helps in DNA and RNA synthesis, blood pressure regulation, nerve transmission, insulin metabolism, cardiac regulation, electrolyte balance, energy production, bone development, and the all-important stress-response system, which we’ll get back to shortly.

How is it usually obtained?

Ideally, we should be getting our required intake of magnesium through our diet. It can be found in a wide variety of foods, including grains, nuts, bran, spinach, squash, okra, swiss chard, kale, peas…

Now that list sounds to me like a child composing a straight-up laundry list of foods that they are “allergic to” (my son’s favourite phrase when he didn’t want to eat something, as opposed to a real “allergy”). To be honest, I’m not sure I’m eating most of that list myself. And even if it we were eating the right foods, there is a case that our soil is lacking in essential minerals, so …

It’s not really surprising that a lot of children aren’t getting the required amount of magnesium through their diets. While I can’t tell you the exact amount of magnesium (if any) in chicken nuggets. I don’t know many three year-olds who willingly munch on kale chips.

What does this have to do with sleep?

Alright, so as I mentioned, magnesium plays a big role in the body’s stress-response system. For brevity’s sake, I’ll spare you the scientific jargon, but if you’re interested, you can read all about it here. (And you should. It’s really interesting.)

The main point, for the purposes of this discussion, is that without sufficient magnesium, the body struggles to regulate cortisol levels, which leads to elevated alertness levels (cortisol is our body’s natural waking hormone). Wakefulness is something you want to prevent when your baby or child is going from one sleep cycle to the next during the night. What we’re really striving for when we’re trying to get a child sleeping through the night is the ability to feel comfortable and secure when they stir after a sleep cycle, realize they still need more sleep, and then drift effortlessly back into another cycle. Elevated alertness and stress levels will obviously make that a lot more difficult.

Oral supplements

If your little one is waking up during the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep, then yes, absolutely, you might want to try a magnesium supplement (taken orally). As always, consult with a medical practitioner before you go ahead with it, make sure you know how much to give them, get your supplements from a reputable source, and always be sure to read the list of ingredients when you’re considering what to get.

Daily magnesium requirements vary substantially by child and age range, but here are some ballpark numbers for reference. Please realise your GP or pediatrician will be much better suited to giving you some specific numbers based on your child’s weight and medical history.

  • Birth – 6 months: 30 mg
  • 7 – 12 months: 75 mg
  • 1 – 3 years: 80 mg
  • 4 – 8 years: 130 mg

Why on earth are you telling me this?

I know you might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t you a baby and child sleep consultant? Don’t you make your living by teaching fundamental sleep skills? Isn’t this kind of an unconventional recommendation for someone in your line of work?”

The truth is, not every baby or child who doesn’t sleep well needs a major overhaul of their sleep habits. If there’s a quick and easy fix that can get them (and their parents) sleeping through the night, I’m all for it! That’s why I offer short calls, and I will also give you tips, if I can, when we chat in my free initial calls.

Sometimes there really is a quick fix

Yes, sometimes there really is a quick and easy fix! No, it’s not the norm, but I’ve seen it plenty of times. Whether it be taking away the iPad an hour before bed, getting rid of distractions in the nursery, or tweaking wake times, there ARE situations where making one simple adjustment can make a world of difference. When that’s the case, I love being able to pinpoint it, make the change, and see the impact it has on the family’s health and well-being.

If your child has a magnesium deficiency, getting that sorted is a great step towards better overall health, and it just might be the cure for their sleepless nights. If you continue to struggle afterwards, however, I’m here to help you take the next step and teach them those fundamental sleep skills so that your whole family can start getting the sleep you need.

What about Magnesium absorption through the skin?

You may have heard talk recently about transdermal magnesium therapy, which is the absorption of magnesium through the skin from oils and creams. (Some people have a bad reaction to oral magnesium supplements.) I’m not in a position to say one way or the other, but I would just like to mention that there’s a fair bit of scientific dispute about whether or not this method actually works.

Epsom Salts

In short, studies have confirmed that prolonged soaking in Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) increases blood magnesium concentrations (albeit in a small study). In a mock dead-sea bath (which contains incredibly high levels of magnesium) there was a definite penetration of salts through healthy (human and guinea-pig) and damaged (psoriatic) skin. And no health concerns when concentrations were high (as opposed to near drownings in the dead sea which are toxic to the human body – so please don’t drink the bath water).

Vs Magnesium creams

This is in comparison with magnesium sulphate skin creams, where a study found no significant differences in magnesium levels between the placebo and the study groups in any of the applications (although this was only over a period of 3 days).

Yet in another study, formulated magnesium cream was able to successfully deliver the magnesium of pharmaceutical grade Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2 ) across human skin. This study stated that transdermal magnesium may play an important role treating symptoms of sub-optimal magnesium status (which is when we’d want to increase out magnesium levels). In terms of the literature evaluation of this cited study, there is the possibility that transdermal application does work, but the jury is still out. So, you’ll need to make up your own mind.

Just a heads up in case you’re wanting to do a little more investigation before buying a pricey magnesium skin cream (I personally would go with high quality Epsom salts – which you can get from Salt & Oil; the code CHERISHED will give you a wee discount too).

If you’ve tried Magnesium, did it work to improve sleep? I’d love to know.

If you’ve tried it, and it didn’t help, that’s where I can step in. If you’re ready to learn more, book a free initial call and let’s talk SLEEP. Healthy sleep habits are what I’m all about. In the meantime, you can find tips and are you following me on Instagram or Facebook?