Effects of Pre-Season Training on the Sleep Characteristics of Professional Rugby League Players

Thornton, H. R.; Delaney, J. A.; Duthie, G. M.; Dascombe, B. J.

Purpose: To investigate the influence of daily and exponentially-weighted moving training loads on subsequent night-time sleep.

Methods: Sleep of fourteen professional rugby league athletes competing in the National Rugby League competition was recorded using wristwatch actigraphy. Physical demands were quantified using GPS technology, including total distance (TD), high-speed distance (HSD), acceleration/deceleration load (SumAccDec; AU), and session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE; AU). Linear mixed models determined effects of acute (daily) and sub-acute (three- and seven-day) exponentially-weighted moving averages (EWMA) on sleep.

Results: Higher daily SumAccDec was associated with increased sleep efficiency (effect size correlation; ES = 0.15; ± 0.09) and sleep duration (ES = 0.12; ± 0.09). Greater three-day EWMA SumAccDec was associated with increased sleep efficiency (ES = 0.14; ± 0.09) and an earlier bed time (ES = 0.14; ± 0.09). An increase in 7-day EWMA SumAccDec was associated with heightened sleep efficiency (ES = 0.15; ± 0.09) and earlier bed times (ES = 0.15; ± 0.09).

Conclusions: The direction of the associations between training loads and sleep varied, however the strongest relationships showed that higher training loads increased various measures of sleep. Practitioners should be aware of the increased requirement for sleep during intensified training periods, utilizing this information in the planning and implementation of training and individualized recovery modalities.

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