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The impact of altitude on the sleep of young elite soccer players (ISA3600)

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posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Charli SargentCharli Sargent, W Schmidt, R Aughey, P Bourdon, R Soria, J Claros, L Garvican-Lewis, M Buchheit, B Simpson, K Hammond
Background Altitude training is used by elite athletes to improve sports performance, but it may also disrupt sleep. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of two weeks at high altitude on the sleep of young elite athletes. Methods Participants (n=10) were members of the Australian under-17 soccer team on an 18-day (19-night) training camp in Bolivia, with 6 nights at near sea level in Santa Cruz (430 m) and 13 nights at high altitude in La Paz (3,600 m). Sleep was monitored using polysomnography during a baseline night at 430 m and three nights at 3,600 m (immediately after ascent, one week after ascent, two weeks after ascent). Data were analysed using effect size statistics. Results All results are reported as comparisons with baseline. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was likely lower immediately upon ascent to altitude, possibly lower after one week, and similar after two weeks. On all three nights at altitude, hypopneas and desaturations were almost certainly higher; oxygen saturation was almost certainly lower; and central apneas, respiratory arousals, and periodic breathing were very likely higher. The effects on REM sleep were common to all but one participant, but the effects on breathing were specific to only half the participants. Conclusions The immediate effects of terrestrial altitude of 3,600 m are to reduce the amount of REM sleep obtained by young elite athletes, and to cause 50% of them to have impaired breathing during sleep. REM sleep returns to normal after two weeks at altitude, but impaired breathing does not improve.


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)






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United Kingdom


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Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • Yes

External Author Affiliations

ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence; Appleton Institute for Behavioural Sciences; Appleton Institute for Behavioural Sciences; Australian Institute of Sport; Flinders University; Universidad Mayor de San Andres; University of Canberra; Universit├Ąt Bayreuth; Victoria University (Melbourne, Vic.); Western Bulldogs Football Club (Melbourne, Victoria);

Era Eligible

  • Yes


British journal of sports medicine.