Sleep apnea affects our breathing during sleep. The condition is also known to impair the patient’s health and quality of life. It even appears that magnesium deficiency is a common problem in patients with sleep apnea and that adds to the risk of systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders, according to a new meta-analysis from Charles Sturt University in Australia. In this study, researchers demonstrate for the first time ever why patients with sleep apnea may need extra magnesium.
We spend nearly one third of our life in bed sleeping. Sleep is vital for optimal health, when we sleep, we digest and recharge both physically and mentally. Also, toxic waste products are removed from the brain. Lack of sleep can therefore result in impaired quality of life and health problems.
Sleep apnea is a rather special ailment where you stop breathing form anywhere between 10 and 60 seconds during your sleep. The lack of oxygen to the brain causes you to suddenly wake up – often without being aware of it. In between the snores, your breathing is blocked because the soft palate tissue and the tongue move back in throat, thereby blocking the passage of air. This rather unstable sleep pattern deprives the patient of a deep and long-lasting sleep.
Sleep apnea may be caused by a number of different things. It affects twice as many men as women. Anatomical factors are limited to the airway, while non-anatomical factors may be related to the function of the throat and jaw muscles. Being overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea and weight loss may help solve the problem.
Many people are unaware that they suffer from sleep apnea and have no clue why they feel so tired and lethargic when they wake up in the morning. Sleep apnea can also result in poor concentration, reduced work performance, lack of libido, depression, elevated blood pressure, stroke, accidents, and other consequences of poor sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to chronic brain damage because the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen.
The only effective treatment for sleep apnea is a close-fitting face mask (C-PAP) that ensures sufficiently high airway pressure.
What is magnesium’s role in health and in connection with sleep apnea?
Magnesium is one of the minerals that we need in the greatest quantities. Around 60 percent of our magnesium is stored in bone tissue, while the remaining part is used in more than 300 different biochemical reactions in soft tissues. Magnesium is important for our energy turnover, nervous system, digestion, muscles, immune system, blood sugar, hormone system, and for activating vitamin D. It is therefore essential to have plenty of magnesium in the blood and inside the cells in order to maintain all of these enzyme functions.
In Australia, the recommended daily intake for magnesium is 310-420 mg per day. Still, it has been observed that 37% of men and 34% of women fail to get enough. In Denmark (and other Western countries), it is bound to be the same.
Lack of magnesium from the diet or from supplements or various magnesium-consuming activities or lifestyle habits are linked to oxidative stress, inflammation, and a number of chronic diseases. Low magnesium is associated with cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure, muscle cramps, metabolic syndrome (an early stage of type 2 diabetes), type 1 diabetes, overweight, and mental disturbances such as confusion and depression
It has also been found that overweight and metabolic syndrome increases the risk of moderate to severe sleep apnea, which in itself is linked to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmia), and heart failure
The scientists have noted many of the same metabolic dysfunctions in connection with low magnesium and sleep apnea, including factors that affect our energy turnover, blood sugar control, muscle contractions, and blood pressure.
There is a rather complex relation between sleep apnea and lack of magnesium
The new meta-analysis set out to investigate already-published scientific studies of magnesium and sleep apnea. The scientists were interested in answers for the following questions:
- Do patients with sleep apnea have lower blood levels of magnesium?
- Is their risk of magnesium deficiency based on levels of magnesium in the blood?
- Is there a link between blood levels of magnesium and the severity of sleep apnea?
- Are the patients’ magnesium levels related to diet, metabolic disturbances, inflammation, or other markers of cardiovascular health?
Based on the included studies, the scientists found that:
- Patients with sleep apnea have lower magnesium levels in their blood than healthy individuals do
- Patients with sleep apnea risk lacking magnesium
- The severity of sleep apnea in itself can be determining for blood levels of magnesium
- Magnesium levels in patients with sleep apnea are related to biomarkers such as CRP, IMA, and CMT that increase the risk of inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. Blood levels of magnesium are also linked to biomarkers of blood lipids, sugar metabolism, calcium, and heavy metals.
According to the scientists, their meta-analysis is the first to show a relation between magnesium deficiency and sleep apnea and also the first to demonstrate that patients with sleep apnea are at increased risk of lacking magnesium, to begin with. This may be because lack of sleep is a stress factor that digs into the body’s magnesium stores. Their research suggests that magnesium supplementation can optimize blood levels of the nutrient and relieve symptoms of sleep apnea
Although more studies are needed to clarify matters, the scientists suggest that increased magnesium intake from food or supplements could be useful as part of the therapy for sleep apnea and the diseases that follow in the wake of the condition.
Magnesium sources, reasons for deficiencies, and supplementation
Magnesium is found mainly in coarse foods such as whole grains, kernels, almonds, nuts, seeds, beans, avocado, cabbage, and many other vegetables. The reference intake (RI) for magnesium in Denmark is 375 mg. Low magnesium is primarily a result of nutrient-depleted soil, refining of foods, and unhealthy diets. Stress, a large calcium intake, stimulants, and different types of medicine can also increase the need for magnesium.
When looking for magnesium preparations, make sure to choose a product with good absorption. A magnesium tablet that passes through the digestive system without dissolving is of no use. You can make a little test of this. Try placing a magnesium tablet in a glass of water to see if it dissolves within a few minutes. If it does, there is a very good chance that it will dissolve fast in the digestive system so the small intestine can absorb the magnesium content. Magnesium oxide, a form of magnesium that is found in some supplements and in Magnesia for treating constipation, has poor absorption and is primarily intended to have a local effect in the intestine.
Zahraa Al Wadee et al. Serum Magnesium Levels in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. School of Dentistry and Medical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Panorama Avenue, Bathurst, NSW 2795, Australia
Megan Ware. Why do we need magnesium? Medical News Today. 2020
Gerry K. Schwalfenberg and Stephen J. Genuis. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Carro) 2017
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