The Negative Effects of Travel on Student Athletes Through Sleep and Circadian Disruption

H. Craig Heller, Erik Herzog, Allison Brager, Gina Poe, Ravi Allada, Frank Scheer, Mary Carskadon, Horacio O. de la Iglesia, Rockelle Jang, Ashley Montero, Kenneth Wright, Philippe Mouraine, Matthew P. Walker, Namni Goel, John Hogenesch, Russell N. Van Gelder, Lance Kriegsfeld, Cheri Mah, Christopher Colwell, Jamie ZeitzerMichael Grandner, Chandra L. Jackson, J. Roxanne Prichard, Steve A. Kay, Ketema Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Collegiate athletes must satisfy the academic obligations common to all undergraduates, but they have the additional structural and social stressors of extensive practice time, competition schedules, and frequent travel away from their home campus. Clearly such stressors can have negative impacts on both their academic and athletic performances as well as on their health. These concerns are made more acute by recent proposals and decisions to reorganize major collegiate athletic conferences. These rearrangements will require more multi-day travel that interferes with the academic work and personal schedules of athletes. Of particular concern is additional east-west travel that results in circadian rhythm disruptions commonly called jet lag that contribute to the loss of amount as well as quality of sleep. Circadian misalignment and sleep deprivation and/or sleep disturbances have profound effects on physical and mental health and performance. We, as concerned scientists and physicians with relevant expertise, developed this white paper to raise awareness of these challenges to the wellbeing of our student-athletes and their co-travelers. We also offer practical steps to mitigate the negative consequences of collegiate travel schedules. We discuss the importance of bedtime protocols, the availability of early afternoon naps, and adherence to scheduled lighting exposure protocols before, during, and after travel, with support from wearables and apps. We call upon departments of athletics to engage with sleep and circadian experts to advise and help design tailored implementation of these mitigating practices that could contribute to the current and long-term health and wellbeing of their students and their staff members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Keywords

  • academic and athletic performance
  • chronic jet lag
  • circadian misalignment
  • sleep and circadian health
  • student mental health

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