Night Games and Sleep: Physiological, Neuroendocrine, and Psychometric Mechanisms

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Context: Night games are a regular occurrence for team-sport athletes, yet sleep complaints following night competitions are common. The mechanisms responsible for reported sleep difficulty in athletes are not understood. Methods: An observational crossover design investigating a night netball game and a time-matched rest day in 12 netball athletes was conducted to ascertain differences in physiological (core temperature), psychometric (state and trait), and neuroendocrine (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol) responses. Results: Following the night game, athletes experienced reduced sleep durations, lower sleep efficiency, early awakenings, and poorer subjective sleep ratings compared with the rest day. No differences were found between core temperature, state psychometric measures, and cortisol at bedtime. Adrenaline and noradrenaline concentrations were elevated compared with the time-matched rest day prior to (26.92 [15.88] vs 12.90 [5.71] and 232.6 [148.1] vs 97.83 [36.43] nmol/L, respectively) and following the night game (18.67 [13.26] vs 11.92 [4.56] and 234.1 [137.2] vs 88.58 [54.08] nmol/L, respectively); however, the concentrations did not correlate to the sleep variables (duration, efficiency, and sleep-onset latency). A correlation (rs = −.611) between sleep efficiency and hyperarousal (trait psychometric measure) was found. Conclusions: Athletes experienced poor sleep following a night game. Furthermore, results suggest that athletes who have a tendency toward a high trait arousal may be more susceptible to sleep complaints following a night game. These data expand knowledge and refute frequently hypothesized explanations for poor sleep following night competition. The results may also help support staff and coaches target strategies for individual athletes at a higher risk of sleep complaints.

Juliff and Peiffer are with the School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia. Juliff is also with Netball Australia, Fitzroy, VIC, Australia. Juliff and Halson are with the Dept of Physiology, Australian Inst of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.

Juliff (laura.juliff@netball.asn.au) is corresponding author.
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