Evidence of disturbed sleep patterns and increased illness in functionally overreached endurance athletes.

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Journal Article
Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise, 2014, 46 (5), pp. 1036 - 1045
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Purpose: To examine whether i) objective markers of sleep quantity and quality are altered in endurance athletes experiencing overreaching in response to an overload training program and ii) whether potential reduced sleep quality would be accompanied with higher prevalence of upper respiratory tract infections in this population. Methods: Twenty seven trained male triathletes were randomly assigned to either overload (n=18) or normal (CTL, n=9) training groups. Respective training programs included a 1-week moderate training phase, followed by a 3-week period of overload or normal training, respectively and then a subsequent 2-week taper. Maximal aerobic power and oxygen uptake (VO2max) from incremental cycle ergometry were measured after each phase, whilst mood states and incidences of illness were determined from questionnaires. Sleep was monitored every night of the 6 weeks using wristwatch actigraphy. Results: Nine of the 18 overload training group subjects were diagnosed as functionally overreached (F-OR) after the overload period, as based on declines in performance and O2max with concomitant high perceived fatigue (p<0.05), whilst the nine other overload subjects showed no decline in performance (AF, p>0.05). There was a significant time × group interaction for sleep duration (SD), sleep efficiency (SE) and immobile time (IT). Only the F-OR group demonstrated a decrease in these three parameters (-7.9±6.7%, -1.6±0.7% and -7.6±6.6%, for SD, SE and IT, respectively, p<0.05), which was reversed during the subsequent taper phase. Higher prevalence of upper respiratory tract infections were also reported in F-OR (67%, 22%, 11% incidence rate, for F-OR, AF and CTL, respectively). Conclusion: This study confirms sleep disturbances and increased illness in endurance athletes who present with symptoms of F-OR during periods of high volume training.
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