Oral magnesium supplementation for insomnia in older adults: a Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis

BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 Apr 17;21(1):125. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03297-z.


Background: Magnesium supplementation is often purported to improve sleep; however, as both an over-the-counter sleep aid and a complementary and alternative medicine, there is limited evidence to support this assertion. The aim was to assess the effectiveness and safety of magnesium supplementation for older adults with insomnia.

Methods: A search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Allied and Complementary Medicine, clinicaltrials.gov and two grey literature databases comparing magnesium supplementation to placebo or no treatment. Outcomes were sleep quality, quantity, and adverse events. Risk of bias and quality of evidence assessments were carried out using the RoB 2.0 and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approaches. Data was pooled and treatment effects were quantified using mean differences. For remaining outcomes, a modified effects direction plot was used for data synthesis.

Results: Three randomized control trials (RCT) were identified comparing oral magnesium to placebo in 151 older adults in three countries. Pooled analysis showed that post-intervention sleep onset latency time was 17.36 min less after magnesium supplementation compared to placebo (95% CI - 27.27 to - 7.44, p = 0.0006). Total sleep time improved by 16.06 min in the magnesium supplementation group but was statistically insignificant. All trials were at moderate-to-high risk of bias and outcomes were supported by low to very low quality of evidence.

Conclusion: This review confirms that the quality of literature is substandard for physicians to make well-informed recommendations on usage of oral magnesium for older adults with insomnia. However, given that oral magnesium is very cheap and widely available, RCT evidence may support oral magnesium supplements (less than 1 g quantities given up to three times a day) for insomnia symptoms.

Keywords: Geriatrics; Insomnia; Magnesium; Sleep; Supplementation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Phytotherapy
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Magnesium