Littlehales

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How To Sleep Like An Athlete

Source: Men’s Health

Nick Littlehales noticed something odd about sportspeople when he began working with them almost 20 years ago. While most were meticulous about everything they perceived as affecting performance - from breakfast on road trips to sex before the game - they typically ignored something that is fundamental: sleep. “It was crazy,” says Littlehales. “Take track cycling. Half a centimetre can be the difference between a gold medal and failure, but sleep wasn’t being treated as a performance criterion.” Same goes for the rank and file, he argues. While you know you function better on the back of quality shut-eye, you’ve been conditioned not to use a rough night as an excuse to take it easy. Neighbour’s dog barking till 4am? Oh, well … off you go to balance the books/lay carpet/perform heart surgery. “Regardless of what you do for a living, being smart about sleep will see you lift your game,” says Littlehales, who’s counselled footballers at Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid, as well as Olympic archers, cyclists and sailors. Here are his top six pointers for creating the pre-conditions for world-class snoozing. No drugs allowed. Sleep tight.

Source: Men’s Health

Some guys are larks and some are owls. We all know that. But it’s long surprised Littlehales how little account glamour football clubs take of this fact. If you’re a lark, you’re up early and feel your best in the morning. By nightfall, you’re flagging. So how could you be the right man to take a penalty late in a game that started at 8pm – or chair a late-evening conference call? “Your alertness, decision-making ability and reaction time will all be down,” says Littlehales. YOUR MOVE: Respect your physical make-up, asking least of yourself when you’re effectively closed for business. This has implications for your choice of job and how you structure your day.

Source: Men’s Health

If you’re like most people, you’re attracted to a warm bed in a cosy room. But you can take “cosy” too far. One footballer Littlehales worked with was hiking his bedroom temperature to 32°C: “It was like walking into a sauna.” Bad move. “The temperature in your sleeping environment is absolutely crucial,” Littlehales explains. “One of the natural triggers for sleep is a cool room and a cool bed.” YOUR MOVE: “We know from research that sleep can be naturally induced by moving into an environment where the temperature is between 16°C and 20°C,” says Littlehales. In the warmer months, achieving that coolness at the back end of a scorcher can’t be left to chance. No air-con? Go with bare floorboards or tiles underfoot, as well as dark curtains.

Source: Men’s Health

Many soccer stars deck out their bedroom with the full gamut of electrical gizmos, notes Littlehales. “The TV might come out of the bottom of the bed, there’s a smart-device dock, laptops on the bed and standby lights everywhere.” Again, this is a blueprint for sabotaging sleep. Round-the-clock exposure to artificial light blocks the cascade of hormonal changes that sets you up for a rejuvenating night’s sleep, explains Littlehales. “We have a new word to explain why some people find it difficult to fall or stay asleep: e-somnia.” YOUR MOVE: Correct prep for a stint in dreamland begins not when you tuck in but at least 90 minutes earlier when you switch off anything emitting artificial light. Your aura doesn’t count.

Source: Men’s Health

“As a kid, you jumped onto the comfiest thing you could find and curled up in the fetal position,” says Littlehales. “While there’s no research that proves it’s the best position for sleep, it ticks all the boxes for being a posture you can maintain for a long period.” Littlehales also recommends lying on your non-dominant side (your left if you’re right-handed). Subconsciously, guys will be more relaxed in this position, he argues, because it frees up your dominant side to fight off attacks that may occur while you’re in this vulnerable state. YOUR MOVE: Go fetal for comfort and to help prevent snoring (and the kicks from your partner that can provoke). While nocturnal attacks from sabre-tooth tigers are rare nowadays, sleeping on your non-dominant side could help you stay tuned out for longer.

Source: Men’s Health

Ninety is the magic figure when it comes to sleep. That’s because in 90 minutes you go through all the various stages of sleep, before hopefully starting over again without interruption. “For my athletes, optimally, I want them to have five 90-minute cycles, before waking naturally at the end of the fifth feeling fully mentally and physically recovered,” says Littlehales. YOUR MOVE: The reality is, you’ll get those full five cycles only some of the time because the hour at which you nod off will vary according to circumstances - like an unexpected sexual advance. Here’s the thing: with sleep, less can be more. You’ll feel better if you have four complete cycles than four plus an incomplete one. Hitting 35 cycles over a week is more realistic than getting five every night.

Source: Men’s Health

Littlehales reckons we’ve forgotten how to breathe, too often drawing in air through the mouth instead of the nose, which would help stop illness-causing microbes infiltrating your system. You know colds and ’flu murder sleep, but another effect of mouth-breathing is that it dries out your gob and causes generalised dehydration – something that will wake you up before you’re ready to face the world. YOUR MOVE: To breathe correctly in your sleep, you need to do it right in your waking hours, says Littlehales. Whether walking to work, standing in the lunch queue or tearing up the dance floor, practise inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your kisser. In bed, a nasal strip like Breathe Right ($15.69) will gently open your nasal passages, promoting ideal breathing technique.

Source: Men’s Health

Source: Men’s Health

Sport sleep coach Nick Littlehales helps elite athletes get game-breaking sack time. Apply his tips to hoist your own work-and-play performances into another league