But regular exercise tends to improve sleep for ordinary mortals, to the half of the athletes may be getting too little sleep or poor quality of sleep, according to a review of existing research.
Sleep disorders can lead to fatigue and sleep-related performance anxiety which, in their turn, affect the athletic performance itself, the authors write in the journal Sports Medicine.
“Many studies to date have investigated the influence of sleep deprivation, the loss of sleep on health, well-being, and aspects of athletic performance,” lead author Lucas Gupta, told Reuters Health by e-mail.
“There is little research, however, has looked at the quality of the sleep, that is an experience of sleep and perceived sleep adequacy,” said Gupta, a researcher at Loughborough University in the united kingdom.
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Gupta said that he and his coauthors to organize the current literature to find out whether aspects of the elite sport degrade the quality of the sleep.
They examined the findings of 37 studies published between 2001 and 2016 included Olympic, Paralympic, national and professional athletes. Studies had anywhere from six to 2,067 participants, mostly men, ranging in age from 18 to 30 years old.
The researchers focused on symptoms of insomnia, which is characterized by problems with falling asleep or staying asleep, the feeling that the sleep was not restorative and excessive fatigue during the day.
On the basis of these studies, they conclude that about a third to half of all athletes are bad sleepers, with Paralympic athletes report the most insomnia symptoms.
“The findings of the review showed high levels of sleep complaints among elite athletes, however, there is little evidence to suggest that these levels are disproportionately higher than those of young, high-achieving non-sporting persons, such as students,” Gupta said.
The analysis also highlighted aspects of the elite sports that challenge an athlete sleep quality, Gupta said.
“In general, these include international travel, training in the early morning of the scheduling and the high intensity of the periods, and insomnia due to pre-competition and late night schedule,” Gupta said. “However, athletes do not seem to respond in a uniform manner to these challenges with a number of experiencing serious disturbances, while others are otherwise undisputed.”
Gupta said that during the daytime naps seem to be a common way for athletes to deal with sleep disorders.
He also said that the worry and anxiety about athletic performance, and increased physiological arousal after a late match, can make it difficult for the athletes to fall asleep