Evidence That Sleep Is an Indicator of Overtraining during the Competition Phase of Adolescent Sprinters

J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2021 Apr 3:2021:6694547. doi: 10.1155/2021/6694547. eCollection 2021.


Although sleep disturbance is a common complaint in overtrained athletes, the role of sleep in the overtraining process is not clear. This study aimed (i) to compare sleep efficiency/quantity at the start of a competition phase in elite adolescent sprinters who adapted to prior training with that in those who maladapt and (ii) to examine the influence of prior training, fatigue, and sleep on performance through a moderated mediation model. Fatigue (via Profile of Mood State) and internal training load (via session rating of perceived exertion and duration of training as volume) were measured in 20 sprinters (mean age: 15.9 ± 1.7 years) across 4 mesocycles (baseline (T1); preparatory (T2); precompetitive (T3); and competitive (T4) phases), over 26 weeks. Performances were assessed during the competitive period (T3, T4), while sleep was monitored (via actigraphy) for a week during T4. It was inferred that sprinters who had increasingly greater fatigue and concomitant decrements in performance (35%) were maladapted to training and the remaining sprinters who improved fatigue and performance (65%) were adapted to training. Sleep efficiency (91 ± 3% vs. 82 ± 3%, p < 0.001) and quantity (425 ± 33 min vs. 394 ± 20 min, p < 0.001) at the start of T4 were significantly greater in sprinters who adapted. Moreover, higher prior training volume (mean of T1 to T3 training volume) was associated with lower sleep efficiency at the start of T4 (R 2 = 0.55, p < 0.001) which was associated with poorer performance (R 2 = 0.82, p < 0.001). Fatigue moderated the indirect effect of prior training volume on performance through its moderation of the effect of sleep efficiency on performance (R 2 = 0.89, p < 0.001). Impaired sleep as a result of greater prior training volume may be related to performance decrements through fatigue. Athletes should improve sleep during periods of higher training volume to reduce fatigue for better adaptation to training.