Good sleep health can be put down to all manner of factors, from a relaxing bedtime routine to how much outdoor light you’re getting through the day. One aspect that doesn’t get spoken about enough in our book is nutrition. Now, this can take many facets, like eating dinner late or drinking too many cups of coffee. But it’s also down to the micronutrients we’re putting in our body, with an 11-year study published in the journal Nutrients finding a clear link between poor sleep and a lack of key nutrients in the diets of those researched.
Two minerals that are vital for sleep are magnesium and zinc. Here we take a deeper look at the duo, where to get them in your diet, and how they work inside your body to help lead to a better night’s rest.
Magnesium & Sleep
Found in plentiful supply in dark-green, leafy vegetables like spinach, as well as legumes and nuts, magnesium is an important mineral not just for sleep, but also a whole range of bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, playing a role in over 600 cellular reactions throughout our bodies. Plus, another important nutrient, vitamin D, is also unable to be metabolized without sufficient magnesium levels.
Magnesium deficiency is high around the world, with some studies estimating that around 75 percent of the U.S. adult population are not meeting the recommended daily intake of 420 mg. It’s important then to be conscious of the mineral, and doing so could have a tremendous effect on your sleep health.
This benefit mostly works around the role magnesium plays in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed.
It does this first by binding itself to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, a neurotransmitter that send messages throughout the nervous system and brain to quiet down, and then also regulating the hormone melatonin, which guides our ever-so-useful sleep-wake cycles. In sum, it’s the perfect pre-bedtime nutrient — spinach smoothies at the ready.
Zinc & Sleep
The second most abundant trace mineral in our body after iron, mighty zinc is also involved in a number of bodily functions, from bone growth and male fertility, to taste perception, wound healing, cognitive function, and, you guessed it, sleep.
When it comes to the latter, the role of zinc is predominantly a regulatory one, with the mineral seeming to abet slow-wave sleep, the non-dreaming, deep sleep of physical restoration and memory consolidation. While it doesn’t seem to trigger sleep, adequate levels of zinc in the blood have been shown to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase the overall amount of sleep and its quality.
In 2009, for example, researchers examining 890 healthy people found zinc levels varied with the amount of sleep subjects got, and those with the highest concentrations of zinc were those managing to get a regular seven to nine hours a night.
Legumes, like chickpeas, lentils and beans, all contain substantial amounts of zinc. However, they also contain phytates, a point thrown against them because of the way they impair the absorption of zinc. However, this argument is up for debate, with studies demonstrating that the so-called anti-nutrient effect can be manifested only when extremely-large quantities of phytates are consumed in combination with a nutrient-poor diet.
So, as with everything, the best thing you can do for your sleep is to make sure you’re getting a real range of vitamins, minerals and macros to get your body ticking the way it should, whether you’re awake, or asleep.
Every day starts with a good night’s sleep. ZZZZs supports a regenerative sleep by combining 5HTP with calming amino acids and the dietary minerals magnesium and zinc, for a quality sleep, naturally.