A good night’s sleep is as refreshing as a gentle breeze. But waking up on the wrong side of the bed due to a lack of sleep is like awakening the inner ogre in every one of us. Have you ever wondered why we aren’t getting enough sleep? Well, because of the near infinite number of factors that affect our sleep and the uniqueness of each person, it’s very difficult, nigh impossible, to pinpoint the exact cause.
Now a lack of sleep isn’t exactly qualified to be categorized as insomnia. Strictly speaking, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), insomnia is defined as “a chronic inability to fall or remain asleep enough to feel rested”. True enough, there are those times when we don’t feel like our batteries are fully charged upon waking up. But if this happens continuously over a period of time, then that constitutes insomnia.
The causes of insomnia though can be narrowed down to a still, long list. These include anything from heart conditions, pain, stress, surgery, or even the use of certain medications. However, there is solid scientific proof that a lack of several trace minerals in our body can cause insomnia. Minerals are chemical elements that we need in our body in very tiny amounts. And among those identified by science to have a strong effect on sleep are calcium and magnesium.
We all know from science class that calcium is good for the bones. But, calcium also plays a large role in nerve-to-nerve communication. What happens in our body is that when we’re going to sleep, our brain sends signals through the calcium channel. These signals activate the protein tryptophan to signal our pineal gland to produce melatonin, the hormone that, put simply, makes us sleep. Now, a lack of calcium or a blockage in those calcium channels has been conclusively shown to keep us awake.
A study by Barbosa et. al. (2008) found that blocking calcium channels with certain drugs reduces the creation of melatonin in our bodies. Another study by the European Neurology Journal found that reduced calcium levels in our blood has been found to prevent, to some extent, our entering into REM sleep. REM or rapid eye movement is a phase in our sleep where we get the most rest. Accurate measurements in the blood were taken and upon normalization of the patients’ blood calcium levels, they reported being able to sleep well again (Breakthroughs, 2009).
Moving on to magnesium, this mineral is important to almost all bodily processes. Magnesium is also important in maintaining sleep, that is, having a continuous 8-hour rest. The mineral works by inhibiting NMDA, a natural chemical in our body that speeds up the activity in nerve cells, and activates GABA, another natural chemical in our body that slows down nerve cell activity. A lack of magnesium, as research has shown, has been found to cause frequent nighttime awakenings, nightmares, and even sleepwalking (Popoviciu, 1990).
Moreover, several other studies have shown that after careful measurement of serum magnesium levels and subsequent normalization, patients have reported more ease in falling asleep with less interruptions (Abbasi, 2012; Rondanelli, 2011; Chollet, 2001; Penland, 1988). Calcium and magnesium isn’t just important for sleep, but also for our overall health and well-being. A two-to-one intake ratio (twice more of calcium than magnesium) should be observed for best results.
As studies have shown, if you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep the cause may be low levels of certain minerals in your blood. This problem can be easily corrected after your doctor runs the necessary tests to check your blood for mineral deficiency. Your doctor can then prescribe a simple supplement to correct the problem without resorting to sleeping pills with their unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous side effects such as drowsiness and forming a drug habit.