Irregular sleep/wake patterns in student-athletes

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Introduction Student-athletes are exposed to a range of academic-related and sport-related risk factors that can threaten healthy sleep practices.1 2 Emerging evidence has shown that student-athletes display a high prevalence of short sleep durations and poor perceived sleep quality.3 However, empirical research has primarily reported sleep outcomes over a set monitoring period rather than assessing day-to-day variability in sleep patterns. Therefore, this study aimed to use the Sleep Regularity Index (SRI) to assess sleep variability in student-athletes and examine the impact of training and competition on sleep outcomes.4

Methods Rugby Union student-athletes (n = 10, all male) from a single University were recruited with no diagnosed sleep disorder and with a sleep difficulty score <12 on the Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire.5 Actigraphy monitors (GENEActiv, Activinsights, Cambridge, UK) were worn for 14 consecutive nights. Data were collected during normal teaching weeks and in-season with both morning training and evening matches. Sleep/wake and SRI were assessed using open-source GGIR and sleepreg packages on R software.6

Results Preliminary results showed that participants had an average sleep duration of 6.85 ± 0.46hr. Nights preceding morning training were of shorter duration with earlier sleep onset and offset, while nights following evening matches were of shorter duration with later sleep onset and offset (table 1). The SRI across participants was 72.0 ± 5.4, with a range of 65.4 – 80.0.

Discussion The findings support previous research indicating that training and competition can impair sleep in athlete populations. Sleep regularity was substantially lower than observed in elite athletes.7 Furthermore, despite only considering nocturnal sleep, the observed SRI was lower than previous research that also included daytime napping, that is typically more erratic in placement and duration.4 8 The impact of training and match scheduling on sleep should be considered, and alterations may reduce sleep irregularity in student-athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2023
EventBritish Sleep Society Meeting 2023 - Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Oct 20234 Oct 2023


ConferenceBritish Sleep Society Meeting 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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