The Influence of Sleep and Training Load on Illness in Nationally Competitive Male Australian Football Athletes: A Cohort Study Over One Season

Fitzgerald, D., Beckman, C., Joyce, D., Mills, K.

Objectives: To determine the incidence of illness, and identify the relationship between sleep, training
load and illness in nationally competitiveAustralian football athletes. Second,to assess multivariate effect
between training load and/or sleep variables.
Design: Cohort study.
Methods: Retrospective analyses of prospectively collected cohort data were conducted on forty-four
male athletes over a 46-week season. The primary outcome was illness incidence, recorded daily by
medical doctors. Independent variables were acute, chronic and acute:chronic ratios of: sleep quality,
sleep quantity, internal training load and external training load defined as: total running distance, high speed running distance and sprint distance. Generalised estimating equations using Poisson (count) mod-
els were fit to examine both univariate and multivariate associations between independent variables and illness incidence.
Results: 67 incidences of illness were recorded, with an incidence rate of 11 illnesses per 1000 running
hours. Univariate analysis showed acute and chronic sleep hours and quality, as well as acute sprint and
total running distance to be significantly associated with illness. Multivariate analysis identified that only
acute sleep quantity was significantly, negatively associated with illness incidence (OR 0.49, CI 0.25–0.94)
once all univariate significant variables were controlled for. There was no relationship between external
training load and illness when sleep metrics were controlled for.
Conclusions: In a cohort of Australian football athletes, whose load was well monitored, reduced sleep
quantity was associated with increased incidence of illness within the next 7 days. Monitoring sleep
parameters may assist in identifying individuals at risk of illness.

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