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Creatine-induced insomnia

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Late last year I reversed a carelessly anti-creatine position. I reconsidered this supplement and publicly acknowledged that it is a safe and effective ergogenic aid, capable of reducing muscle fatigue at the gym. And then I tried it. And that went badly. I developed severe insomnia — and this was before I read that some people may have trouble sleeping when they take creatine. I can now add to that ancedotal evidence.

I have struggled with insomnia my whole life. It’s a problem I know much too well (see The Insomnia Guide). I know its ways, and in particular I almost exclusively have trouble with “sleep maintenance” — I get to sleep just fine, but then I wake up. This creatine-powered insomnia was a mirror-image: I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, but then I’d finally crash hard and even sleep in. This was all quite peculiar and unprecedented, and it didn’t take me long to get suspicious. Normal sleep was restored within 48 hours of stopping creatine. I performed pretty poorly at the gym during that 3-week period … probably because I was so fatigued!

So my creatine experiment was a bust, but that doesn’t mean creatine doesn’t work. My vulnerability to sleep problems is nothing new. Almost anything can wreck my sleep: a hangnail, a thrilling episode of Big Bang Theory, a good idea, you name it. Creatine gets added to my list of sleep-wreckers, but I’m sure most people probably don’t have a problem with it. Nevertheless, it seems to be well worth mentioning.