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  • Author: Sarah Kölling x
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Hugh H.K. Fullagar, Rob Duffield, Sabrina Skorski, David White, Jonathan Bloomfield, Sarah Kölling and Tim Meyer

Purpose:

The current study examined the sleep, travel, and recovery responses of elite footballers during and after long-haul international air travel, with a further description of these responses over the ensuing competitive tour (including 2 matches).

Methods:

In an observational design, 15 elite male football players undertook 18 h of predominantly westward international air travel from the United Kingdom to South America (–4-h time-zone shift) for a 10-d tour. Objective sleep parameters, external and internal training loads, subjective player match performance, technical match data, and perceptual jet-lag and recovery measures were collected.

Results:

Significant differences were evident between outbound travel and recovery night 1 (night of arrival; P < .001) for sleep duration. Sleep efficiency was also significantly reduced during outbound travel compared with recovery nights 1 (P = .001) and 2 (P = .004). Furthermore, both match nights (5 and 10), showed significantly less sleep than nonmatch nights 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 (all P < .001). No significant differences were evident between baseline and any time point for all perceptual measures of jet-lag and recovery (P > .05), although large effects were evident for jet-lag on d 2 (2 d after arrival).

Conclusions:

Sleep duration is truncated during long-haul international travel with a 4-h time-zone delay and after night matches in elite footballers. However, this lost sleep appeared to have a limited effect on perceptual recovery, which may be explained by a westbound flight and a relatively small change in time zones, in addition to the significant increase in sleep duration on the night of arrival after the long-haul flight.

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Sarah Kölling, Rob Duffield, Daniel Erlacher, Ranel Venter and Shona L. Halson

The body of research that reports the relevance of sleep in high-performance sports is growing steadily. While the identification of sleep cycles and diagnosis of sleep disorders are limited to lab-based assessment via polysomnography, the development of activity-based devices estimating sleep patterns provides greater insight into the sleep behavior of athletes in ecological settings. Generally, small sleep quantity and/or poor quality appears to exist in many athletic populations, although this may be related to training and competition context. Typical sleep-affecting factors are the scheduling of training sessions and competitions, as well as impaired sleep onset as a result of increased arousal prior to competition or due to the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Further challenges are travel demands, which may be accompanied by jet-lag symptoms and disruption of sleep habits. Promotion of sleep may be approached via behavioral strategies such as sleep hygiene, extending nighttime sleep, or daytime napping. Pharmacological interventions should be limited to clinically induced treatments, as evidence among healthy and athletic populations is lacking. To optimize and manage sleep in athletes, it is recommended to implement routine sleep monitoring on an individual basis.