Sleep, Travel, and Recovery Responses of National Footballers During and After Long-Haul International Air Travel

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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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.

Fullagar, Skorski, and Meyer are with the Inst of Sport and Preventive Medicine, Saarland University, Saarland, Germany. Duffield is with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, UTS: Health, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. White is with the Irish Football Association, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Bloomfield is with Support2Perform, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Kölling is with the Faculty of Sport Science, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.

Address author correspondence to Hugh Fullagar at hugh.fullagar@uni-saarland.de.