Intra-individual variability of sleep and nocturnal cardiac autonomic activity in elite female soccer players during an international tournament

Júlio Costa, Pedro Figueiredo, Fábio Nakamura, Vincenzo Rago, António Rebelo, João Brito

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose To describe individual sleeping patterns and nocturnal cardiac autonomic activity of National team female soccer players during an international tournament. Materials and methods Twenty elite female soccer players (aged 25.2±3.1 years) wore wrist actigraph units and heart rate (HR) monitors during night-sleep throughout 9 consecutive days (6 day-time training sessions [DT], 2 day-time matches [DM], and 1 evening-time match [EM]) of an international tournament. Training and match loads were monitored using the session-rating of perceived exertion (s-RPE) and wearable 18-Hz GPS (total distance covered [TD], training and match exposure time, and high-speed running [HSR]) to characterize training and match loads. Results Individually, s-RPE, TD, exposure time, and HSR during training sessions ranged from 20 to 680 arbitrary units (AU), 892 to 5176 m, 20 to 76 min, and 80 to 1140 m, respectively. During matches, s-RPE, TD, exposure time, and HSR ranged from 149 to 876 AU, 2236 to 11210 m, 20 to 98 min, and 629 to 3213 m, respectively. Individually, players slept less than recommended (<7 hours) on several days of the tournament, especially after EM (n = 8; TST ranging between 6:00–6:54 h). Total sleep time coefficient of variation (CV) ranged between 3.1 and 18.7%. However, all players presented good sleep quality (i.e., sleep efficiency 75%; individual range between: 75–98%) on each day of the tournament. Most of the players presented small fluctuations in nocturnal cardiac autonomic activity (individual nocturnal heart rate variability [HRV] ranged from 3.91–5.37 ms and HRV CV ranged from 2.8–9.0%), while two players presented higher HRV CV (11.5 and 11.7%; respectively). Conclusion Overall, this study highlights the substantial individual variability in sleep and HRV measures, suggesting the adoption of an individual approach to monitor sleep, training and match loads and recovery, to better understand how players cope with highly demanding competitions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218635
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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