To assess the effects of a change in training environment on the sleep characteristics of elite Australian Rules football (AF) players.
In an observational crossover trial, 19 elite AF players had time in bed (TIB), total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency (SE), and wake after sleep onset (WASO) assessed using wristwatch activity devices and subjective sleep diaries across 8-d home and camp periods. Repeated-measures ANOVA determined mean differences in sleep, training load (session rating of perceived exertion [RPE]), and environment. Pearson product–moment correlations, controlling for repeated observations on individuals, were used to assess the relationship between changes in sleep characteristics at home and camp. Cohen effect sizes (d) were calculated using individual means.
On camp TIB (+34 min) and WASO (+26 min) increased compared with home. However, TST was similar between home and camp, significantly reducing camp SE (–5.82%). Individually, there were strong negative correlations for TIB and WASO (r = -.75 and r = -.72, respectively) and a moderate negative correlation for SE (r = -.46) between home and relative changes on camp. Camp increased the relationship between individual s-RPE variation and TST variation compared with home (increased load r = -.367 vs .051, reduced load r = .319 vs –.033, camp vs home respectively).
Camp compromised sleep quality due to significantly increased TIB without increased TST. Individually, AF players with higher home SE experienced greater reductions in SE on camp. Together, this emphasizes the importance of individualized interventions for elite team-sport athletes when traveling and/or changing environments.