Stressed and Not Sleeping: Poor Sleep and Psychological Stress in Elite Athletes Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Psychological stress is reported to be an important contributor to reduced sleep quality and quantity observed in elite athletes. The purpose of this study was to explore the association between psychological stress and sleep and to identify if specific aspects of sleep are disturbed. Methods: One hundred thirty-one elite athletes (mean [SD], male: n = 46, age 25.8 [4.1] y; female: n = 85, age 24.3 [3.9] y) from a range of sports completed a series of questionnaires in a 1-month period approximately 4 months before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Questionnaires included the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; Recovery-Stress Questionnaire; Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS 21); and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Results: Regression analysis identified the PSS and DASS stress as the main variables associated with sleep. A PSS score of 6.5 or higher was associated with poor sleep. In addition, a PSS score lower than 6.5 combined with a DASS stress score higher than 4.5 was also associated with poor sleep. Univariate analyses on subcomponents of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index confirmed that PSS is associated with lower sleep quality (t 99 = 2.40, P = .018), increased sleep disturbances (t 99 = 3.37, P = .001), and increased daytime dysfunction (t 99 = 2.93, P = .004). DASS stress was associated with increased sleep latency (t 94 = 2.73, P = .008), increased sleep disturbances (t 94 = 2.25, P = .027), and increased daytime dysfunction (t 94 = 3.58, P = .001). Conclusions: A higher stress state and higher perceived stress were associated with poorer sleep, in particular increased sleep disturbances and increased daytime dysfunction. Data suggest that relatively low levels of psychological stress are associated with poor sleep in elite athletes.

Halson is with the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, McAuley at Banyo, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Appaneal and Drew are with the Australian Inst of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia, and the University of Canberra Research Inst for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE), Canberra, ACT, Australia. Welvaert is with the Statistical Consulting Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia. Maniar is with the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Halson (shona.halson@acu.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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