Sleep and salivary testosterone and cortisol during a short preseason camp: A study in professional rugby union

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

Medical Subject Headings

Actigraphy; Adult; Athletes; Football; Humans; Hydrocortisone; Male; Myalgia; Physical Conditioning, Human; Saliva; Sleep; Testosterone; Young Adult







First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID



Human Kinetics


School of Medical and Health Sciences


Originally published as: Serpell, B. G., Horgan, B. G., Colomer, C. M. E., Field, B., Halson, S. L., & Cook, C. J. (2019). Sleep and salivary testosterone and cortisol during a short preseason camp: A study in professional rugby union. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 14(6), 796-804. Original publication available here


Purpose: To examine changes in, and relationships between, sleep quality and quantity, salivary testosterone, salivary cortisol, testosterone-to-cortisol ratio (T:C), and self-reported muscle soreness during a residential-based training camp in elite rugby players. Methods: Nineteen male rugby players age 26.4 (3.9) years, height 186.0 (9.4) cm, and weight 104.1 (13.4) kg (mean [SD]) participated in this study. Wrist actigraphy devices were worn for 8 nights around a 4-d training camp (2 nights prior, during, and 2 nights after). Sleep-onset latency, sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and waking time were measured. Participants provided saliva samples during camp on waking and again 45 min later, which were then assayed for testosterone and cortisol levels. They also rated their general muscle soreness daily. Results: Little variation was observed for sleep quality and quantity or testosterone. However, significant differences were observed between and within days for cortisol, T:C, and muscle soreness (P < .001). Few relationships were observed for sleep and hormones; the strongest, an inverse relationship for sleep efficiency and T:C (r = −.372, P < .01). Conclusions: There may be no clear and useful relationship between sleep and hormone concentration in a short-term training camp context, and measures of sleep and testosterone and cortisol should be interpreted with caution because of individual variation. Alterations in hormone concentration, particularly cortisol, may be affected by other factors including anticipation of the day ahead. This study adds to our knowledge that changes in hormone concentration are individual and context specific.