Insomnia in Athletes


Dr. Khalaf Moussa, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Total Joints Replacement and Sports Medicine Specialist at Dubai Bone and Joint, centre of musculoskeletal excellence, writes about sleep disorders faced by athletes:

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which there inability to fall asleep or stay asleep as long as desired. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. It can be short- or long- term and it can be grouped into primary and secondary or comorbid. Transient insomnia which lasts for less than a week caused by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep or stress and severe depression. Emotional stress and travelling through different time zones are among the risk factors. Professional Tennis player who used to be engaged in many tournament over the year are among the athletes who are suspected to insomnia especially before a competing games.  Its prevalence among tennis players is not known.  Its consequences may have a dramatic effect on the psychomotor and performance of the player.

It is important to identify or rule out medical and psychological causes before deciding on the treatment for insomnia. Non-pharmacological strategies provide long lasting improvement and are recommended as a first line and long term strategy of management. EEG biofeedback, sleep hygiene, stimulus control therapy, paradoxical intention and meditation, all have been for the treatment of insomnia.

Medications like antihistamines, sedatives benzodiazepines, antidepressants are associated tolerance and dependence. It may also have hazards and drawbacks on the performance of the competing athlete. Melatonin is a hormone synthesised by the pineal gland and secreted through the blood stream commonly at bedtime in order to control the sleep cycle. It is recommended to be taken at night before going to bed.  Natural remedies like almond milk is an excellent source of calcium which helps brain make melatonin, plus warm milk may spark pleasant and relaxing memories of breast feeding mother.