The travel demands of an elite rugby sevens team: Effects on objective and subjective sleep parameters

Sleep schedule comparison between competition and travel direction.


Purpose: To explore the effects of travel related to international rugby sevens competition on sleep patterns. Methods: Seventeen international male rugby sevens players participated in this study. Sleep assessments were performed daily during two separate Sevens World Series competition legs (Oceania and America). The duration of each competition leg was subdivided into key periods (pre-tour, pre-competition, tournament 1 and 2, relocation and post-tour) lasting 2 to 7 nights. Linear mixed models in combination with magnitude-based decision were used to assess 1) the difference between pre-season and key periods and 2) the effect of travel direction (eastward or westward). Results: Shorter total sleep time (hh:mm) was observed during tournament 2 (mean ± SD, 06:16 ± 01:08), relocation (06:09 ± 01:09) and pre-tour week (06:34 ± 01:24) compared with pre-season (06:52 ± 01:00). Worse sleep quality (AU) was observed during tournament 1 (6.1 ± 65 2.0) and 2 (5.7 ± 1.2) as well as during the relocation week (6.3 ± 1.5) than during pre-season (6.5 ± 1.8). When traveling eastward compared with westward, earlier fall asleep time was observed during tournament 1 (ES -0.57, 90%CI [-1.12 to -0.01]), relocation week (-0.70 [-1.11 to -0.28]), and post-tour (-0.57 [-0.95 to -0.18]). However, possibly trivial and unclear differences were observed during pre-competition week (0.15 [-0.15 to 0.45]) and tournament 2 (0.81 [-0.29 to 1.91]). Conclusion: Sleep patterns of elite rugby sevens players are robust to the effects of long-haul travel and jet lag. However, staff should consider promoting sleep during the tournament and relocation week.

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Jason Tee
Jason Tee
Coach educator and performance consultant

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