Sleep and mental health in athletes during COVID-19 lockdown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


The global coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions resulted in the majority of sports competitions around the world being put on hold. This includes the National Basketball Association, the UEFA Champions League, Australian Football League, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and regional competitions. The mitigation strategies in place to control the pandemic have caused disruption to daily schedules, working environments, and lifestyle factors. Athletes rely on regular access to training facilities, practitioners, and coaches to maintain physical and mental health to achieve maximal performance and optimal recovery. Furthermore, participation in sport at any level increases social engagement and promotes better mental health. It is, therefore, critical to understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures have affected the lives of athletes. We surveyed elite and sub-elite athletes (n = 565) across multiple sports. Significant disruptions were reported for all lifestyle factors including social interactions, physical activity, sleep patterns, and mental health. We found a significant increase in total sleep time and sleep latency, as well as a delay in mid-sleep times and a decrease in social jetlag. Training frequency and duration significantly decreased. Importantly, the changes to training and sleep-related factors were associated with mental health outcomes. With spikes in COVID-19 cases rising around the world and governments reinstituting lockdowns (e.g. United Kingdom; Melbourne, Australia; California, USA) these results will inform messaging and strategies to better manage sleep and mental health in a population for whom optimal performance is critical.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsaa261
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • athletes
  • chronotype
  • COVID-19
  • elite
  • exercise
  • lockdown
  • mental health
  • pandemic
  • sleep
  • sports psychology
  • training

Cite this