Variations in Elite Female Soccer Players' Sleep, and Associations With Perceived Fatigue and Soccer Games
The current study investigated the associations between female perceived fatigue of elite soccer players and their sleep, and the associations between the sleep of players and soccer games. The sample included 29 female elite soccer players from the Norwegian national soccer team with a mean age of ~26 years. Perceived fatigue and sleep were monitored over a period of 124 consecutive days. In this period, 12.8 ± 3.9 soccer games per player took place. Sleep was monitored with an unobtrusive impulse radio ultra-wideband Doppler radar (Somnofy). Perceived fatigue was based on a self-report mobile phone application that detected daily experienced fatigue. Multilevel analyses of day-to-day associations showed that, first, increased perceived fatigue was associated with increased time in bed (3.6 ± 1.8 min, p = 0.037) and deep sleep (1.2 ± 0.6 min, p = 0.007). Increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was associated with subsequently decreased perceived fatigue (−0.21 ± 0.08 arbitrary units [AU], p = 0.008), and increased respiration rate in non-REM sleep was associated with subsequently increased fatigue (0.27 ± 0.09 AU, p = 0.002). Second, game night was associated with reduced time in bed (−1.0 h ± 8.4 min, p = <0.001), total sleep time (−55.2 ± 6.6 min, p = <0.001), time in sleep stages (light: −27.0 ± 5.4 min, p = <0.001; deep: −3.6 ± 1.2 min, p = 0.001; REM: −21.0 ± 3.0 min, p = <0.001), longer sleep-onset latency (3.0 ± 1.2 min, p = 0.013), and increased respiration rate in non-REM sleep (0.32 ± 0.08 respirations per min, p = <0.001), compared to the night before the game. The present findings show that deep and REM sleep and respiration rate in non-REM sleep are the key indicators of perceived fatigue in female elite soccer players. Moreover, sleep is disrupted during game night, likely due to the high physical and mental loads experienced during soccer games. Sleep normalizes during the first and second night after soccer games, likely preventing further negative performance-related consequences.