SPORTS MEDICINE, vol.52, no.6, pp.1433-1448, 2022 (SCI-Expanded)
Objective In a convenience sample of athletes, we conducted a survey of COVID-19-mediated lockdown (termed 'lockdown' from this point forward) effects on: (i) circadian rhythms; (ii) sleep; (iii) eating; and (iv) training behaviors. Methods In total, 3911 athletes [mean age: 25.1 (range 18-61) years, 1764 female (45%), 2427 team-sport (63%) and 1442 elite (37%) athletes] from 49 countries completed a multilingual cross-sectional survey including the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and Insomnia Severity Index questionnaires, alongside bespoke questions about napping, training, and nutrition behaviors. Results Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (4.3 +/- 2.4 to 5.8 +/- 3.1) and Insomnia Severity Index (4.8 +/- 4.7 to 7.2 +/- 6.4) scores increased from pre- to during lockdown (p < 0.001). Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was predominantly influenced by sleep-onset latency (p < 0.001; + 29.8%), sleep efficiency (p < 0.001; - 21.1%), and total sleep time (p < 0.001; - 20.1%), whilst Insomnia Severity Index was affected by sleep-onset latency (p < 0.001; + 21.4%), bedtime (p < 0.001; + 9.4%), and eating after midnight (p < 0.001; + 9.1%). During lockdown, athletes reported fewer training sessions per week (- 29.1%; d = 0.99). Athletes went to bed (+ 75 min; 5.4%; d = 1.14) and woke up (+ 150 min; 34.5%; d = 1.71) later during lockdown with an increased total sleep time (+ 48 min; 10.6%; d = 0.83). Lockdown-mediated circadian disruption had more deleterious effects on the sleep quality of individual-sport athletes compared with team-sport athletes (p < 0.001; d = 0.41), elite compared with non-elite athletes (p = 0.028; d = 0.44) and older compared with younger (p = 0.008; d = 0.46) athletes. Conclusions These lockdown-induced behavioral changes reduced sleep quality and increased insomnia in athletes. Data-driven and evidence-based recommendations to counter these include, but are not limited to: (i) early outdoor training; (ii) regular meal scheduling (whilst avoiding meals prior to bedtime and caffeine in the evening) with appropriate composition; (iii) regular bedtimes and wake-up times; and (iv) avoidance of long and/or late naps.