Magnesium for Kids: How It Can Help With Sleep
  /   Dr. John Snow

Magnesium for Kids: How It Can Help With Sleep

Magnesium is necessary for healthy function, growth, and development of the human body. When most parents think about helping their kids get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, they’re mostly focused on things like function, growth, and development. 

Many people don’t consider the impact of vitamins and minerals on sleep. Magnesium has a few bedtime tricks up its sleeve. If your little one isn’t getting enough sleep, here’s how magnesium can help.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a vital mineral that helps with numerous important functions of the human body. Your body only needs a small amount of most minerals, but magnesium is different. 

Magnesium is a major mineral, which means your body needs a lot of magnesium on a daily basis. The body can make some of the things it needs on its own, but it can’t make magnesium. You can only get magnesium through your diet or supplements. 

What Does Magnesium Do for the Body?

An exhaustive list of everything magnesium does for the body could span miles. It plays a role in many microtasks that work to support larger systems. Magnesium is equally as important in every function. These are just a few critical functions that largely rely on magnesium.

Maintaining Heart Rhythm

Magnesium is an electrolyte rhythm. Electrolytes are minerals that help your body with “electrical” signals, like nerve impulses. Your heart needs magnesium to find a regular rhythm and beat consistently. 

When you’re dehydrated, your body loses electrolytes, and your heart rhythm can become dangerously out of sync. Magnesium, in conjunction with a good old-fashioned glass of water, literally keeps the human heart beating.

Supporting Muscle and Nerve Function

Electrolytes are vital for all muscles, not just the heart. Every time you move a muscle, magnesium plays a role in the transmission of the signal between your muscles, nerves, and brain. 

A lack of magnesium can even cause your muscles to twitch or jerk because the body and brain can’t properly relay information to each other.

Supporting Bone Density

Do you remember all the television commercials in the 1990s that talked about how the calcium in milk was the most important thing for your bones and teeth? 

They left out one big thing. Calcium and magnesium work together to fortify your bones and teeth. The body stores at least half of its magnesium in the bones, which contributes to overall bone density and helps prevent bones from becoming brittle or fragile.

Acting as a Laxative

The most common reason doctors recommend magnesium for people without a deficiency is the mineral’s ability to act as a laxative. Magnesium is the top ingredient in many laxatives, including clear premixed laxative drinks and laxative powder. 

A strong dose of magnesium can often be used to help with severe constipation. Doctors often recommend magnesium citrate as a gentle solution for constipated kids. 

Modulating Mood

Magnesium can impact the way you feel emotionally just as much as it can impact the way you feel physically. In fact, getting enough magnesium may be the key to supporting overall emotional wellness and maintaining cognitive function.

How Can Magnesium Help With Sleep?

Magnesium can help the brain regulate neurotransmitters, including the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating the sleep process. Some studies suggest that increasing magnesium intake may lead to good-quality sleep. Although most of the evidence is anecdotal, the self-reported effect of magnesium on sleep quality is significant. 

Most of the research used older adults who reported feeling stressed. Kids and adults aren’t always impacted the same way, but magnesium works the same way in any human body. While it’s not scientifically proven that magnesium can help kids sleep, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Kids should meet their recommended daily magnesium intake regardless, even if they’re getting plenty of sleep. 

The short answer: it doesn’t hurt to help your kids get their daily value of magnesium. If it also happens to help them sleep better at night, that’s a huge bonus.

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Kids need a lot more sleep than adults, even if they try their hardest to convince you otherwise. Their bodies are still growing and developing, and they use sleep time to get to work. 

Children five and under should also take at least one nap a day. This nap counts towards their daily sleep goal. Older children often benefit from naps, but you should make sure their naps aren’t replacing the sleep they should be getting at night.

  • Newborn to 3 months: Between 14 and 17 hours daily
  • 3 months old to 1 year old: Between 12 and 16 hours daily
  • 1 year old to 2 years old: Between 11 and 14 hours daily
  • 3 years old to 5 years old: Between 10 and 13 hours daily
  • 6 years old to 13 years old: 9 to 12 hours daily

How Much Magnesium Does My Child Need?

Magnesium needs will increase with age. As your child grows, they’ll need more magnesium to keep up with their body’s needs. If your child is very tall for their age, they may need slightly more magnesium than the listed amount to promote bone density. You should always consult with your pediatrician.

  • Babies 6 months and under: 30 mg daily
  • Babies 7 months to 1 year: 75 mg daily 
  • Kids 1 to 3 years: 80 mg daily 
  • Kids 4 to 8 years: 130 mg daily
  • Kids and teens 9 to 13 years: 240 mg daily 

Magnesium deficiency isn’t very common, mostly because the kidneys work hard to conserve magnesium if the body isn’t regularly getting enough. Even though it isn’t common, it can still happen. Magnesium is commonly found in whole foods. Children who tend to prefer processed foods (like chicken nuggets and frozen pizza) often don’t get enough magnesium.

What Foods Contain Magnesium?

Small amounts of magnesium can be found in many foods. The most abundant sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds, soy, and leafy greens. 

  • 1 oz roasted almonds: 80 mg magnesium per serving
  • ½ cup cooked spinach: 80 mg magnesium per serving
  • 1 cup soy milk: 60 mg per serving
  • ½ cup cooked black beans: 60 mg per serving
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 50 mg per serving
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice: 40 mg per serving
  • 1 cup dairy milk: 25 mg per serving

Helping Your Child Get Enough Magnesium

Helping your child get enough magnesium can be challenging. Nuts, soy, and dairy are among the richest sources of magnesium. They’re also some of the most common food allergens. If someone in your household has a serious allergy to any of these foods, you probably don’t keep them in your fridge. 

That leaves behind foods like spinach and black beans. Picky eaters often adamantly oppose spinach. Plant-based households can incorporate more staples like beans and brown rice into their family’s diet. They’re excellent from a nutritional standpoint, versatile when preparing meals, and among the least expensive staple grocery items. If your child eats them, a single serving of each every day can help them meet their daily recommended value of magnesium.

If your child is a picky eater, you might want to fill some gaps in their diet. Try incorporating a children’s multivitamin and a magnesium supplement into their daily routine. Supplementation can keep them healthy while they’re still learning to love new foods.

Conclusion: Magnesium, Kids, and Sleep

There’s some evidence that suggests that magnesium may play a role in promoting better sleep, but there is no definitive conclusion for how magnesium can affect a child’s sleep. Even still, it’s important to ensure your child gets enough magnesium daily for healthy growth and development. If they just so happen to sleep well when they’re getting enough magnesium, that’s even better. 

Sources:

Magnesium - Health Professional Fact Sheet | Office of Dietary Supplements | National Institutes of Health 

Is Magnesium Good For Relaxation & Sleep? | Hackensack Meridian Health

Magnesium: The Missing Link in Mental Health? | IMMH