Being sleep deprived is never fun. Lack of sleep can make or break an athlete, significantly compromising skill execution and performance. One solution to sleep deprivation is to take creatine.
A recent study tested the effect of taking either a placebo, creatine, or caffeine on skill execution by rugby players who were sleep deprived. The study tested all players in a sleep deprived and non-sleep deprived state when taking the different supplements. Performance decreased after sleep deprivation, but the decrease was significantly less after taking creatine.
Sleep deprived players performed best on skilled passing tests after taking the creatine supplement. Caffeine also improved performance compared to the placebo, but not as much as the creatine supplement.
Researchers suggest creatine was so effective because sleep deprivation results in reduced brain stores of phosphocreatine, leading to a cognitive deficit and impaired skill performance. The creatine supplement replenished those stores and also resulted in significantly greater testosterone levels prior to the skill tests. Cortisol levels were lower following creatine supplementation than the placebo and the caffeine groups. Minimizing elevation of cortisol levels is important because high cortisol is associated with muscle degradation, slower recovery, and increased anxiety.