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Purpose: To assess the impact of match-start time and days relative to match compared with the habitual sleep characteristics of elite Australian Football (AF) players. Methods: 45 elite male AF players were assessed during the preseason (habitual) and across 4 home matches during the season. Players wore an activity monitor the night before (−1), night of (0), 1 night after (+1), and 2 nights (+2) after each match and completed a self-reported rating of sleep quality. A 2-way ANOVA with Tukey post hoc was used to determine differences in sleep characteristics between match-start times and days relative to the match. Two-way nested ANOVA was conducted to examine differences between competition and habitual phases. Effect size ± 90% confidence interval (ES ± 90% CI) was calculated to quantify the magnitude of pairwise differences. Results: Differences observed in sleep-onset latency (ES = 0.11 ± 0.16), sleep rating (ES = 0.08 ± 0.14), and sleep duration (ES = 0.08 ± 0.01) between competition and habitual periods were trivial. Sleep efficiency was almost certainly higher during competition than habitual, but this was not reflected in the subjective rating of sleep quality. Conclusions: Elite AF competition does not cause substantial disruption to sleep characteristics compared with habitual sleep. While match-start time has some impact on sleep variables, it appears that the match itself is more of a disruption than the start time. Subjective ratings of sleep from well-being questionnaires appear limited in their ability to accurately provide an indication of sleep quality.
Lalor, Kemp, and Cormack are with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Halson is with the Dept of Physiology, Australian Inst of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Tran is with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.