Lockdown Duration and Training Intensity Affect Sleep Behavior in an International Sample of 1,454 Elite Athletes
Objective: To investigate the effect of 1) lockdown duration and 2) training intensity on sleep quality and insomnia symptoms in elite athletes. Results: 15% of the sample spent < 1 month, 27% spent 1-2 months and 58% spent > 2 months in lockdown. 29% self-reported maintaining the same training intensity during-lockdown whilst 71% reduced training intensity. PSQI (4.1 ± 2.4 to 5.8 ± 3.1; mean difference (MD): 1.7; 95% confidence interval of the difference (95% CI): 1.6-1.9) and ISI (5.1 ± 4.7 to 7.7 ± 6.4; MD: 2.6; 95% CI: 2.3-2.9) scores were higher during-compared to pre-lockdown, associated (all p < 0.001) with longer sleep onset latency (PSQI: 28%; ISI: 23%), later bedtime (PSQI: 13%; ISI: 14%) and later preferred time of day to train (PSQI: 9%; ISI: 5%) during-lockdown. Those who reduced training intensity during-lockdown showed higher PSQI (p < 0.001; MD: 1.25; 95% CI: 0.87-1.63) and ISI (p < 0.001; MD: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.72-3.27) scores compared to those who maintained training intensity. Although PSQI score was not affected by the lockdown duration, ISI score was higher in athletes who spent > 2 months confined compared to those who spent < 1 month (p < 0.001; MD: 1.28; 95% CI: 0.26-2.3). Conclusion: Reducing training intensity during the COVID-19-induced lockdown was associated with lower sleep quality and higher insomnia severity in elite athletes. Lockdown duration had further disrupting effects on elite athletes' sleep behavior. These findings could be of relevance in future lockdown or lockdown-like situations (e.g., prolonged illness, injury, and quarantine after international travel).