Deliberate recovery: Exploring the relationship between expertise and sleep quantity in athletes


The development of sporting skill requires an extended commitment to intensive practice, the accumulation of which must be balanced with adequate rest. In contrast to practice habits, the patterns and characteristics of recovery among athletes have been relatively understudied. This study sought to explore how the 'deliberate' use of recovery varies according to athlete expertise through an examination of sleep, a biologically necessary and universally accessible form of recovery with established effects on performance and learning. Individual endurance sport athletes (n = 43) recorded daily information on sleep timing and duration, as well as training load, over a 14-day period, and a follow-up questionnaire assessed sleep chronotype and categorized athletes into three skill groups. Elite and pre-elite athletes reported sleeping significantly longer than non-elite athletes (F(2, 555) = 7.18, p = .001, partial ?2 = .025). Similarly, elite and pre-elite athletes attempted to sleep significantly earlier in the night (F(2, 556) = 4.96, p = .007, partial ?2 = .018) and napped significantly longer during the day (F(2, 105) = 6.04, p = .003, partial ?2 = .103). Training load may contribute to these differences, while in this sample sleep chronotype did not. This study suggests athletes engage in recovery activities differently according to their skill level, with higher-level athletes making better use of sleep for recovery.