Subjective Measures of Workload and Sleep in Australian Army Recruits; Potential Utility as Monitoring Tools

Publication Name

Military Medicine


Introduction: Subjective measures may offer practitioners a relatively simple method to monitor recruit responses to basic military training (BMT). Yet, a lack of agreement between subjective and objective measures may presents a problem to practitioners wishing to implement subjective monitoring strategies. This study therefore aims to examine associations between subjective and objective measures of workload and sleep in Australian Army recruits. Materials and Methods: Thirty recruits provided daily rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and differential RPE (d-RPE) for breathlessness and leg muscle exertion each evening. Daily internal workloads determined via heart rate monitors were expressed as Edwards training impulse (TRIMP) and average heart rate. External workloads were determined via global positioning system (PlayerLoad™) and activity monitors (step count). Subjective sleep quality and duration was monitored in 29 different recruits via a customized questionnaire. Activity monitors assessed objective sleep measures. Linear mixed-models assessed associations between objective and subjective measures. Akaike Information Criterion assessed if the inclusion of d-RPE measures resulted in a more parsimonious model. Mean bias, typical error of the estimate (TEE) and withinsubject repeated measures correlations examined agreement between subjective and objective sleep duration. Results: Conditional R2 for associations between objective and subjective workloads ranged from 0.18 to 0.78, P < 0.01, with strong associations between subjective measures of workload and TRIMP (0.65-0.78), average heart rate (0.57-0.73), and PlayerLoad™ (0.54-0.68). Including d-RPE lowered Akaike Information Criterion. The slope estimate between objective and subjective measures of sleep quality was not significant. A trivial relationship (r=0.12; CI -0.03, 0.27) was observed between objective and subjective sleep duration with subjective measures overestimating (mean bias 25 min) sleep duration (TEE 41 min). Conclusions: Daily RPE offers a proxy measure of internal workload in Australian Army recruits; however, the current subjective sleep questionnaire should not be considered a proxy measure of objective sleep measures.

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Defence Science and Technology Group



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