The effects of sleep extension on sleep, performance, immunity and physical stress in rugby players

(1) Background: The purpose of the present study was to examine the efficacy of sleep extension in professional rugby players. The aims were to: (i) characterise sleep quantity in elite rugby players and determine changes in immune function and stress hormone secretion during a pre-season training programme; (ii) evaluate the efficacy of a sleep extension intervention in improving sleep, markers of physical stress, immune function and performance. (2) Methods: Twenty five highly trained athletes from a professional rugby team (age (mean ± SD) 25 ± 2.7 years; height 1.87 ± 0.07 m; weight 105 ± 12.1 kg) participated in a six week pre-post control-trial intervention study. Variables of sleep, immune function, sympathetic nervous activity, physiological stress and reaction times were measured. (3) Results: Sleep extension resulted in a moderate improvement in sleep quality scores ([mean; ± 90% confidence limits] -24.8%; ± 54.1%) and small to moderate increases in total sleep time (6.3%; ± 6.3%) and time in bed (7.3%; ± 3.6%). In addition, a small decrease in cortisol (-18.7%; ± 26.4%) and mean reaction times (-4.3%; ± 3.1%) was observed following the intervention, compared to the control. (4) Conclusions: Professional rugby players are at risk of poor sleep during pre-season training, with concomitant rises in physical stress. Implementing a sleep extension programme among professional athletes is recommended to improve sleep, with beneficial changes in stress hormone expression and reaction time performance.
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Subjects: rugby elite sport sleep relation performance stress preparation period hormone recovery reaction speed
Notations: biological and medical sciences sport games
DOI: 10.3390/sports6020042
Published in: Sports
Published: 2018
Volume: 6
Issue: 2
Pages: 42
Document types: article
Language: English
Level: advanced