Impact of Long-Haul Travel to International Competition on Sleep and Recovery in Elite Male and Female Soccer Athletes

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Restricted access

Purpose: To investigate the impact of eastward travel across 7 time zones on sleep, jet lag, and recovery in elite soccer athletes. Methods: Twenty-one male and 20 female athletes (21.5 [1.7] y) traveled from Ireland to Taiwan to represent their national team at the World University Games 2017. Daily monitoring via actigraphy and subjective sleep and well-being measures were obtained for 1 week in Ireland (baseline), and for the duration of an international soccer tournament (days 1–5 [precompetition] and days 6–18 [competition]). Results: Sleep duration (P = .028) and time in bed (P = .006) were significantly lower at precompetition compared with baseline. Sleep quality (P < .001) was significantly decreased in precompetition compared with baseline and competition. Subjective jet lag symptoms continued for up to 13 days posttravel. Athletes reported significantly greater fatigue during precompetition compared with competition (P = .005); however, there were no significant differences for recovery (P = .35) and readiness to train (P = .35). Sleep hygiene changed significantly during precompetition and competition compared with baseline in relation to reduced electronic device use (P = .005) and reduced caffeine intake (P < .001). Females reported significantly greater presleep tension–anxiety compared with males at all timepoints (P = .02). Conclusion: Long-haul eastward travel across 7 time zones has a significant impact on sleep duration and quality, likely related to changes in sleep patterns and jet lag. Athletes report changes in sleep hygiene posttravel; however, sleep remained negatively impacted for up to 5 days. Despite significant sleep disturbance and jet lag symptoms, young healthy athletes appear to recover well from long-haul travel; however, it is unknown if this interferes with training and competition performance.

Biggins, O’Sullivan, and Cahalan are with the School of Allied Health; Biggins, Purtill, O’Sullivan, and Cahalan, the Health Research Inst; and Purtill, the Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland. Fowler is with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Biggins (michellebiggins@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    Walsh NP, Halson SL, Sargent C, et al. Sleep and the athlete: narrative review and 2021 expert consensus recommendations. Br J Sports Med. 2020;55(7):356368. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Gupta L, Morgan K, Gilchrist S. Does elite sport degrade sleep quality? A systematic review. Sports Med. 2017;47(7):13171333. PubMed ID: 27900583 doi:

  • 3.

    Janse van Rensburg DC, Jansen van Rensburg A, Fowler P, et al. How to manage travel fatigue and jet lag in athletes? A systematic review of interventions. Br J Sports Med. 2020;54(16):960968. PubMed ID: 32303523 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Bonnar D, Bartel K, Kakoschke N, Lang C. Sleep interventions designed to improve athletic performance and recovery: a systematic review of current approaches. Sports Med. 2018;48(3):683703. PubMed ID: 29352373 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Theorell-Haglöw J, Miller CB, Bartlett DJ, Yee BJ, Openshaw HD, Grunstein RR. Gender differences in obstructive sleep apnoea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome in adults—what do we know? A clinical update. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;38:2838. PubMed ID: 28495359 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Schaal K, Tafflet M, Nassif H, et al. Psychological balance in high level athletes: gender-based differences and sport-specific patterns. PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19007. PubMed ID: 21573222 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Jansson-Fröjmark M, Lindblom K. A bidirectional relationship between anxiety and depression, and insomnia? A prospective study in the general population. J Psychosom Res. 2008;64(4):443449. PubMed ID: 18374745 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Rice SM, Gwyther K, Santesteban-Echarri O, et al. Determinants of anxiety in elite athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2019;53(11):722730. PubMed ID: 31097452 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Adan A, Archer SN, Hidalgo MP, Di Milia L, Natale V, Randler C. Circadian typology: a comprehensive review. Chronobiol Int. 2012;29(9):11531175. PubMed ID: 23004349 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Fowler PM, Knez W, Thornton HR, et al. Sleep hygiene and light exposure can improve performance following long-haul air travel. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2020;1:110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Sadeh A. The role and validity of actigraphy in sleep medicine: an update. Sleep Med Rev. 2011;15(4):259267. PubMed ID: 21237680 doi:

  • 12.

    Sargent C, Halson S, Roach GD. Sleep or swim? Early-morning training severely restricts the amount of sleep obtained by elite swimmers. Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(suppl 1):S310S315. doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Carney CE, Buysse DJ, Ancoli-Israel S, et al. The consensus sleep diary: standardizing prospective sleep self-monitoring. Sleep. 2012;35(2):287302. PubMed ID: 22294820 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Åkerstedt T, Hallvig D, Kecklund G. Normative data on the diurnal pattern of the karolinska sleepiness scale ratings and its relation to age, sex, work, stress, sleep quality and sickness absence/illness in a large sample of daytime workers. J Sleep Res. 2017;26(5):559566. PubMed ID: 28370590 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Terry PC, Lane AM. Normative values for the profile of mood states for use with athletic samples. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2000;12(1):93109. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    Laurent CM, Green JM, Bishop PA, et al. A practical approach to monitoring recovery: development of a perceived recovery status scale. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(3):620628. PubMed ID: 20581704 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Impellizzeri FM, Rampinini E, Coutts AJ, Sassi A, Marcora SM. Use of RPE-based training load in soccer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(6):10421047. PubMed ID: 15179175 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Timpka T, Jacobsson J, Bargoria V, et al. Preparticipation predictors for championship injury and illness: cohort study at the Beijing 2015 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(4):271276. PubMed ID: 27827793 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Waterhouse Ja, Edwards B, Nevill A, et al. Identifying some determinants of “jet lag” and its symptoms: a study of athletes and other travellers. Br J Sports Med. 2002;36(1):5460. PubMed ID: 11867494 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Horne JA, Östberg O. A self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms. Int J Chronobiol. 1976;4(1):97110.

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Fowler PM, McCall A, Jones M, Duffield R. Effects of long-haul transmeridian travel on player preparedness: case study of a national team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. J Sci Med Sport. 2017;20(4):322327. PubMed ID: 28109712 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Fowler P, Duffield R, Howle K, Waterson A, Vaile J. Effects of northbound long-haul international air travel on sleep quantity and subjective jet lag and wellness in professional Australian soccer players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10(5):648654. PubMed ID: 25569181 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Lalor BJ, Tran J, Halson SL, Kemp JG, Cormack SJ. Business class travel preserves sleep quality and quantity and minimizes jet lag during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2021;1:112.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Fowler PM, Duffield R, Lu D, Hickmans JA, Scott TJ. Effects of long-haul transmeridian travel on subjective jet-lag and self-reported sleep and upper respiratory symptoms in professional rugby league players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016;11(7):876884. PubMed ID: 26788986 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    Fowler PM, Knez W, Crowcroft S, et al. Greater effect of east versus west travel on jet lag, sleep, and team sport performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(12):25482561. PubMed ID: 28719491 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Saw AE, Main LC, Gastin PB. Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2016;50(5):281291. PubMed ID: 26423706 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Taylor L, Chrismas BC, Dascombe B, Chamari K, Fowler PM. Sleep medication and athletic performance—the evidence for practitioners and future research directions. Front Physiol. 2016;7:83. PubMed ID: 27014084

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Mead MP, Irish LA. Application of health behaviour theory to sleep health improvement. J Sleep Res. 2020;29(5):e12950. PubMed ID: 31758596

  • 29.

    Halson SL, Lastella M. Amazing athletes with ordinary habits: why is changing behavior so difficult? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(10):12731274. PubMed ID: 29282990 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30.

    Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R, Hammes D, Coutts AJ, Meyer T. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2015;45(2):161186. PubMed ID: 25315456 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 931 931 80
Full Text Views 31 31 2
PDF Downloads 39 39 2