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The sleep of elite athletes at sea level and high altitude: a comparison of sea-level natives and high-altitude natives (ISA3600)
  1. Gregory D Roach1,
  2. Walter F Schmidt2,
  3. Robert J Aughey3,4,
  4. Pitre C Bourdon5,
  5. Rudy Soria6,
  6. Jesus C Jimenez Claros6,
  7. Laura A Garvican-Lewis7,8,
  8. Martin Buchheit5,
  9. Ben M Simpson5,
  10. Kristal Hammond3,
  11. Marlen Kley2,
  12. Nadine Wachsmuth2,
  13. Christopher J Gore7,8,9,
  14. Charli Sargent1
  1. 1Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science, Central Queensland University, Adelaide, Australia
  2. 2Department of Sports Medicine/Sports Physiology, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
  3. 3Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4Western Bulldogs Football Club, Melbourne, Australia
  5. 5ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar
  6. 6Facultad de Medicina, Instituto Boliviano de Biología de Altura (IBBA), Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia
  7. 7Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia
  8. 8National Institute of Sports Studies, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia
  9. 9Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gregory D Roach, Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science, Central Queensland University, PO Box 42, Goodwood, Adelaide, South Australia 5034, Australia; greg.roach{at}


Background Altitude exposure causes acute sleep disruption in non-athletes, but little is known about its effects in elite athletes. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of altitude on two groups of elite athletes, that is, sea-level natives and high-altitude natives.

Methods Sea-level natives were members of the Australian under-17 soccer team (n=14). High-altitude natives were members of a Bolivian under-20 club team (n=12). Teams participated in an 18-day (19 nights) 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 (3600 m). Sleep was assessed on every day/night using activity monitors.

Results The Australians’ sleep was shorter, and of poorer quality, on the first night at altitude compared with sea level. Sleep quality returned to normal by the end of the first week at altitude, but sleep quantity had still not stabilised at its normal level after 2 weeks. The quantity and quality of sleep obtained by the Bolivians was similar, or greater, on all nights at altitude compared with sea level. The Australians tended to obtain more sleep than the Bolivians at sea level and altitude, but the quality of the Bolivians’ sleep tended to be better than that of the Australians at altitude.

Conclusions Exposure to high altitude causes acute and chronic disruption to the sleep of elite athletes who are sea-level natives, but it does not affect the sleep of elite athletes who are high-altitude natives.

  • Altitude
  • Elite performance
  • Physiology
  • Soccer

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