Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Associations Between Athlete Burnout, Insomnia, and Polysomnographic Indices in Young Elite Athletes

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Markus Gerber University of Basel

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Simon Best University of Basel

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Fabienne Meerstetter University of Basel

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Sandrine Isoard-Gautheur Université Grenoble Alpes

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Henrik Gustafsson Karlstad University

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Renzo Bianchi University of Neuchâtel

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Daniel J. Madigan York St. John University

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Flora Colledge University of Basel

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Sebastian Ludyga University of Basel

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Edith Holsboer-Trachsler University of Basel

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Serge Brand University of Basel

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Few studies have examined the association between sleep and burnout symptoms in elite athletes. We recruited 257 young elite athletes (Mage = 16.8 years) from Swiss Olympic partner schools. Of these, 197 were reassessed 6 months later. Based on the first assessment, 24 participants with clinically relevant burnout symptoms volunteered to participate in a polysomnographic examination and were compared with 26 (matched) healthy controls. Between 12% and 14% of young elite athletes reported burnout symptoms of potential clinical relevance, whereas 4–11% reported clinically relevant insomnia symptoms. Athletes with clinically relevant burnout symptoms reported significantly more insomnia symptoms, more dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions, and spent less time in bed during weeknights (p < .05). However, no significant differences were found for objective sleep parameters. A cross-lagged panel analysis showed that burnout positively predicted self-reported insomnia symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral interventions to treat dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions might be a promising measure to reduce subjective sleep complaints among young elite athletes.

Gerber is with the Div. of Sport and Psychosocial Health, Dept. of Sport, Exercise and Health; Best, Meerstetter, Colledge, Ludyga, and Serge, the Dept. of Sport, Exercise and Health; and Holsboer-Trachsler and Brand, the Psychiatric Clinics (UPK), Center for Affective, Stress and Sleep Disorders, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Isoard-Gautheur is with the Laboratoire Sport et Environnement Social, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France. Gustafsson is with the Dept. of Health Sciences, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden. Bianchi is with the Inst. of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Madigan is with the School of Sport, York St. John University, York, United Kingdom. Brand is also with the Psychiatry Dept., Substance Abuse Prevention Center and Sleep Disorders Research Center, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Kermanshah, Iran.

Gerber (markus.gerber@unibas.ch) is corresponding author.

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