Sleep and mood of elite basketball referees during international competitions

Tom Cullen, Neil D. Clarke, Alejandro Vaquera

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    Purpose: The current study aimed to characterise the sleep habits of elite basketball referees during international competitions. Methods: Sixty-five elite basketball referees (international experience: 6 ± 3 years) provided actigraph-derived sleep data and daily mood scores during an international competition. Referees were also asked to provide reasons for nights of poor sleep. Results: Referee’s actual sleep time was 6:23 ± 1:07 (h:mm), with 70% sleeping less than 7 h. Sleep onset and offset got later as the tournament progressed, but with minimal impact on actual sleep time. Sleep onset was later following evening games than on Rest Days (50 min, P = 0.05) and after Day Games (64 min, P < 0.001), while sleep offset was not different, resulting in shorter actual sleep times following Evening Games than Rest Days (− 36 min, P = 0.027) and Day Games (− 47 min, P < 0.001). Subjective mood status was not affected by tournament stage or game timing. The most common factors identified by referees as leading to poor sleep were ‘jet lag’ and Evening Games (both 16%). Conclusion: These results highlight poor sleep habits of elite sporting officials during the most important international sporting events. Poor sleep was exacerbated in evening fixtures due to increased arousal and a curtailed opportunity for sleep rather than competitive anxiety as is often the case with athletes. Future studies should build upon our findings by investigating potential countermeasures to the issues we have identified.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-327
    Number of pages7
    JournalSport Sciences for Health
    Issue number1
    Early online date28 Jun 2022
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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    © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature.


    The authors would like to thank the referees who took part and the support staff from FIBA who approved and facilitated the study. No financial support was provided for the study and there are no conflicts of interest.


    • Basketball
    • Officials
    • Referee
    • Sleep
    • Tournament

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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