Self-care and sleep

Match schedule density has an effect on referee wellness and sleep.

Referees in elite rugby make critical decisions in the course of each game, needing to be alert and focussed as well as physically present wherever the ball is. Consequently, a study on 18 match officials during the Rugby World Cup 2019 included investigation into their wellness and sleep. 

This research was conducted by Matthew Blair with collaborators at Central Queensland University. Participating referees answered the same questions online every day throughout the tournament. Wellness indicators included sleep quality, mood, stress, fatigue, muscle soreness and total wellness. The referees tracked their sleep by recording their bedtime, wake-up time, and time in bed. During regular schedules, they would have one match then several rest days, but at other times their schedule was congested, requiring them to officiate at two games with only one rest day between them. 

The research team found that referees were susceptible to acute reductions in wellness on days following matches regardless of schedule. They also spent less time in bed postmatch compared with prematch, generally going to bed later, except when they had another match after only one rest day. These results suggest that the referees did look after themselves better when they knew they had back-to-back games. The next step for the team is to explore connections between these results for wellbeing and sleep and their performance as referees.

December 2022

Image credit: "bark" (Flickr). Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0