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THE NUGGETS landed in Los Angeles at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, after a win over the Mavericks hours earlier in Denver, and weary passengers staggered from charter plane to charter bus. Power forward Trey Lyles settled into his seat for the 30-minute ride, holding an eight-ounce baby blue can, about the same size as a Red Bull but with the opposite effect. As the bus approached downtown, Lyles downed the fruit-flavored drink, and by 1:30 he was asleep in his bed at the Ritz-Carlton. "That's early for me," Lyles says. "It used to be three or four, and I'd be tossing and turning."

In his third year out of Kentucky and first in Denver, Lyles is putting together his finest NBA season, which he attributes partly to the contents of that baby-blue can. In November a doctor from the UCHealth Sleep Lab visited the Nuggets and spoke to the team about the importance of sleep, a pressing topic in a league filled with late nights and long trips. The doctor suggested drawing shades, avoiding screens and cooling bedrooms to 65--70°. "I've tried [them] all," Lyles sighs, "all the sheep counting. Nothing worked for me."

When the presentation ended, Lyles turned to head strength-and-conditioning coach Felipe Eichenberger and described his insomnia. "My mind is always running," Lyles says. "After games my body can't settle down. I just lie there with my thoughts. Then I start looking at the clock: 'It's four, and I've got practice at nine. I'm going to be tired.'"

He craved something stronger than melatonin supplements but more natural than ZzzQuil pills, which left him groggy. Eichenberger introduced Lyles to a new drink, certified by the National Science Foundation For Sport, called Som. Advertised as "drug-free, dairy-free, gluten-free," Som was not designed for NBA players. But they might end up being the most loyal customers.

After averaging 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in November, Lyles put up 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in December, post-Som. Teammates wanted to know his secret. When the Nuggets hit the road in January, Eichenberger stuffed about 15 Soms in a trunk and distributed them on the bus. Now, Lyles has drinking buddies.


FOOD SCIENTIST ROB BENT, CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER: When we created Som, we aimed to optimize the natural sleep process through a stack of active ingredients. We divided them into three tiers. The first tier consists of magnesium and vitamin B6, nutritional building blocks that are often deficient in the American diet. They are essential for the natural production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers the cascade of events leading to healthy sleep. In the second tier are L-Theanine and GABA, two compounds that increase alpha frequency brain waves and decrease beta waves. When we're awake and active, the majority of our brain activity is in the beta-wave frequency band. However, as we transition from wakefulness to sleep, alpha wave activity takes over. The second-tier ingredients help create a neurological state we think of as "sleep adjacent." The third tier is melatonin itself, to help begin the actual transition to sleep.