What are the sleep characteristics of elite female athletes? A systematic review with meta-analysis

Kathleen H. Miles, Brad Clark, Peter M. Fowler, Joanna Miller, Kate L. Pumpa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


With the recent growth in female sport, practitioners need to be able to provide specific support to female athletes to ensure their sleep, health and athletic performance are optimised. Examine the patterns, duration and quality of sleep among elite female athletes, and consider the impact of situational challenges and their effects on the sleep of elite female athletes. Data was located through a search of SPORTDiscus, MEDLINE and Scopus from inception up to May 2021. Studies needed to be peer-reviewed research reporting quantitative sleep outcomes for female athletes ≥ 18 years of age and competing at a predefined elite level. A meta-analysis was performed on habitual sleep outcomes (e.g. total sleep time [TST] and sleep efficiency [SE]) measured with actigraphy. A total of 38 studies were included. Meta-analysis showed habitual TST (n = 14) was 7.8 h [7.4, 8.2] (mean [95% CI]), and SE was 86.7% [84.7, 88.6], with high variability among studies (I2 = 97.8–98.2%). Subjective sleep complaints are common before a competition, as do post-training sleep disturbances (63% studies report TST decrease), and post-competition sleep disturbances (75% studies report TST decrease). Female athletes achieve satisfactory objective sleep quantity and quality during habitual periods, but experience sleep disturbances pre- and post-situational challenges. There is high variability of objective sleep outcomes, demonstrating the individual nature of habitual female athlete sleep. Overall, future research must focus on optimising the sleep appraisal methods and creating high-quality study designs in a broader number of sports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-763
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of Sport
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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