The Sleep of Elite Australian Rules Footballers During Preseason: A Comparison of Men and Women

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Australian football has elite men’s (Australian Football League; AFL) and women’s (Australian Football League Women’s; AFLW) competitions. This study compared AFL and AFLW players’ sleep and characterized players’ sleep in the context of current sleep recommendations. Methods: A total of 70 players (36 AFL, 34 AFLW) had their sleep monitored via actigraphy over a 10-day preseason period. Sleep outcomes and their intraindividual variation, were compared between AFL and AFLW players using linear mixed models. Proportions of players sleeping ≥7 and ≥8 hours per night, and achieving ≥85% sleep efficiency, were compared using chi-square analyses. Results: Compared with AFL players, AFLW players slept less (7.9 [0.5] vs 7.1 [0.6] h, P = .000), had lower sleep efficiency (89.5% [2.8%] vs 84.0% [4.4%], P = .000), and greater intraindividual variation in sleep efficiency (3.1% [0.9%] vs 5.1% [2.1%], P = .000). A total of 47% of AFLW versus 3% of AFL players averaged <7 hours sleep (χ2 = 18.6, P = .000). A total of 88% of AFLW versus 50% of AFL players averaged <8 hours sleep (χ2 = 11.9, P = .001). A total of 53% of AFLW versus 14% of AFL players averaged <85% sleep efficiency (χ2 = 12.1, P = .001). Conclusions: AFLW players slept less and had poorer sleep quality than AFL players. Many AFLW players do not meet current sleep duration or sleep quality recommendations. Research should test strategies to improve sleep among Australian rules footballers, particularly among elite women.

Roberts and Aisbett are with the Inst for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Burwood, VIC, Australia. Falkenberg, Stevens, and Condo are with the Centre for Sport Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Burwood, VIC, Australia. Lastella is with the Appleton Inst for Behavioural Science, Central Queensland University, Adelaide, Wayville, SA, Australia.

Roberts (s.roberts@deakin.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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