As coaches, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the scheduling and details of training camps. We’re challenged with packing in as much training as possible during a brief period of time due to time constraints from league rules and regulations. These training camps are great opportunities for not just performance and fitness based training but also team cohesion building. One of the major drawbacks of training camps is the increased risk of injury risk that is inherent with a spike in training load, increasing exposure to training in a fatigued state. One possible way that coaches can mitigate excess fatigue accumulation is by paying closer attention to the athletes’ sleep quality during the camp and ensuring athletes are getting sufficient rest.
A new study published ahead of print in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance investigated the sleep quality of professional rugby players one week before and during a two-week training camp. The researchers monitored time in bed, total sleep duration, sleep efficiency and wake after sleep onset via wrist actigraphy. Training loads were quantified with wearable global positioning system (GPS) devices. The researchers assessed differences in sleep quality and training load parameters between the training camp and baseline period. They also assessed if daytime naps had any impact on night time sleep.
The results showed that sleep quality was substantially impacted during the training camp. For example, total sleep time was reduced by an average of -85 minutes, time in bed by an average of -53 min and sleep efficiency by -8% compared with sleep quality measures obtained while players were at home before the training camp. For the athletes who napped during the day, total sleep time increased on average by +30 minutes, time in bed by +33 minutes and sleep efficiency by about +1%. Day time naps did not appear to have any negative impact on night-time sleep. A moderate inverse correlation was found between the increase in training load (total distance covered) and total sleep time. Those who saw a greater increase in total distance tended to have greater decrements in sleep quality. This study demonstrates the negative impact that training camps have on sleep quality and thus overall recovery. Planning for and encouraging daily naps may help improve recovery without negatively effecting night sleep.
Thornton, H. R., Duthie, G. M., Pitchford, N. W., Delaney, J. A., Benton, D. T., & Dascombe, B. J. (2016). Effects of a Two-week High Intensity Training Camp on Sleep Activity of Professional Rugby League Athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1-19.