From High Tea to Hypnotics: Sleep Aid Starting Points for Performance Athletes

athleteFor a long time, sleep was a neglected area in professional sports. Professional athletes would do whatever it takes to achieve success including not sleeping. In addition, there are the long hours of flight or shuttling by bus from one game to another. The times of sleeping when they want and how they want are now a thing of the past.

Today, we know sleep is a success factor that impacts on the overall performance of professional athletes. Athletes are more aware of the consequences of poor sleep on performance.

Sleep has an inextricable association with performance in human beings. The attempt to get a quick sleep fix will often lead to impaired performance. Careful consideration should be conducted to ensure that the sleep aid used helps to deal with sleep problems without compromising performance in athletes.

The use of any sleep medication by a professional athlete should be preceded by the athlete, coaches and training staff seeking to know if the specific sleep aid is compliant with drug regulations and policies in their sport.

Since the regulations are constantly changing, the players and coaches should regularly review them and check for compliance. It is with good reason because a single slip may prove to be costly.

Solving sleep problems in elite athletes should be approached in a holistic and individualized way. Before any prescription drugs are tried, the athletes should make lifestyle changes, diet changes, and have a look at their environment and sleep routines. These should be the starting point since they are behavioral and natural options to aid quality sleep.

Reputable natural sleep aids that will benefit elite athletes are: calcium, chamomile tea, L-theanine, tart cherry juice, St. John’s wort,magnesium, passionflower, hops, kava, lysine, lavender, 5-hydroxytryptamine, skullcap, magnolia bark, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

All these natural sleep aids help to stimulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin is also available in supplement form and as an over-the-counter pill. The melatonin pill has received endorsement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for particularly helping shift workers with the correct timing.

Elite athletes should use the melatonin pill with professional help since incorrect timing is associated with low blood pressure that would adversely affect performance. The other disadvantage is that the pill is not approved for use in treating chronic insomnia.

Sleep and Nutrition

Researchers are increasingly linking sleep and nutrition. One study reported that poor sleep management may render even the best nutrition plans useless.

Nutrition built upon healthy sleep habits will produce an optimal training response and an improved performance. The studies have not identified any macronutrient that either inhibits or improves alertness or sleepiness. Nonetheless, there are foods thought to increase production of melatonin or tryptophan such as walnuts, kales and tuna that can help to improve sleep.

Hypnotics and sleep medication

When all natural solutions have been tried without much success, then elite athletes can turn to prescription sleep medication. These drugs require the close supervision of a sleep expert.

Prescription medication is only given after a proper diagnosis to identify the cause of sleep problems. Getting sleep disorders treated not only has the benefit of improved performance in elite athletes; it will help deal with associated problems such as anxiety, sleep apnoea and depression.

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Somnowell Inventor - Visiting Professor Simon Ash FDS MSc MOrth BDS

Prof. Ash is the inventor of the highly successful SOMNOWELL Chrome device for snoring and sleep apnoea.

The Somnowell Chrome is made to exacting standards in the Somnowell laboratory under the supervision of Visiting Professor Simon Ash. Prof. Ash and his master technicians create each Somnowell Chrome device using their wealth of experience and expertise.

Prof. Ash works at the forefront of his profession. He is a Consultant and Specialist Orthodontist with over 30 years clinical experience, with a special interest in sleep related breathing disorders, TMJD, and bruxism. He currently works in Harley Street London and two private hospitals in London as part of a multi-disciplinary team managing snoring and sleep apnoea, and is Visiting Professor of Orthodontics at the BPP University.