Effect of Training/Competition Load and Scheduling on Sleep Characteristics in Professional Rugby League Athletes.

Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of strength and conditioning research, 2021, Publish Ahead of Print
Issue Date:
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Conlan, G, McLean, B, Kemp, J, and Duffield, R. Effect of training/competition load and scheduling on sleep characteristics in professional rugby league athletes. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2021-This study examined the effect of training/competition load, scheduling, and associated factors on sleep behavior in professional rugby league athletes. Sleep characteristics were assessed in 26 professional rugby league athletes using wrist-mounted actigraphy and nightly sleep diaries. Sleep actigraphy assessed the time into and out of bed, the duration in bed, sleep duration, efficiency, latency, wake after sleep onset, number of awakenings, and the awakening length. Sleep was measured during 3 different weeks: (a) preseason low training load (TL) (2,356 ± 322 AU), (b) preseason high TL (3,542 ± 445 AU), and (c) in-season match week (1,526 ± 409 AU). The influences of internal TL (session rating of perceived exertion load), training schedule, age, and training location on sleep behavior were analyzed. Repeated-measures 2-way analysis of variance and effect size analyses (d) compared sleep variables between training weeks. The mean weekly sleep duration was significantly lower during high TL week (5 hours 53minutes ± 14 min/night; p = 0.015, d = 0.59) compared with the low TL (6 hours 25minutes ± 8 min·night-1) or match weeks (6 hours 26minutes ± 10 min·night-1; p = 0.02, d = 2.04). Reduced sleep duration in the high TL week occurred alongside earlier out-of-bed times compared with the low TL (p = 0.003, d = 1.46) and match weeks (p = 0.001, d = 5.99). Regardless, the lowest sleep duration was on match night (p = 0.0001, d = 1.22). Earlier training start times resulted in earlier wake times (p = 0.003, d = 4.84), shorter in-bed durations (p = 0.0001, d = 0.62), and shorter sleep durations (p = 0.002, d = 0.32). Younger athletes slept for longer durations (p = 0.029, d = 1.70) and perceived their sleep quality to be superior (p = 0.006, d = 14.94) compared with older athletes. Sleep attained by rugby league athletes is influenced by training and competition schedules, with early training start times and late-night matches being primary drivers of sleep behavior. Coaching staff should have awareness surrounding the implications of training and playing schedules on athlete sleeping patterns.
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