On Feb. 3, the New York Knicks lost to the Boston Celtics, dropping their record to 8-15. The team had hoped to join the ranks of those C's, the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls amongst the Eastern Conference's elite, but the season was shaping up as a lost one. Then the team afforded Jeremy Lin 35 minutes in their next game, some sort of magic took over, and the Knicks are now entering the weekend with an 18-18 record. The sporting world is breathless, in view of the ascension.
The Knicks? They're sleepless in reaction to the turnaround, apparently. And the team's relaxation therapist, apparently, is relying on since-dismissed sleep-inducing options that even your parents have long since abandoned. According to team sharpshooter Steve Novak, who discussed as much on WFAN on Thursday, the players were advised to drink warm milk after a game to help them worm into a state of Rapid Eye Movement, an option that has been proven time and time again (whether you're a high schooler worried about the next day's test, Don Draper on Mad Men, or a 6-10 forward coming down from the high of nailing a bunch of threes on national TV) to not work.
The Knicks were told to drink warm milk or herbal tea or count sheep or even change to firmer mattresses. The doctor, Novak said, gave the players relaxation CDs to help them unwind.
"We had a meeting today before practice with a doctor who talked about ways to help you sleep at night," Novak said. "It's like the energy, when we leave, it's like midnight, and you go home and we can't sleep. It's from the fans and the adrenaline. We're having trouble sleeping."
This is more than common, and to be expected. NBA teams essentially have a 9-to-5 day that really starts with an early afternoon shootaround, centered around a major meeting that starts around 7:30 local time and lasts for three hours, with an hour's worth of media back-and-forth and travel to follow before being expected to fall asleep (be it on the road or at home) at hours that a person working a typical 9-to-5 zonks out at.
Yes, they're paid millions, but it's an unreasonable schedule that demands a whole lot of dancing around in order to stay normal; especially when travel is considered. It's also why -- though we don't use nor endorse such things -- I don't mind hearing that some NBA players utilize other, ahem, "herbal" supplements to mellow them out once they get back to that hotel room and pull up the second showing of "The Colbert Report" sometime after 1 a.m.
But warm milk? It doesn't work. Here's one take, from The New York Times, on the "wisdom" behind it:
According to age-old wisdom, milk is chock full of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid that is also well known for its presence in another food thought to have sedative effects, turkey.
But whether milk can induce sleep is debatable, and studies suggest that if it does, the effect has little to do with tryptophan.
To have any soporific effect, tryptophan has to cross the blood-brain barrier. And in the presence of other amino acids, it ends up fighting — largely unsuccessfully — to move across.
The Times goes on to note that the placebo effect of downing some barely boiled 2 percent might be enough for some to think that the warm milk is working, and aid in sleep. But that there is barely enough tryptophan in warm milk to make any sort of difference in forcing those eyes shut. And that carbs -- say, some awful baked ziti grabbed on the way home from Madison Square Garden -- might be your best shot at knocking you out.
It's no fun lying awake in bed, counting down the hours until you have to be somewhere to do something. I suffer from insomnia myself, and no amount of late-night soup-makin' or quiet podcast-listenin' seems to consistently help.
Ironically, my best version of counting sheep often comes in the form of closing my eyes and visualizing a series of pull-up jumpers. I'm not kidding. It doesn't always work, but it's my best go-to option when sleep doesn't come easy. Just picture the rim, and go up with your elbow underneath the ball.
This would count as a sort of busman's holiday for someone like Steve Novak, or the rest of the New York Knicks, so we can understand if they don't attempt this late-night ploy. Still, at least it's been proven to work better than a glass of warm milk.
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