Daily wisdom: April 24

Is this sleep-aiding supplement the new melatonin?

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sportand exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, addresses some of the latest fitness research and news stories.

Today’s Topic: Sleep-inducing herbs for athletes

The Science: A studydone by researchers in Japan looked at that impact of Ashwagandha herb extract on sleep in mice. The results showed a significant increase in non-REM sleep and a slight increase in REM sleep.

EQX Expert Insight: “While these results would still need to be replicated in humans, the Ashwagandha herb has been used in Ayruvedic therapies in India for hundreds of years with some reported successs,” says Berenc. This study found that it increased non-REM sleep, which is associated with physiological repair (i.e. muscle repair). “This could make it a useful supplement in the pursuit of better sleep and recovery for athletes,” says Berenc. Still, before you rely solely on a supplement, you should start by building healthy sleep habits, says Berenc. “This means ensuring your sleep environment is optimal; dark, cool, and quiet or with ambient relaxing noise. You also want to build a sleep ritual that includes a consistent bedtime, turning electronics off 60 minutes before bed, and relaxing activities like taking a hot bath."

The Bottom Line:If you are sleeping well already, no need to add a supplement. If you want to try Ashwagandha, reserve it for when you need it (think: particularly stressful days or while you're traveling) rather than taking it every day. Here’s one optionthat is available. "Take it with meals and try to split your dose throughout the day," Berenc recommends. "Taking smaller doses allows a higher percentage of the supplement to be absorbed which could lead to a compounding effect."