Sleep restriction and serving accuracy in performance tennis players, and effects of caffeine

Physiol Behav. 2013 Aug 15:120:93-6. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Athletes often lose sleep on the night before a competition. Whilst it is unlikely that sleep loss will impair sports mostly relying on strength and endurance, little is known about potential effects on sports involving psychomotor performance necessitating judgement and accuracy, rather than speed, as in tennis for example, and where caffeine is 'permitted'. Two studies were undertaken, on 5h sleep (33%) restriction versus normal sleep, on serving accuracy in semi-professional tennis players. Testing (14:00 h-16:00 h) comprised 40 serves into a (1.8 m×1.1 m) 'service box' diagonally, over the net. Study 1 (8 m; 8 f) was within-Ss, counterbalanced (normal versus sleep restriction). Study 2 (6m;6f -different Ss) comprised three conditions (Latin square), identical to Study 1, except for an extra sleep restriction condition with 80 mg caffeine vs placebo in a sugar-free drink, given (double blind), 30 min before testing. Both studies showed significant impairments to serving accuracy after sleep restriction. Caffeine at this dose had no beneficial effect. Study 1 also assessed gender differences, with women significantly poorer under all conditions, and non-significant indications that women were more impaired by sleep restriction (also seen in Study 2). We conclude that adequate sleep is essential for best performance of this type of skill in tennis players and that caffeine is no substitute for 'lost sleep'. 210.

Keywords: Caffeine; Serving accuracy; Sleep restriction; Tennis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*
  • Tennis / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine