Sleep Deprivation Training to Reduce the Negative Effects of Sleep Loss on Endurance Performance: A Single Case Study

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Sleep deprivation (SD) is very common during ultraendurance competitions. At present, stimulants such as caffeine and naps are the main strategies used to reduce the negative effects of SD on ultraendurance performance. In this case study, the authors describe the application of a novel strategy consisting of the intermittent repetition of SD (SD training [SDT]) during the weeks preceding an ultraendurance competition. Methods: A male ultraendurance runner underwent a 6-week SDT program (consisting of 1 night SD every Sunday) in addition to his regular physical training program before taking part in a 6-day race. Before and after SDT, the participant performed 5 consecutive days of daily 2-hour constant-pace running with SD on the first and third night. Psychological and physiological responses were measured during this multiday test. Results: SDT was well tolerated by the athlete. A visual analysis of the data suggests that including SDT in the weeks preceding an ultraendurance competition may have beneficial effects on sleepiness and perceived mental effort in the context of 5 consecutive days of prolonged running and 2 nights of SD. This multiday test seems a feasible way for assessing ultraendurance athletes in the laboratory. Conclusions: The results provided some encouraging initial information about SDT that needs to be confirmed in a randomized controlled trial in a group of ultraendurance athletes. If confirmed to be effective and well tolerated, SDT might be used in the future to help ultraendurance athletes and other populations that have to perform in conditions of SD.

Gattoni and Marcora are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, United Kingdom. Girardi is with the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, University of Essex, United Kingdom. O’Neill is with the Brain Health Dept, Nestlé Research, Société des Produits Nestlé SA, Lausanne, Switzerland. Marcora is also with the Dept of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy.

Gattoni (chiaragat00@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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