Sports Sleep Coach Nick Littlehales visited our offices in early January to give us the low down on why sleep is so important – and why elite athletes are turning to him to help maximise their sleep recovery period for improved performance.
It’s no secret that millions of Britons suffer from back and neck pains, and a large percentage of us constantly toss and turn and move around during the night to try and find a more comfortable sleeping position. In addition to this we ‘battle’ with our natural internal clock known as our circadian rhythm, resulting in the familiar feeling of waking up still feeling tired - despite getting 6-8 hours sleep. Add to this our hectic lifestyles and use of mobile phones and laptops in bed, and we have ourselves a sleep deprivation problem.
You have the potential to get so much more out of your sleep recovery time if you take the issue seriously – something that those within the professional sporting world or indeed anyone with a keen passion for competitive sport are more than aware of. If you want to perform at your physical and mental best in order to achieve your goals, your sleep recovery needs to be taken seriously.
So what can we do to get better quality (and that’s the key) sleep to perform better? Well firstly, there should be a balance between performance activities (which could be anything from work to physical training) and recovery activities which include wind-down time AWAY from those activities, and actual sleep. Most people are unaware that our sleep is actually measured in 90 minute cycles. Ideally, we need to get x5 of these 90 minute sleep cycles per night which gives us 7.5 hours sleep. To get the most out of our sleep cycles, we need to adopt a specific pre-sleep routine. This includes switching off laptops and other high-stimulus gadgets which can keep you in an alert ‘wake’ state and prevents the cortisol levels in your body from gradually decreasing – something that is essential for drifting off peacefully and easily.
When waking, alarms simply give off a noise stimulus which interrupts sleep in an intrusive and non-natural way. The waking process should ideally be more productive. A daylight/sunrise simulator light will help to wake the body naturally, which will help you to wake feeling more refreshed.
The ideal environment to sleep in is a ‘cool’ one – raising your body temperature with a warm/hot shower just before climbing into bed in a cool bedroom is likely to help you sleep better. Being stuffy or too hot/cold is a key indicator of poor sleep. Another top tip from nick is to NOT take a glass of water to bed, which sends signals to your brain to tell you to wake during the night to drink it. Instead, keep properly hydrated during the day.
Finally, it is important to invest in good bedding that suits your individual needs which will improve your quality of sleep and help stop you tossing and turning throughout the night in the search for a more comfortable position. Things such as sleeping weight, head positioning, and the length between shoulder and ear can have a huge impact on your bedding requirements.
To find out more visit www.sportsleepcoach.com.