Objectives: Persistent poor sleep is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes. Sleep is considered the main method of recovery in athletes; however, studies report that a significant number of athletes are getting insufficient sleep. The purpose of this study was to assess the sleep profiles of elite Gaelic athletes and to compare wellbeing in those with poor sleep and those with good sleep.
Methods: 69 elite Gaelic athletes completed questionnaires, including the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Subjective Health Complaints Inventory (SHC), Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ), stress subscale of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), the tension-anxiety, anger-hostility and confusion-bewilderment subscales of the Profile of Mood States (POMS) as well as the catastrophising subscale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CSQ). Participants were categorised into poor sleepers (PSQI ≥5) and good sleepers (PSQI <5) and outcome measures of health and wellbeing were analysed between the two groups.
Results: 47.8% of athletes were poor sleepers. Self-reported sleep duration was 7.5 ± 0.6 h per night. 63.7% of poor sleepers took >30 min to fall asleep, compared to 5.6% of good sleepers. Poor sleepers had significantly lower general health (SHC) (p = 0.029), increased stress (DASS) (p = 0.035) and increased confusion (POMS-subscale) (p = 0.005). There was no significant difference between groups for number of painful body parts (NMQ) (p = 0.052), catastrophising (CSQ) (p = 0.287), overall mood (POMS) (p = 0.059), or POMS subscales of anger (p = 0.346) or tension (p = 0.593).
Conclusion: Nearly 50% of elite Gaelic athletes report poor sleep. There is a significant relationship between poor sleep and lower general health, increased stress and increased confusion, and these factors may interact with each other. Monitoring of and interventions to enhance sleep may be required to improve athletes' wellbeing.
Keywords: Sleep; athletes; mood; wellbeing.