Mighty magnesium: how one mineral can improve your sleep, memory, and mood

By Perrin Braun Dec 31, 2013


Many people spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to find the right sports drink, nutrition bar, or supplement that could help them get through their day and feel more energized. Here’s a little secret: knowing your biomarker status might be a more efficient way of improving your sleep, memory, and mood than any other product on the market. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a busy parent, getting a sufficient amount of good sleep can help improve your memory and mood, which is where magnesium comes into play!sleep



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.

One of magnesium’s more important roles is to help build endurance by increasing the body’s oxygen needs. Aside from increasing physical endurance, magnesium plays the following important roles in the body:

supports healthy blood pressure decreases your blood glucose levels and risk of diabetes boosts your immune system helps to contract and relax your muscles assists in the production of energy and protein in the body improves the quality of your sleep



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 about what’s going on inside of your body. Sleep is the time for your body to complete all the phases that are needed to repair your muscles and release hormones that regulate your growth and appetite. If we don’t get enough sleep, we cannot perform at our best. Here are the specific ways that sleep deprivation can ruin your game:

Decreased energy – when you’re sleep deprived, your body’s ability to store glycogen is compromised. Your body converts glycogen to glucose (a type of sugar), which your muscles use as a primary source of fuel during exercise. Glycogen is particularly important for giving your body the energy that it needs for endurance events, so if you don’t get enough sleep, you will probably feel less energetic than usual. Poor reflexes – getting an insufficient amount of sleep can slow your reaction time. One particular 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 that helps repair the body, which could 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.

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. The magnesium 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.  The researchers found that in both the young and old rats, magnesium increased the strength of synapses, the junctions between neurons that are important in transmitting nerve signals. Since magnesium strengthens those synapses, it can play important roles in spatial navigation and long-term memory.

How can I tell if my magnesium levels are low, and how can I fix it?

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 a magnesium deficiency include muscle weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, irritability, abnormal eye movements, convulsions, fatigue, and numbness.


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! 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. For even more food suggestions that will help you to optimize your magnesium levels, explore your InsideTracker Nutrition and Food Menu pages. If your magnesium level is still low, supplementation might be beneficial; consult your health care practitioner if you think a supplement might help you.

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. 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.



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