Canberra Raiders players Jarrod Croker, Terry Campese and Jack Ahearn taking part in an AIS Sleep study.

Canberra Raiders players Jarrod Croker, Terry Campese and Jack Ahearn taking part in an AIS Sleep study. Photo: Twitter

The Canberra Raiders are guinea pigs for a cutting-edge sleep study of elite athletes which the AIS hopes can improve Olympic performance and eradicate the reliance on controversial medications such as Stilnox.

Up to a dozen Raiders players, including Terry Campese, Josh Papalii, Anthony Milford and Jarrod Croker, are taking part in the study which a leading sport scientist claims could unlock a further 10 per cent in athletic potential.

Raiders players identified with sleep issues have spent two nights wired-up to machines at the AIS, with experts monitoring their brain function, breathing, heart rates and movement.

The research and results are being closely guarded, given Australia is aware Britain is also exploring the science linking sleep with sporting performance before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Australian swimmers were sanctioned for the misuse of sleeping drug Stilnox at the 2012 London Olympics, while swimmer Grant Hackett has previously revealed he overused it at the 2008 Games.

Shona Halson, head of AIS Recovery, said the sleep study was not in response to those issues, but was hopeful it could alleviate the need for medication and prove the value of sleep on athletic performance.

''We're looking at ways of helping athletes sleep that doesn't involve sleeping medication,'' Halson said. ''We were interested in this work before the Stilnox concerns came out. Any medication is going to have side effects … for us, let's try and find something that's an alternative that doesn't have side effects like sleeping tablets do.''

The initial study will also involve swimmers at the AIS, while Olympians are expected to be analysed in the approach to Rio.

''My opinion is that sleep is the best recovery strategy we have," Halson said.

''There's a lot of little one per centers out there (in terms of improvement), I think sleep is more like a 5 or 10 per center. It's so big and it's something we're only just starting to look into in athletes. If you look at scientific literature, there's almost nothing on how

athletes sleep, yet they're probably the population that needs sleep the most.''

The sleep testing - known as polysomnography - has not been widely explored in sport because of high cost and the lack of subjects. But the Raiders were enthusiastic volunteers.

The Raiders wore specialised tracking watches late last year which identified sleeping patterns and those players who would most benefit by being involved in the study.

Raiders strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones said the smallest improvements in sleep could have major benefits in performance.

''It came up that 10 of the guys were very, very poor,'' Ashley-Jones said. ''A lot of the time we're looking for small things, but one of the most important things in life is sleep.

''The theory is to train the area of the brain responsible for sleep and turn yourself into a good sleeper.''

The ACT Brumbies rugby union team built darkened sleep rooms at their training headquarters two years ago, making it mandatory for players to sleep in the middle of the day between training sessions.

The Raiders players will be given sleep education and return for follow-up testing in three weeks.

Campese said the testing had identified his restless sleep.

''I was pretty consistent with my sleep patterns, going to bed and getting up at the same times. But it came up I had a lot of movement,'' Campese said.

''I put my hand up straight away to do it because I know every little bit counts … I'm always dreaming of a premiership, hopefully it comes true.