Background:The role of sleep in providing adequate physiological and psychological recovery in elite athletes has become a focus area for research in the sport sciences. Sleep
practices amongst elite athletes have been described in the literature as being below average in both quality and quantity due to a number of psychophysiological factors and further research is
warranted. More specifically, sleep monitoring in athletes, the use of sleep education to improve sleep and the effect of napping on performance are all areas that warrant further investigation.
Methods: A series of three studies investigated different sleep monitoring and interventions in a group of ~ 12 elite female team-sport athletes: 1) the effects of sleep hygiene
education on sleep indices; 2) the effect of game-day napping on performance, and; 3) the relationship between salivary stress hormones and sleep indices following training and competition. All three
studies utilized wrist-actigraphy to monitor and evaluate sleep.
Results: A one-hour sleep education session resulted in significant improvements (p < 0.05) to total sleep time (+22 minutes), as well as improvements in sleep efficiency (2%, d =
0.28) and sleep latency (-2 minutes, d = -0.27). Physical and perceptual performance were improved after napping for <20 minutes when compared to no napping or napping for >20 minutes (p < 0.05).
Training and competition had a significant effect on stress hormone response and sleep quality and quantity (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: This series of studies investigating the sleep practices in elite female athletes has revealed that; sleep may be improved by providing sleep education, napping prior to
competition may enhance performance and stress related to night-time competition may alter hormonal responses, sleep quality and sleep quantity.