The effect of acute sleep extension vs active recovery on post exercise recovery kinetics in rugby union players


Elite rugby players experience poor sleep quality and quantity. This lack of sleep could compromise post-exercise recovery. Therefore, it appears central to encourage sleep in order to improve recovery kinetics. However, the effectiveness of an acute ergogenic strategy such as sleep extension on recovery has yet to be investigated among athletes. Therefore the aim of this project was to compare the effects of a single night of sleep extension to an active recovery session (CON) on post-exercise recovery kinetics. In a randomised cross-over design, 10 male rugby union players participated in two evening training sessions (19h30) involving collision activity, 7-days apart. After each session, participants either extended their sleep to 10 hours or attended an early morning recovery session (07h30). Prior to (PRE), immediately after (POST 0 hour [h]), 14h (POST 14) and 36h (POST 36) post training, neuromuscular, perceptual and cognitive measures of fatigue were assessed. Objective sleep parameters were monitored two days before the training session and over the two-day recovery period. The training session induced substantial decreases in countermovement jump mean power and wellness across all time points, while heart rate recovery decreased at POST 0 in both conditions. Sleep extension resulted in greater total sleep time (effect size [90% confidence interval] 5.35 [4.56 to 6.14]) but greater sleep fragmentation than CON (2.85 [2.00 to 3.70]). Between group differences highlight a faster recovery of cognitive performance following sleep extension (-1.53 [-2.33 to -0.74]) at POST 14, while autonomic function (-1.00 [-1.85 to -0.16]) and upper-body neuromuscular function (-0.78 [-1.65 to 0.08]) were better in CON. However, no difference in recovery status between groups was observed at POST 36. The main finding of this study suggests that sleep extension could affect cognitive function positively but did not improve neuromuscular function the day after a late exercise bout.

Plos One, 17(8),e0273026
Jason Tee
Jason Tee
Coach educator and performance consultant

Coach and sports scientist with an interest in player and coach development