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Infographic of Swanwick Q&A with Ronaldo's Sleep Coach

A Q&A with Elite Sleep Coach, Nick Littlehales

by | Jan 28, 2019 | Sleep Hacks

You are exactly where you need to be right now if you are looking to improve your sleep and overall lifestyle. Let me tell you why.

We decided it would be beneficial to get in touch with the elite sports sleep coach, Nick Littlehales, to share his expert sleep tips with you.

For those of you that don’t know, Nick is the author of “Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind”. A great read with proven solutions for better nights, from the “sleep guru” to sports stars including Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind - Swanwick Sleep

Not only has he conducted many practical and clinical research projects into sleeping habits, but his proven approach is also endorsed by leading professionals in sport and business. How’s that for legitimacy?

I’m excited to share with you Nick’s background and personal sleep tips mainly because they are rather unorthodox. And I really like unconventional approaches to anything. Okay, his sleep advice can be a head-scratcher at first but I certainly won’t argue with someone that has 30 years’ experience in the world of sleep science. Instead, I jumped on the bandwagon and here’s why you should too:

Into the world of sleep science

It came to no surprise when I discovered that Nick’s journey into the sleep industry initially began by means to support his new family.

Nick worked hard to earn an income, he asserted himself in the industry and ever since he reached key influencing positions. He realized shifting people’s perspective on the importance of sleep is a challenge. So he approached elite athletes, hoping they would be more receptive, “I could learn from them, driven by my own love of sports.” he stated.

Even though, for many years thereafter, it was a slow burn of perception change in certain sports, giving up was no option for him. Dedication and consistent push into the 24/7 global culture finally made the penny drop.

It’s true, I tell you, with passion comes determination.

According to Nick, these are the main three pillars of human health:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep

Based on Nick’s experience, he believes “Lack of knowledge of this third pillar of human well-being is generating an ever-increasing 24/7 technology-driven culture.”

Did You Know Sleep Helps Your Muscles Recover And Grow?

Nick’s influence on professional athletes

When Nick’s office was based in UK, Manchester, he contacted the local football club Manchester United FC on their approach to recovery. At the time, sleep wasn’t considered to be a performance factor, but Nick managed to influence the Manager, coaches, and some key players.

As the sleep coach started to have more inclusive time with the club, he instigated changes, therefore, not only mental but physical recovery became a performance criteria as well. With confidence, proven results and a fantastic period of success for the club, the word started to spread.

I commend you Mr. Littlehales, for being an integral part of these athletes’ wellbeing.

Even though Nick has influenced countless organizations, athletes, managers, coaches, sport science professionals, and many others around the globe, the reality is “scratching the surface” of what could be achieved.

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo - Swanwick Sleep

While Nick didn’t actively coach Ronaldo, he did influence his interest in sleep. The soccer star references many R90 Techniques throughout social media, including the power of CRP’s (controlled recovery periods) Nap. “In other words, a favorite of his, to balance the pressure of modern day international football.” Nick wrote.

I can back him on this one. My 30-minute midday power naps have been a real game-changer in terms of regaining energy.

Tennis star Roger Federer

Roger Federer - Swanwick Sleep

This player has two separate houses for use during Wimbledon, one for himself and his training and conditioning staff, the other for his family. This approach is used to keep his elite performance athlete environment and mindset separate from the key performance mindset having the family with him.

We were curious to find out whether or not family stops us from getting a good night’s rest, and Nick’s answer is rather interesting.

He said, “Young families, of course, disrupt adult Monophasic sleep-wake routines, because they sleep polyphasically. But if you have maintained a polyphasic approach throughout your life then newborns, infants have less influence.”

In my mind, it makes total sense to adopt a polyphasic routine when you are planning to start a family.

Nick Littlehales’ personal sleep habits and advice

The elite sleep coach shared his personal sleep tips with us, that ensure he gets a great night’s sleep. And I found his initial response quite amusing. Nick wrote, “With so many variable influencers, some planned and many out of our daily control, there is no such thing as a perfect nights sleep.”

“With so many variable influencers, some planned and many out of our daily control, there is no such thing as a perfect night’s sleep.

I had to stop and think about this for a moment. And I agree, there is no set way of doing anything. We are all different and the aim should be to develop an approach that unlocks more consistent levels of sleep.

Nick’s personal approach to better sleep:

  • A polyphasic sleep-wake routine – breaking every 24 hour period into 90-minute cycles anchored by his most consistent wake time.
  • Shorter four cycles (6 hours) or three cycles (4.5 hours) nocturnally – with one/or two zone out periods (20/30 minutes) midday and early evening.

Here’s his advice to you:

It’s true that research suggests that 8 hours in any 24 is the ideal for a healthy active adult, but Nick emphasized that some need this amount and some less. Another factor to consider is personal occupational and lifestyle choices in your 24-hour culture.

To unlock improved levels of recovery, Nick recommends:

  • A five cycle a day, 35 a week made up of 90/30 minute cycles
  • Identify with your genetic Chronotype (a morning or nighttime personal best characteristic)
  • Sleep in the fetal position on the opposite side to your dominant side on a layered sleeping surface and no pillow under your head, or at least a very shallow one.

The effects of blue light exposure at night

How The Effects of Blue Light Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer - Swanwick Sleep

And now that you know how beneficial sleep is for improved recovery and your general well-being, here’s where it gets twisted.

Most of you may have heard of the dangers of blue light at night by now. I certainly have. As someone actively involved in the Swanwick mission, I’m aware that increased use of digital devices at night affects our ability to fall and stay asleep.

Here’s what the sleep coach had to say about this:

Nick explains that sunlight triggers normal human functionality, which is vital to our survival. It activates the happy hormone, serotonin, that keeps us awake and active. He continued to share that our exposure to reduced light and darkness triggers the chill-out, recovery hormone, melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep.

Sleeping in darkness is key to a better life.

Before the invention of the electric light bulb and daylight saving time (for some parts of the globe), 12 hours of exposure to blue light, 4 hours in diminished light and 8 hours in darkness was ideal.

“However, this isn’t practical for most,” Nick wrote, “so the use of light therapy tools to increase exposure and blue light blocking interventions, help manage our relationship with light.” he continued to explain.

Free yourself from blue light with the best Blue Light Blocking Glasses for better sleep.

The importance of daylight exposure

The importance of daylight exposure - Swanwick Sleep

We asked Nick why when and how much we should be exposed to daylight. He explained that with sunrise, light triggers key human active functions. “It is important to take advantage of this during its strongest period into midday, as it diminishes thereafter into sunset irrespective of weather conditions.”, he continued to write.

With so many people working or exercising indoors under artificial lights, a need to unnaturally over-stimulate is created.

Technological interventions

Even though today’s technology are key interventions that help us create personal recovery familiarisation, Nick mentioned that just because you can now track your sleep doesn’t mean you should.

He wrote, “The tracking data technology still needs to improve along with many years of data collection to establish sleep performance criteria you can trust and benchmark to you personally.

According to the sleep coach, “we are designed to be able to sleep anywhere, in any way, on anything, anytime, so how far do you let intrusive sleep data collection start to influence your everyday approach?”

Technology that assists us to manipulate our environmental temperature and lighting are key interventions. Combined with devices such as, SleepPhones, that help us create personal recovery familiarisation.

Bedding and environment

Bedding and environment - Swanwick Sleep

In Nick’s opinion, there is no such thing as a proper bed, “it’s the lack of sleep education that drives most to invest in something that claims to resolve that position and related outcomes.”

He continues to write, “If you know how to sleep on anything, anywhere then you can determine the more ideal surfaces with confidence.”

Most of us sleep with a pillow. And I’ll admit, I’m one of those that can’t participate in sleepovers without mine. A quality pillow I’ve had for more than 10 years now. Yep, I can hardly comprehend sleeping without a pillow entirely.

But according to Nick, the main function of a pillow is to fill body profile gaps created by sleeping on a mattress surface that is too hard. He suggests building a sleeping surface in layers to adapt to your body profile, and sleeping in a fetal position; that way you’ll have no gaps. By default, no pillow will be required.

In addition to determining your ideal surfaces, the sleep coach believes the most overlooked elements in a person’s sleep environment are:

  • The ability to transition from diminished light to darkness before completely falling asleep, and from darkness to light in the awake state.
  • The ability to transition from warmer you to a cooler room before falling asleep, and from a cooler you to a warmer room in the awake state.

Having mentioned that, your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep. If you toss and turn at night during hot summer days, you’ll be happy to know there’s an easy way you can regulate the temperature of your mattress effectively to ensure a good night’s rest.

Is your body often overheating during the night?

Get The Chilipad Cube mattress to ensure the perfect temperature for you to fall asleep.

Nick Littlehales’ Book: Sleep

Nick Littlehales' Book: Sleep - Swanwick Sleep

Nick’s book, “Sleep” changed so many lives. Here’s one piece of advice he shares with those who haven’t read his book yet and aren’t familiar with his revolutionary approach to sleep training.

“Read my book”, he wrote. “Tap into your browser Circadian Rhythms to broaden your knowledge of this process that humans are completely synchronized with. Redefine your approach to sleeping as mental and physical recovery. You’ll realize it’s more natural to sleep in shorter periods more often than one main block at night. [Snoozers, Nappers, Zoners, Kippers, Mindsetters = modern day winners].”

Well, there you go! Lots to think about and reconsider, right? I’m definitely lying in bed tonight reevaluating my sleep routine. Join me on this journey if you will, and feel free to let me know how it worked out for you.

For the time being, get our Swanwick Sleep Hypnotherapy to help put yourself to sleep instantly, any time you want.

Do you have trouble sleeping through the entire night?

Block out all the light with our luxurious 100% Silk Sleep EyeMask.

About the Author

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Celeste Polley | WORDSMITH | MOMENT CAPTURER

Celeste is Swanwick’s priceless content writer from South Africa. She’s a musician, nature enthusiast, and even an achieved photographer with her own side hustle that keeps picking up steam! (Check her out here www.celestepolley.com.) She makes it her responsibility to encourage others to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and she focuses on the importance of good sleep habits. As a busy entrepreneur, she knows how beneficial it is to spend quality time with your pillow.

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