Guys we’ve done it. It’s mid-January; the weak ones are back on the gin-wagon, the dull ache of post-workout muscle recovery bookends almost all bodily movements and Blue Monday passed you by fairly moderately for the first time in your adult life. Congratulations, you made it. Mostly-healthy eating during the week? YES. New and achievable workout goals with all-new gear to match? YES. Then what’s left out there to conquer, you ask? Well, dear readers, the answer to that question can be found in a far away land, untouched by the Namaste of ‘wellness-wishers’, and that place is the fabled land of nod. That’s right, your sleep.
Claiming back a restful night’s sleep is the final frontier when it comes to reaching full new-year-new-you-Zen, and considering we spend a third of our time on this planet doing it, it’s pretty crucial we practice it and get it right.
We caught up with Nick Littlehales, noted sleep expert and best-selling author, firstly about his insanely impressive CV and secondly about how he has redefined sleep for thousands of top athletes and many more of us mere mortals around the world.
Nick’s move towards sleep coach extraordinaire began someway into his career working for Manchester-based bed company Slumberland. Building a solid base of knowledge whilst, marketing and developing products in the sleep market, as well as participating in and commissioning various studies into sleep, meant that when Nick wrote a letter to Sir Alex Fergason at local team Manchester United (‘it was 1998 so there were no texts or emails’), offering his expertise, Sir Alex said he’d be ‘interested to learn more’ – and that was that.
Nick was able to ‘download’ his knowledge and experience to improve the team’s sleep and recovery. The press got wind of his involvement and rumours littered the back pages about the team getting read ‘bedtime stories’. Nick remembers; ‘Beckham, Giggs, Neville – they were Ferguson’s children. They were a treble winning side. Whatever he wanted them to do, they would. He wanted to double up training pre-season so I set up the first nap room to encourage sleeping between training sessions and the players would take it on board because that was what Alex said they should be doing!’
The player’s connections to England football meant Nick began consulting for the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Blackburn and Bolton and he ‘had to actually define what the hell a sleep coach was, in a manner that could be communicated, learnt from and actually make a difference!’ From football, Nick moved into cycling as part of Team Sky at the point British Cycling decided we should be winning medals and ‘from that point to this day, the phone has never stopped ringing.’
Now, we appreciate that winning the FA cup or the Tour de France may be a little way off just yet (definitely for us anyway) but there must something we can do in our day to day, or rather night to night, that will help us? According to Nick there are three key things.
- RYTHMN: ‘Make yourself aware of the changing rhythms of the day’, check in with yourself throughout the day and become aware of your natural highs and lows in mood and motivation. Planning to do tasks at these peaks and avoiding them in the troughs will up your productivity.
- CHRONOTYPES: Your chronotype, Nick explains, ‘are your personal sleep characteristics. Your genetic code will reveal if you are one to jump out of bed in the morning or if you’re the kind of person who waits till the last second to get ready for work – it’s a simple one but people don’t realise how important it is!’ Know yourself and adapt accordingly.
- NAP: This handy invention completely reset our body clocks. According to Nick, historically we slept ‘for shorter periods and more often’. Break up your sleep if you need to. Sleeping and living in 90 minute cycles as opposed to hours can help. Most importantly, don’t worry if you need more or less sleep that your housemate – and nap if you need it.
Nick’s parting words are that ‘no one product can give you a better night’s sleep’. His mission (which is now ours of course) ‘is to empower people and make them change. I would say if you do the three things above – and buy Jack Wills Sporting Goods– then you’ve smashed it’. Thanks Nick, we agree.
To find out more about Nick, click here.