The sleep of professional cyclists during a 5-day UCI Europe Tour road cycling race

Borja Martinez-Gonzalez

Abstract


Background: A review of sleep and athletic performance (Fullagar et al., 2015) reported that lack of sleep could have a negative impact on cognitive and physical performance. Numerous factors (i.e. jet-lag , hotels, pre-competition anxiety, early start times) can potentially disturb the sleep routine of athletes during competition (Lastella, Lovell and Sargent, 2014). Similar research has been done during a 3-day cycling race (Lastella et al., 2014) and during a simulated cycling grand tour (Lastella et al., 2015).

Purpose: The aim of the study was to investigate whether cyclists sleep parameters would worsen during a 5-day cycling competition. We hypothesised that total sleep time and sleep efficiency would decrease over the course of the race.

Methods: 5 professional male cyclists from Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec Professional Cycling Team participated in this study during Vuelta a Andalucía 2019. (Mean ± SD; age: 32 ± 4 years; stature: 179.8 ± 4.2 cm; body mass 67.8 ± 1.9 kg). In order to monitor quantity and quality of sleep, actigraph watches (Actiwatch Spectrum PRO, Philips Respironics, Murrysville, PA, USA) and sleep diaries were used following a method applied several times in the literature (Halson et al., 2014; Lastella et al., 2014, 2015; Sargent, Halson and Roach, 2014). Data were collected for 5 days (from the night before the start of the race until the morning of the last day of competition). Since the number of cyclists per team is limited by race regulations, the Bayesian Statistical Analysis framework offers an advantage over null-hypothesis significance testing as not depending on large samples (van de Schoot and Depaoli, 2014).

Results: Details of the Tour stages are shown in Table 1. A summary of the data collected are presented in Table 2. Results of Bayesian analysis can be found in Table 3. Get up time decreased over the stages (Figure 1). Cyclists woke up earlier on the first day of competition than the day before the start. Get up time was earlier the last day of competition than the first day of the race. Total sleep time decreased during the race (Figure 2) compared to the night before the start, cyclists slept less the first and the last night of the Tour, and sleep efficiency decreased during the event (Figure 3). Sleep efficiency was lower during the last night of competition compared to the night before the start of the Tour. The rest of the parameters were not affected by time.

Discussion: The findings of this study demonstrate that some sleep parameters decreased over time during a multi-day cycling Tour. Sleep time decreased over the course of the Tour, with cyclists sleeping more the night before the start of the event than after the first stage. Sleep efficiency decreased during the Tour, particularly, the night prior to the final stage.

Conclusions: The results of this study demonstrate that the sleep of professional cyclists is affected during a 5-day cycling Tour. These data emphasise the importance for athletes and coaches of sleep hygiene routines to optimise the quality and quantity of sleep, such as setup a consistent bedtime, control room temperature, avoid caffeine consumption 4-5h before going to bed, and reduce the use of electronic equipment prior to bedtime.

Keywords


sleep; cycling; performance; actigraphy; competition;

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