If your child with special needs has struggled to get a good night’s rest, you may want to consider adding magnesium into their diet. I am not one to tell parents that they need a 1,000 different things to get their child sleeping. But, magnesium has consistently helped address hyperactivity, anxiousness, and agitation going into sleep. So, here’s what you need to know!
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that our body needs to function properly. Unfortunately, this is not something that our bodies produce on its own, so it is usually absorbed through the foods we eat, or it is supplemented either with a magnesium cream, epsom salts, or with an oral supplement (my recommendations are a bit farther down!)
Why is magnesium important?
Magnesium is a crucial mineral for hundreds of metabolic and biochemical processes. Here’s just a few of those processes:
- Regulates how we respond to stress
- Supports the neuron network and keeps the connections between brain cells strong
- Fixes and nurtures our DNA
- Regulates blood pressure and heart function
- Improves digestion
- Strengthens bones
- Regulates blood sugar levels…
The list goes on!
If your child has issues of tightness/spasticity or seizures, magnesium can be incredibly helpful in reducing both of these things.
Why is magnesium helpful for sleep in particular?
When it comes to sleep, magnesium is helpful in keeping the stress hormone cortisol at a normal level. For many children with neurodevelopmental issues, they are seeing, hearing, feeling, and generally experiencing the world in a more intense way. Their stress-response system could be going all day long. Without enough magnesium, cortisol levels will increase making it hard for them to go to sleep and stay asleep.
This is especially important as the night goes on. If your child has any sensory processing issues, staying asleep may be a near impossibility. You can read more about this struggle here. Anything that we can do to get ahead of those long, middle of the night wake ups is crucial.
Magnesium before bed can help your child feel more relaxed and can start to calm down overstimulating or hyperactive behavior, too!
Does your child struggle with constipation? This discomfort can feel a lot more intense for your child, and can disrupt sleep. Magnesium helps to soften stool by bringing more water to the digestive tract.
How much should I give my child?
Before starting a magnesium supplement with your child, it’s important that you first speak with your pediatrician to make sure that there are no interactions with medications. If your child has a history of major heart issues, this should also be discussed.
Here’s a rough guide of how much magnesium your child should be getting each day:
- Birth – 6 months: 30 mg
- 7 – 12 months: up to 80 mg
- 1 – 3 years: 100 mg
- 4 – 8 years: 150-200 mg
There’s usually no need to get these levels checked. If your child is getting too much magnesium, the only side effect I really see is loose stools. If that happens, simply cut back and you should be good!
What’s the best way for my child to get magnesium?
There are 3 ways to supplement magnesium –
Food – Magnesium can be found in many different foods and is by far the best way to boost those levels. This list of sleep healthy foods has plenty of options. Need more inspiration? Try this list and maaaaaybe skip the dark chocolate!
Epsom Salt or Magnesium Cream – For very young babies and toddlers, this is actually a great way to supplement. And if your child is incredibly picky about food it’s also a great option, too. Magnesium is actually best absorbed through the skin. The ideal time to use these are during the bedtime routine. I wouldn’t recommend using both on the same night, however.
Capsule, powder, liquid or gummy supplement – There are many different options online, but I would recommend getting something that is only magnesium citrate. Multivitamins often don’t have enough magnesium to make a difference. But, you can choose how to supplement based on what your child is comfortable with. Most liquid magnesium usually has calcium, Vitamin D, and/or zinc. These are all really good for your child, too! But, double check with the pediatrician first before giving it to your child.
Remember, you really can’t overdo it with magnesium. So if you accidentally give a little more than what’s recommended or hey – if they get into the gummy bottle when you aren’t looking – you should be fine.
I usually recommend giving magnesium 1-2 hours before bed. If you notice that your child seems to have a harder time getting to sleep, it might be that they metabolize magnesium at a different rate. And, that’s fine! Give it to your child around lunch time to allow more time to process it.
Will this solve all our sleep problems?
If magnesium could solve the sleep problems for all special needs children, I would gladly shout it from the roof tops and sleep easier knowing that my work was done! Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting would be no more, haha!
But, it’s not a cure all…
And, chances are you’re the parent that’s tried all. the. things. with a hope and prayer that the lavender oil, the compression sheet, etc. would solve your child’s sleep problems once and for all. So, I know you know that magnesium won’t solve everything.
I’ve seen magnesium help cut bedtime drama down to zilch, half the amount of tossing and turning at night, and more! But, it is often just one of many tools that I coach my families to use. We have to make sure that your child has great sleep hygiene, lots of sensory stimulation, the right balance of physical activity, in addition to nutritional needs, for the best night’s rest possible.
If your child doesn’t get enough magnesium, boosting this is an amazing way to help improve their sleep and overall health. But, if you’ve already tried this or you’re not seeing the results you want, I am here to make sure that you and your family have all the support and guidance you need for the best night’s rest possible.