Prevalence of sleep disorders and sleep problems in an elite super rugby union team

J Sports Sci. 2019 Apr;37(8):950-957. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1537092. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of sleep disorders in an elite rugby union team using in-laboratory polysomnography (PSG) and sleep questionnaires. Twenty-five elite rugby union players underwent a night of PSG during the "off-season" of the Super Rugby competition to assess their sleep. Of interest were measurements that detected the presence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA; apnea-hypopnea index ≥5 events/hr) and the presence of moderate-severe periodic leg movements during sleep (PLMs; ≥15 events/hr). Players completed sleep-related questionnaires to assess daytime sleepiness, perception of insomnia, risk of OSA, and the presence of restless legs syndrome (RLS) and underwent basic anthropometric assessments including body mass index and neck circumference. OSA was present in 24% (n=6) of players and PLMs ≥15 events/hr in 12% (n=3). Questionnaire responses showed that all players had insomnia defined subthreshold insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness, two players were identified as being at risk for OSA and none were classified as having RLS. In conclusion, sleep disorders and excessive sleepiness are common in elite rugby union players. A process to identify and manage sleep disorders should be considered by teams to optimise their physical recovery, athletic performance and to safeguard their health.

Keywords: Polysomnography; athletes; insomnia; leg movements; sleep related breathing disorders; sports teams.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Arousal
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / epidemiology
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Polysomnography
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Snoring / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult