Magnesium: How One Mineral Can Improve Your Sleep, Memory, and Mood

Discover the incredible benefits of magnesium for sleep, memory, and mood. Enhance your well-being with this essential mineral!

Perrin Braun
By Perrin Braun

Published June 7, 2024.

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Many people spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to find the right sports drink, nutrition bar, or supplement to possibly help them get through their day and feel more energized. But truthfully, the secret to increasing your energy may be accessed in your blood rather than the store. That's where magnesium comes into play! Here are some of the mineral's top impacts.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is the fourth-most abundant mineral in the body! Every part of your body, from your heart to your bones, needs magnesium to stay strong. Roughly 50 percent of the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones, and the other half is mostly located in your organs and tissues.

So what does magnesium do? One of its more important roles is to help build endurance by increasing the body’s oxygen capacity. But it also helps with

  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Maintaining blood glucose levels and reduce risk of diabetes
  • Boosting immunity
  • Muscle function
  • Energy and protein production
  • Sleep quality

How does sleep affect your mood, memory, and physical performance?

Not only can an insufficient amount of sleep make you feel tired the next day, but it can also have a big impact on what’s going on inside of your body. Sleep is the time for your body to repair your muscles and release hormones which regulate your growth and appetite. If we don’t get enough sleep, we don't get this opportunity to reset, and therefore cannot perform at our best. Here are the specific ways that sleep deprivation can ruin your game:

Decreased energy

Your body converts carb stores in your muscles—called glycogen—to glucose, which your muscles use as a primary source of fuel during exercise. But when you’re sleep deprived, your body’s ability to store glycogen is compromised. And since glycogen is particularly important for giving your body the energy that it needs for endurance events, your performance will likely suffer if you don’t get enough sleep.

Poor reflexes

Getting an insufficient amount of sleep can slow your reaction time. One study illustrated declines in split-second decision-making following poor sleep, and showed that subjects who were well-rested had increased accuracy on tasks that required quick decisions.

Hormone changes

Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can impede healing, increase the risk of injuries, and worsen memory. Additionally, it decreases levels of growth hormone, and important factor for physical healing. This combination can prevent an athlete from recovering adequately from heavy training and further increase the risk of injury.

Conversely, getting enough sleep can have some great benefits for athletes. A 2011 study at Stanford University tracked the sleep habits of the school’s basketball team and found that players increased their speed by 5 percent when they added an average of two hours of sleep each night. Other studies show similar benefits for athletes. Overall, sleep plays a very important role in physical functioning.

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How can magnesium help?

Magnesium has long been considered a key mineral for optimal brain function. It is considered to be an “anti-stress” mineral because it works to calm the nerves and relax the muscles, which in turn can help people fall asleep.

One particular study from 2010 found that increasing magnesium improved learning abilities, working memory, and short- and-long-term memory in rats. It also helped older rats perform better on a battery of learning tests. This study suggests that magnesium-based treatments may be useful in helping to alleviate the symptoms of age-associated memory decline. 

How you can tell if your magnesium levels are low

Your bloodwork results from InsideTracker will let you know if your magnesium is below your optimal levels. Although it’s fairly common for people not to get enough magnesium in their diet, a true deficiency is much less common. Certain medical conditions inhibit magnesium absorption, such as diarrhea or vomiting, diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism. Drinking too many caffeinated or alcoholic beverages may also lower your body’s levels of magnesium. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, irritability, abnormal eye movements, convulsions, fatigue, and numbness. 

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How to get enough magnesium

The good news is that, because magnesium is found in so many different types of foods, it’s pretty easy to reach your recommended daily allowance (RDA). If you consume a sufficient amount of calories and eat plenty of whole foods, you will be well on your way to performing at your best! Your InsideTracker nutrition page also contains a list of magnesium-rich foods specific to your diet.

Magnesium absorption is primarily affected by the quality of your diet. You can get magnesium from many types of foods, especially from leafy green vegetables. Other good sources of magnesium include: whole grain cereals, soybeans, nuts and seafood. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains contain phytate, which can inhibit the body’s absorption of magnesium. Avoid combining foods that are high in fiber with foods that are good sources of magnesium.

Otherwise, supplementation might be beneficial; women who consume less than 30 grams of protein per day, African Americans, and older individuals (who generally tend to excrete more magnesium through urination) are at a greater risk of having difficulties absorbing magnesium. If you fall into one of these groups, you might want to consider taking a supplement. Consult your health care practitioner if you think a supplement might help you. 

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To recap:

  • Poor sleep can negatively affect your energy levels, reaction time, and hormone levels
  • Magnesium is critical for brain function, including priming the brain for sleep
  • Insufficient magnesium levels can be identified in a blood test
  • You can increase your magnesium levels with foods like salmon, pumpkin seeds, and beans
  • Avoid getting your magnesium exclusively from high-fiber foods, because phytates can cause low mineral absorption
  • Consult your blood results and your doctor to determine if a magnesium supplement is right for you

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