Cyclists suffer sleep quality decline during Tour de France

Cyclists competing in the Tour de France average more sleep during the 23-day event compared to a week beforehand, but at a reduced quality – according to a new study.

The preliminary finding is part of exclusive research commissioned by Lumin Sports, Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute – Sleep Health (FHMRI), and Flinders University.


Research Lead, Josh Fitton, says the study investigates the relationship between sleep, perceived experiences, and performance of riders during the Tour de France.

‘’This research is quite important primarily because of the novelty of the data,’’ Fitton said.

 “It’s hard to come by data collected from elite cyclists, let alone during the most demanding stage race of them all.’’

The study centres on subjective and objective data captured from eight cyclists before, during, and after the 2020 Tour de France.


‘’One of the main findings was that during the race, compared to before, riders on average had more sleep duration per night, but alongside that their sleep quality dropped,’’ Fitton said.


‘’Self-reported measures of perceived experience, such as fatigue, soreness and stress also went up as you’d expect. What we think is that the increase in those perceived experience factors could be leading to that reduced sleep quality.’’


‘’It’s also possible that the frequently changing sleep environment is disrupting their sleep quality.’’


The research also revealed that the mood, self-rated performance and rider satisfaction drops throughout the race and remains low once it’s over.

‘’This is an important finding because we know having a stable mood, mentality, and attitudes towards yourself and other people is important for performance itself.’’


Labelled as ‘potentially the most surprising finding’ by Fitton was that associations between how well the riders slept and their perceived experiences weren’t particularly strong.


‘’This is in contrast to what we’d expect, because other research has shown that sleep and subjective factors, like mood and how you’re feeling, are quite tightly linked.’’

“Inconsistencies between our findings, previous research, and common intuitions about the role of sleep for performance are likely due to our use of real TDF data. Yes, this data is not as ‘clean’ as that from laboratory studies, but it is extremely novel and highly generalisable to real-world sporting contexts and athletes.’’

The full study will be released later this year.

****Study to be published with method, findings and limitations.****