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Accelerometer-based sleep behavior and activity levels in student athletes in comparison to student non-athletes



The comparison between athletes and non-athletes for sleep, sedentary time or incidental daily activity is yet to be examined in a student population. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to measure sleep and activity levels using accelerometry in athlete and non-athlete university students.


19 students on university athletic scholarships (11 female/8 male, age 20 ± 2, body mass index 24 ± 3) and 21 student non-athletes (11 female/10 male, age 21 ± 3, body mass index 25 ± 4) volunteered to wear an activity monitor over a 7-day period to measure general daily activity levels and sleep. All general daily activity, excluding time spent exercise training, was monitored and minutes spent at different activity zones as well as step count, distance covered and calories burnt were used for analysis between groups. Measures of sleep quality and quantity were also compared between groups.


Significant differences were found between groups for step count and distance covered (p < 0.05); however, all activity variables were associated with small to moderate effect sizes, with the athlete group being more physically active than the non-athlete group. There was a small effect size associated with longer sleep time in the non-athlete group (476 vs 456 min, d = 0.39) and also poorer sleep behavior scores in the athlete group (d = −0.39).


Student athletes exhibit more incidental activity and less sedentary time than student non-athletes. There was a trend for student athletes to sleep less and display poorer sleep behavior than student non-athletes.

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Correspondence to Matthew W Driller.

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There are no conflicts of interest to declare.

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All procedures performed in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.



See Table 5.

Table 5 The Athlete Sleep Behavior Questionnaire (ASBQ)

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Driller, M.W., Dixon, Z.T. & Clark, M.I. Accelerometer-based sleep behavior and activity levels in student athletes in comparison to student non-athletes. Sport Sci Health 13, 411–418 (2017).

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  • Fitbit
  • Sleep quality
  • Sedentary
  • Active living