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Sleep and performance: two-hour periods of sleep/staying awake are the best combination

The results of the research project ‘151 e una notte’ carried out during the ‘151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar’ regatta

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The best combination to enable the crew to manage sleep during the regatta is neither too much nor too little, therefore to alternate two hours of sleep and two of staying awake; in actual fact, for every additional hour of sleep, the average placement worsens by 16 positions. This is what emerges from the project ’151 e una notte’ coordinated by Ugo Faraguna an associate professor of Human Physiology at the University of Pisa, who along with his team, analyzed the sleep management of the crew during the '151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar’ regatta.



“Regattas are the ideal laboratory in which to study sleep and its rhythms under stressful conditions,” explains Ugo Faraguna. “By analogy, the results can be applied to many other stressful situations, even in order to improve work conditions in professional environments with a continuous working pattern as for example in factories and hospitals.”
The research analyzed the sleep patterns of 165 crews, on average eight sailors per boat, who participated in the ‘151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar’. The regatta, now in its 10th edition, was held from the 29th May to 1st June. The participants set off from the ports of Pisa and Livorno for Marina di Punta Ala (GR) and included an entire night’s sailing.

“A competition including several days’ continuous sailing, night and day,” said Ugo Faraguna, “takes its toll on concentration, clearness of mind and the capacity to work closely with the other crew members; for this reason an accurate assessment of sleep quality is instinctively essential to understanding what could be the winning strategies for a positive performance.”
The researchers from the University of Pisa asked the crew members to take a survey in order to establish which strategy – the sleep/staying awake combinations went from 2 to 4 hours - was the best. The final outcome of the race was also taken into consideration. For statistical reasons the extreme situations were discarded. These were the crews who remained awake for the entire period and those who slept for only an hour which is not enough to enter a deep sleep mode.

“The two-hour combinations proved to be the best strategy,” concluded Faraguna, “and those who slept more came lower down in the placings. In fact, the four-hour combinations were associated with a worse placing. We can surmise that this is linked to a concept of sleep inertia: the more we sleep, the longer it takes us to be up and running when we awaken. This first experience obliges us to continue investigating. Next year we would like to study the reaction times over the entire regatta of those who wish to support the development of ‘151 e una notte, 2nd edition’.

The research by the University of Pisa was promoted by the Yacht Club Repubblica Marinara di Pisa. The ‘151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar’ is organised by a large committee including: YC Repubblica Marinara di Pisa, YC Punta Ala and YC Livorno, with the collaboration of the Porto di Pisa, the Marina di Punta Ala, partners PharmaNutra S.p.A. with the brand name Cetilar®, Rigoni di Asiago, North Sails and TAG Heuer, and Devitalia Telecomunicazioni. This open water regatta draws the attention of Italian and international yacht owners to the provinces of Pisa, Livorno and Grosseto as it is part of the FIV Italian Offshore Championship, the Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, the regatta circuit reserved for Maxi Yachts, and the Trofeo Arcipelago Toscano.


  • 21 January 2020

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