Nick Littlehales Sports Sleep Coach

Nick Littlehales Sports Sleep Coach

Blood tests:
It is recommended that we obtain a base line for your blood iron status and blood biochemistry so please request the following tests from your GP/ lab.

  1. Request a copy for yourself/ myself to keep on file.
  2. Some GPs are unable to process a request for Vitamin D, if so then request that they book normal blood screening for you to be done in the hospital so that Vitamin D can be checked.
  3. Have bloods taken first thing in the morning and in a fasted state; preferably during a break from your usual training, if you are an athlete, unless we are investigating markers for muscle damage post-training also.
  4. All athletes/ patients make a note of general health and energy at the time of testing.
  5. Female patients/ athletes please make a note of where you are in your menstrual cycle and whether you are/ are not on the pill, so that we can relate the test results to where you are in your menstrual cycle.
  6. Please request as many of the tests below as possible. If you like to proceed and fill in the chart with your results then this is helpful to me. I will add comments and explain in more detail to you what pattern I am seeing and how this correlates to your health symptoms.
  7. Please note not all tests will be practical for your GP.

Marker/ metabolite Result Normal level Optimal

HB A1c
Red blood cells (RBCs)
Mean corpuscular volume (MCV)
Mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH)
Mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC)
Red blood cell distribution width (RDW)
Transferrin saturation
Total Iron Binding Capacity
Transferrin saturation
Reticulocyte count
Folate/ folic acid
Vitamin D (25 OH-Vitamin D)

Leukocyte count
Neutrophil count
Lymphocyte count
Monocyte count
Eosinophil count
Basophil count

LFTs liver function tests
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
Total Bilirubin

BUN/ Urea
Creatinine (Creatinine kinase)
Total protein
Uric acid

Free T4
Free T3
TPO antibodies
(free/ total – underline)
Oestrogen/ Oestradiol

If you suffer headaches, depression, miscarriages, inflammation or a chronic health problem:
– Homocysteine, hs-CRP

For cholesterol and heart problems in addition to the usual pane, please also get the following checked:
– Homocysteine, Fibrinogen, High sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), Vitamin D and thyroid function.

If you are suffering with low energy levels/ persistent coldness/ low moods then consider also requesting ALL of the following:
– Free T4, Free T3, TSH, Thyroid antibodies, Reverse T3

Further specialist testing is available through the clinic to assess for example the gastrointestinal system, food allergies, toxic metals, solvents, gluten intolerance, and many more using specialist labs Genova Diagnostics in the UK.

You are listening to Rolling Down the River where you will hear about: nutrition, rowing tips, technique improvements, equipment, bio hacks, and become the beast where you have the edge in any competition. Here is your host Aron O’Dowd.

Hello, welcome. You’re listening to Rolling Down the River. On today’s show we’ve Nick Littlehales. He is the sports sleep coach and has been working in the sporting world for the last 15 years. He has helped athletes and teams to enhance their sleeping. The teams that he’s worked with is Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Team Sky from the Tour de France. He has featured in many media sources such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Forbes, CNN and many more. Nick has a website called where he helps individuals and teams to enhance their sleep. Hello and welcome to the show Nick, how are you doing today?
Speaker 3: It’s great to be on your show Aron and really not too bad. Still got the remnants of a bit of cold but, like most people, I’ll get through it.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Tell us about how you got into sports sleep coaching.
Speaker 3: Simply after being very interested in sports as a teenager, and then finding myself with a young family, and then finding myself inside the sleeping industry with a fairly well-known company from the past, Slumberland Beds. I started working with them and became their national sales and marketing director and during that time did a hell of a lot of research and clinical studies into the subject of sleep. Also, designing products and watching all the, sometimes, crazy habits of people sleeping all over of the world.
There came a point where, I think, I was a little bit disillusioned with the fact that it was quite clear how important sleep was to us as human beings. But it was very much taken for granted in a, sort of, do it anywhere, anytime, on any thing kind of way. Certainly, not a performance criteria and certainly not something that we would invest even the smallest amount of money in to help that process. Literally, just 1 day where my UK office is based, in [Old-ham 00:02:26] in Manchester, and the local sports club is called Manchester United. For none other reason, I simply wrote that club asking them that, surely, in the world of sport they must be taking sleep seriously and doing things about it. I got a letter back from none other than Alex Ferguson, the manager, saying that he’d asked his staff and the answer was, they do nothing but they were fascinated for the reasons why I would have contacted them on that matter.

From that the head of Physio, at the time, a chap called Dave Fevre, who’s still in the industry now with Blackburn Rovers, we got talking. That developed into doing a little consultation with one of their key players, a center back called Gary Pallister, who had a lot of lower back injuries. I was simply asked what could we do in that, particular, area and I went and examined his products at home; what he was sleeping on and with. That resulted in changing those products to something that was correctly profiled for him and his physical and personal profile. That started to reduce the impact of these lower back issues. Not to resolve it because that’s a very difficult and very complicated process but we, certainly, reduced the symptoms down and enabled him to do a lot more training and playing.

In those discussions we developed, also, passing on my knowledge to the staff I was asked to pass that on to the players. I was still working for my company at the time but I was in a process of leaving the company on a 12 month contract to go and do something else. I was, actually, driving into Manchester United’s training ground, the guys on the gate and the paparazzi trying to catch the famous players with pictures just simply asked the question, “Who is this new person driving in and out of the training ground?” They tipped them off as being somebody who’s come in to teach the players how to sleep. They found that quite funny, tucking pampered premiership footballers into bed and reading them bedtime stories is what they thought. They just put the 2 things together which was, literally, Manchester United’s got a sleep coach.

Literally, it was given to me by the media and since that point I’ve just been engaged in that process. I’ve been doing it full time, [honor league 00:04:50] sports since around 1998. There’s some 16 years now and as each year’s progressed the subject matter of sleep and recovery has grown in it’s interest and it’s counterproductive side effects in sport as well as the whole population. Over the last few years it’s, now, become quite a serious matter because of how the world has, certainly, developed lifestyles, technology around us. And what we’re on a 24/7 focus, is that we might have been getting away with poor sleep hygiene, poor sleep routines a couple of decades ago but, now, with everything that we’re doing around us, in today’s world, we’re not getting away with it. You see a lot of symptoms, disorders, bad habits and the counterproductive side effects of it. In the world, today, a sport sleep coach is very much on the demand. That’s principally it Aron.

Speaker 2: I see. How do you get an athlete to understand their sleep process?
Speaker 3: In the first instance, you need to, with anybody, is just almost take the word sleep and put that clearly to 1 side because it’s a term we use for something that we take for granted, it’s not a performance criteria, as I said. However, badly you sleep or sleep at all you will still try to complete all the tasks that you’d set out for that day including your occupation and your sport. You have to sleep in all sorts of different places and on different types of products so, in that respect, it’s something that you want to put to 1 side. What we do, in the first instance, is look at mental and physical recovery period. A few centuries ago, where you would, actually, as a population use 3 natural sleeping periods in any 24. We sleep in shorter cycles, shorter periods, not try to do it all at night.

There is still that in certain countries, in particular, 1 being Spain where that siesta period between 1 and 3 which is at the second natural sleep period is still actively used. First of all, think about mental and physical recovery periods, don’t concentrate on the word sleep, you need to redefine your approach to it like that. Maybe, looking at shorter cycles on a more regular basis rather than 1 big chunk and we use a technique called R90 which is recovery in 90 minutes. 90 minutes is a clinical period of time where the human being will go through various different stages of sleep and it takes, normally, around 90 minutes for the human being to experience those different stages from light sleep right down to REM and non-REM deeper sleep stages.

We use that 90 minutes so instead of thinking about hours because that’s … If you ask most people, how many hours do they try and achieve every night they’ll pick the number 8 because they’re familiar with that number. Do they actually get 8? I meet nobody who does that on a regular basis. We don’t plan to achieve it, we don’t have a constant wake time, and a constant sleep time, and we’ve got all sorts of different occupations and demands around us now. Particularly, in sport events are played at all different times of the day including quite late into the night. Where we first do is be complete a sleep profile with the athlete and that provides me with all the information from nutrition to their occupation, to their daily activities, to their families, if they have them, to their physical profiles, what they’re sleeping on and with, what the environments they use, how much travel. It is a complete profile of that individual athlete and from that I will be able to assess and create where they are as far as their sleep approach is concerned.
From that point we will use the R90 technique, which I developed, which is simply there are 7 key sleep recovery indicators. Within each of those 7 factors we identify whether they are approaching each of those 7 areas correctly or if at all. Then we will put in place simple steps, practical and achievable steps that can be replicated wherever they are, whatever they’re doing at any time to add those 2 things together to aggregate up to a much better overall performance. It’s pretty much an engagement process of trying to say, we’re not, actually, talking about sleep as you would know it. We’re, actually, talking about what’s, actually, why you would need it because it’s mental/physical recovery. And how you can apply that into today’s modern world so it takes worry away, increases confidence in sleeping. In a lot of cases, it stops people wasting valuable time doing it without too much benefit.

Speaker 2: What are the 7 processes of sleeping? Speaker 3: The key indicators are … and you can check this on yourself Aron, if you, like as we go through. The first 1 is your understanding of the Circadian rhythms of the day. Some people have a little bit of understanding of what that might be, many don’t. It’s the sun up/sun down process, the light/dark, and temperature shifts that are driven by the sun coming up and the sun going down every day that interacts with us, as human beings, and triggers millions of cells in our bodies to do certain things at certain times. If you’re not aware of that process and you’re not considering it, at least, to a minimal degree within what you’re doing every day then that can have an enormous effect on how well you can, actually, enter a sleep state and stay in it. By understanding that process you really do get a better understanding. You can’t do anything when you’re asleep, you can’t affect the quality of your sleep while you are asleep. What you do is from the point of awake to the point of getting round of trying to go into another sleep stage that will determine how well you sleep.

The second one is another one that people, sort of, will know about but they’re a bit vague on it and that’s your chronotype. Now, chronotype is a genetic twist which determines whether you are a morning person or a nighttime person. In old terms, in the bird terms, a lark; up in the morning and rearing to do, or an owl; enjoys the evenings and nights better, that’s when you’re at your best. Many people lose sight of that chronotype it gets camouflaged by occupations, and lifestyles, and all sorts of things, or if you end up being a night shift worker, for instance. It gets camouflaged so you lose sight of it very, very quickly. Again, that genetic chronotype in line with the Circadian rhythms of they day, a better knowledge about those 2 areas can significantly change, exactly, what you do, when you do it, and why you do it.

The next one is thinking about cycles, not hours. Instead of thinking I’ve only got 8 hours of this or going to bed early, or sleeping in later to catch up. If you look at it in circles, slightly a big subject but the simple factor is if I use my, particular, routine: is I’ve got a constant wake time of 6:30 every day. The process of sleeping loves patterns, loves rhythms, loves harmony with the Circadian process. 6:30 is a great wake time, for me, because I am that morning chronotype so I’m a lark. I like to get up first thing and get on with my tasks because that’s when I’m at my best. If I work back in 5, 90 minute cycles that takes me to 11 o’clock and that 5, 90 minute cycles is 7.5 hours. By looking at in cycles rather than hours I can then move from a 5 cycle routine to a 4, or 3, or 2, or, even, 1 cycle process in any 1 period dependent on what’s going on in my life.

I can, also, use a 90 minute cycle between 1 and 3 which is the second natural sleep period where most people experience a slump in energy. It’s the graveyard slot in the corporate world, it’s an area, just after lunch, where we can naturally take a nap. In that, particular, period I would adopt either a full 90 minute cycle, if I had the time, or a shorter 30 minute cycle if not. The third 1 is between 5 and 7 and that, again, is a slump period where your need and urge to sleep are clashing. Again, a 30 minute shorter little slot there will, actually, balance me out. In any 24 hour period I’ll either be using 5, or 4, or 3, plus another 1 midday or another 1 early evening. During any 24 hour period I can, actually, see just how many cycles I’m going to be able to get and I, also, keep very focused on what I’m doing every 90 minutes. From the point of wake right through to the end of the day I will always make sure there’s always an element of recovery happening every 90 minutes. I won’t necessarily go beyond that point without having some sort of break from that activity and that simply could be just walking away from your desk and walking around the car park or outside and coming back or doing something. That whole process will build well.

The next one is your pre and post sleep routines they’ve never been as important. My target time is 11 o’clock on a 5 cycle routine. Then when I get round to 9:30 I’m going to start thinking very much about preparing myself to enter a sleep state. I might make sure if I need to communicate with anybody through social media, or emails, or whatever it might be I’ll catch up on 1 or 2 little things. I make sure that I’ve got those done so I can get away from it in that period, a sort of text shut down moment. I will make sure that if I need to hydrate a little bit or I need to take on a little bit of a snack so I’m not hungry while I’m asleep. I shall also make sure I … to ensure that I don’t have to wake up to go to the toilet because my bladder’s still processing it wants to take me to have a wee. Bowel and bladder is empty, I will move from light to dark because that is the trigger for producing the right type of hormone to trigger my brain to say, “We’re going to go into sleep.” That’s melatonin. I’m ready to get into my room in darkness and curl up and go to sleep.

5, 90 minute cycles later, naturally, wake at 6:30. Then, when I wake I need to hydrate and fuel up, I need to get daylight into my body, I need to give myself time to come from a sleep state into a wake state. Pretty much, I avoid trying, best I can, to be asked to do anything other than practical waking up processes for the first 90 minutes of the day. That could be pretty important, now, because we’re using smart devices for alarms and those smart devices, now, show notifications from emails, to text, and social media. In a lot of cases people start reacting to those messages before they’ve even gone to having a wee or before they’ve even gone to have a drink or take on any fuel. That can be a little bit like texting when you’re a little bit under the influence of alcohol. It’s not a good thing to do. The post of a routine can be really serious.

The next 1 is just having a much better balance between activity and recovery. Overdoing it, just keeping active all the time, constantly using technology to keep working, or keep researching, or for entertainment. To overexercising, to doing all sorts of things that we just push it, push it, push it. We really do have to understand that 10 minutes recovery is as good as 10 minutes activity. That balance will mean the activity will be very beneficial and the recovery will be quality recovery. If you do 19 minutes activity and 1 minute on recovery you’re going to get a … your performance levels are going to go significantly down. A good balance between activity and recovery throughout every day.

Then the last 2 is ,quite simply, the sleeping environment you’re in which you have the control over which is, possibly, the 1 in your own home. Now, that 1 there are some key factors around there as far as temperature at night, noise, whether the products you’re sleeping with are correctly profiled to you as an individual and any regular partners. Those simple factors get lost a lot of times on the way that we apply ourselves to bedrooms. We concentrate on style, on function and we don’t pay too much attention on the key factors that are going to help you stay in a sleep state for long periods of time. It’s always wise to, sort of, in our mental process remove everything from your bedroom and then only put back the items which are clearly there to help you with mental and physical recovery or stay in a sleep state.

There’ll always be a number of areas there, particularly, about mattresses because people just … including people in sport that is something we just wander along to a shop 1 day and sit on it, and somebody tells us it’s going to last forever and nice and chiropractically endure so nice and firm and everything else and that’s it we’re done. Then we spend most of the night tossing and turning, getting too hot, creating neck and back problems, using pillows that don’t suit that product with duvets that are too hot and we wonder why we don’t sleep well.
The last 1 is the sleeping products which we’ve just touched on. If you just increase your awareness of how somebody, like me, designs things like mattresses, and pillows, and duvets to work in harmony with an individual. Then it’s not about being expensive, it’s not about being bespoke. If you understand that process better it’s a little bit like once you’ve established the size of your foot Aron. I’m a 9 and a half tenth is that whatever footwear I’m looking for if that store doesn’t have the right size, for me, then I can’t buy the product. Or I could buy something a little bigger and stick an insole into it to try and make it fit but I couldn’t go smaller because my foot wouldn’t even go into it. Literally, if I walked into a shoe shop and I’m looking for a particular style in shoes and they haven’t got my size and I’m not able to go up and change it a little bit then I’m going to walk away and go to another shop.

What we attempt to do when it comes to mattress, in particular, we’ll walk in and we can walk out. When we should’ve been buying a size 9 we end up buying a size 20, or a size 1, or a size something else. We then wonder why we’ve got that wrong. The amount of people who continually put up with a mattress that just aggravates their body creating lots of sleeping concerns and continue to buy thousands and thousands of pillows every day in the population, in the UK and islands it’s simply just trying to … they make the whole process worse.
The 7 key areas is: your Circadian rhythms, chronotype, your thinking cycles rather than hours, pre and post sleep routines, activity and recovery harmony, sleeping environments and sleeping products. If you went through those Aron and you just went, “If I raised my awareness in each of those areas.” 7 little steps in each 1. It could be very simple things like maybe just changing a pillow as far as products is concerned. It might be just changing the temperature of your bedroom, or taking something out of your bedroom that might be counterproductive, like a TV with standby lights on it. It could be a simple as just getting a little bit of a better balance between activity and recovery during the day, just taking a few more little breaks every 90 minutes. Principally, just trying to have some sort of pre-sleep routine of moving from light to dark and tech shut down. Just, maybe, trying to give you a few extra minutes in the morning before you start rushing around doing everything to get that post-sleep routine going. With a little better understanding of your chronotype you’ll be to do certain things at certain times and getting a hell of a lot more benefit out of it.

With the knowledge of the Circadian rhythms that’s just 1 step sorted. Once you know about that process and what it’s trying to do, and how it works then, literally, you will know that at certain times during the day it’s best not to be trying to .. on your rowing machine, in the gym, blasting it away like mad when your blood pressure is going to be at it’s highest which is, normally, around 5 or 6 every day. That’s the key process that we work on and try to develop that into somebody’s routine. It plays not only to elite athletes but everybody.
Speaker 2: What’s special about your products towards athletes? What does it do to the athlete?

Speaker 3: The first thing is that, like with any design brief, you want to know that you start of with the fact that it must be extremely have high levels of breathability. The materials that you use inside of that mattress needs to be able to create airflow in and around the body to keep that temperature control. That’s important throughout the sleeping period so you don’t have rises and falls in body temperature, getting too cold or too hot.

The second 1 is hypoallergenic materials whether you suffer or not there are so many things that can fester inside mattress materials. The obvious ones being dust mites and their fecal particles which create the allergens that most people suffer from with allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema, and others. As well as dust, the pollutants in our air, whether you keep a very aired room or clean there’s still a hell of a lot in the air around us. Within that product totally hypoallergenic. We want it to be completely so that the materials will mold and shape, extremely easily, around your body shape in a fetal position. A natural fetal position then you should feel that there’s something supporting your body weight in that position but you can’t feel it, it’s not aggravating you, and it’s almost like a weightless sensation. For a lot of people, a lot softer than they might imagine.

We also make sure that we only use materials that are on there to help those processes. We don’t put fancy things in it that doesn’t mean anything. If we need a mattress to support a 182 kilogram weight with a certain profile shape and we’re going to use 1000 of these types of springs then we don’t put 3000 in and we don’t 500 in. We put the optimum amount to create what we want. That applies to whether we use foam, or gels, or latex, or whatever it needs. In principle, we stick to foam, and natural latex, and gel based products because you’re trying to get to the levels the way that water can support our body weight by completing dispersing itself and then balancing us. We don’t want it to aggravate us every night and the other key factor is we don’t try to put everything inside the mattress and seal it all up.

We’ll use … Just like in sport, where you layers, base layers, to control body temperature so it’s nice and light but you feel temperature controlled and the body can breathe, it’s a good sporting way to use layers. Is that we use different types of layers to build that mattress up. That means that as the athlete may change through injury, a little bit of weight gain or loss, or as they just get a little but older they can change those layers more inexpensively than changing the whole mattress. It makes them interact with the product on a more regular basis. Rather than just buy it and shove it in the room and say, “We’ve got that for 20 years.” It is a product that you’re working with to make sure it’s right for you.
Speaker 2: With the clients that you’ve worked with, have they seen improvements using these devices?

Speaker 3: I possibly wouldn’t be doing what I’m did if it didn’t. Certainly, I work across a much broader spectrum of sports from rowing, to sailing, to archery, BMX riders, cycle crossers, track and road cyclists, to football, to cricket, to rugby league, rugby union, to bobsleigh teams and snowboarders. Across that piece using those KSRIs to gauge where you are, your approach towards sleep, to this recover process. Making little steps that don’t cost you, that aren’t really asking you to invest in anything, just a little bit of commitment to make those little changes. Then what you’ve got is you’ve got somebody who can significantly change the way they feel about this process.

Literally, before I came on your podcast today I had a comment through from a journalist who’d written a piece for their website and, of course, they took notice of the information being given and has just forwarded an email to me saying, “I applied the R90 ninth cycle rather than hours to my approach and it has changed my life. I feel more invigorated, I feel in more control, I don’t worry about sleep any more. I’m able to, if I don’t get so many cycles in the 1 period, I know I can just pop them in somewhere else and I, certainly, feel that I’m not wasting valuable time doing this process. So, when I do go into it I get the best out of it and get on with my day and I’m feeling a lot more productive.” I think that’s the best way to describe how an elite athlete starts and, ultimately, with that type of approach, normally, what happens is they start to achieve more things in their sport. You can never put it down that they haven’t ever won a gold a medal and now they do but what you can, certainly, see is that they would put it down to 1 of their significant interventions in what they’re trying to do in sport that’s really changed that had a positive affect on them so they really feel they can achieve more.

It would be the number of Olympic team GB rowing teams that I’ve been around, as far as recovery’s concerned it’s up there what is 1 of the most demanding sports in every single way. Recovery’s absolutely key for any rowers at any level and if you know that you’re getting the best from it you can train better. You recover better so you can do it more often at the right times. You feel as though you can be more prepared when you come to a particular event so you know how to achieve a peak performance. That sort of process will, generally, turn into the fact that you’ll have a marginally gain over any competitors in those last few seconds of the race or, during a longer race, the stamina and endurance to keep going.

I do a lot of work with British team cycling which is another very demanding sport. That could be difference between Bradley Wiggins winning a Tour de France because he’s been able to, across that whole 3 week period, been able to focus really, really well on his recovery. He’s recovered better than everybody else, he’s got other things around him. Like he’s sleeping kit which I would have designed for him, and various team members, and that might put them on the podium. On the track it could be the difference between the thickness of a tire that makes you gold or silver. When combine all those things, the reason why I’m very busy at the moment and the reason why we’re doing a hell of a lot of work in all sorts of areas is because it is a performance criteria when you get it right. Most importantly, the bad habits that everybody’s adopting, in this modern world, are having quite a significant affect. One of those is overstimulating, using higher levels of caffeine intake through all the various areas that we can get it, these days, to stimulate you through fatigue and poor sleep. Also, the use of prescribed sleeping tablets as a solution to helping you sleep when you can’t and that is a cocktail for disaster. One of the success stories by working with any athletes in this, particular, area is to protect them from things like that Aron.

Speaker 2: Wow, amazing. What is the correct way to sleep on the mattress?
Speaker 3: First of all, you accept that an 8 hour, 7 and a half hour period, 5 cycles, 4 cycles it’s a long time. It sort of comes and goes if you’re lucky very quickly. You do have to remind yourself that is a working day for most people from 9 ’til 5. 8 hours solid doing nothing on a product. You can’t not take it seriously about what you’re doing. You’re going to move around naturally in sleep because it’s a long period of time. Naturally, you’ll want to move from a fetal position, to a front position, to a back position. You’ll want to do that naturally you don’t want to be forced do it by the product that’s underneath you. Or temperature changing, making you have to move around or even thoughts in your head just waking you out of those sleep states.

Everybody could do this I’ll try and explain it clearly. Literally, I’m right side dominant that means I’m right handed. It means that the best sleeping side for me would be on my left side. On my left side because it’s less sensitive, the joints and muscles. It means I could lie on that side easier than the pressures that are on my right side of my body. It, also, means that if I’m going to go into any deep sleep state if you’re brain’s going to trigger that process it needs to be extremely comfortable to putting you in this semi-paralyzed state when you are at your most vulnerable. To achieve that one of the security little factors is that my right side can protect me, in that fetal position, if I became aware or fearsome of something, or woken quickly by something is that I’ve got my strongest side to protect me. Now, that can be quick critical so my left side is the best side to sleep on in a natural fetal position. If I adopt that on the bedroom floor, a hard surface, then I will observe a big gap between my head and the floor, To make that gap go away I can shove some pillows under it, or I can go onto my front, or I can go onto my back to spread my weight out.

What you should have is when you go onto your mattress, strip your bedding, take the bedding away, climb onto the mattress, get on your knee, and lie on the opposite side to your dominate side in a natural fetal position. That’s just with the knees take a nice postural position as if you’re looking straight ahead. Just bend the knees slightly and fold your arms gently and that is your fetal position. Adopt that on the bed and either get a partner or the camera out and put it to one side and just see if you can establish the gap between your head and your mattress in that position without making any adjustments. If it’s any more than about a flat hand’s width and that’s around 5 or 6 centimeters. It will be a lot more for some but that’s about the minimum around 5 or 6, or a flat hand then that indicates that your body and your profile is not being released into those materials easily and shaping around your body, whatever the materials are. What you’ll need is a pillow to go underneath your head and that is the point when you know that the product underneath you is not correctly profiled for you.

You can’t use pillows to make that rise. It means that pressure’s going to build up in your shoulders and your hips very quickly. It means when you move you’re going to the front position more often and the back position more often because pressure builds on the body. It won’t encourage you to go back to that left side fetal position as much as it should do. The pillow is going to get in the way. When you’re on your front side you’ll try and push it out of the way because it’s not only pushing your neck up, your neck is, also, twisted at 90 degrees which is not comfortable so you’ll hop from side to side. When you’re on the back with that pillow there it’s going to raise the head up, block the airways in throat and as you start to go into that natural sleep state and all those muscles react it becomes even more difficult for you to breathe naturally. Snorting, dry mouth, and snoring, and even mild sleep apnea can all be the consequences of that.

Ideally, on your mattress, on the opposite side to your dominate side, in a fetal position. Your head should be in line with your mattress as best it can, 1 hand width at best. That means that you’re in profile with it so then you can use a very shallow pillow just as a comforting factor that is just there to provide a little bit of comfort to the head, rather than being directly down onto your mattress or other linen but it is not getting in the way. Ideally, you get the right mattress and it shouldn’t require you to use any pillows at all. You would just use 1 to sleep with that was very, very shallow indeed. For a lot of the athletes they won’t use them at all to sleep with if we get the layers right.

If that happened on your mattress Aron you did that check today and you did observe quite a gap between your head and the mattress in that way. What you could do if you didn’t want to go away and invest in a new mattress, as long as what you’ve got is providing a surface then what you could do is add layers to what you’ve got to simply create that. That could be a topper, could be a comforter, or just even a spare duvet you’ve got used as an under pillow just to take that balance out could be a simple solution. You do need to invest but it’s knowledge that you need to invest in not, necessarily, going out and spending a lot of money on mattresses, and pillows, and duvets. It’s about getting it right and you will benefit from that rather than spending a lot of money on some fancy product that claims it makes you go faster, jump higher, beautiful, the best beds in the world.

All of those kinds of statements don’t mean anything to you if when you lie in that position in that way on that mattress it doesn’t do that. It’s just going to be a pain in your bum. Every night tossing and turning, getting you too hot, creating neck and back problems and you’re never going to get the quality of sleep that you want because you’ll always be doing this every single cycle, every single hour. That’s why most people wake up feeling very poor and not rested it’s because they’re spending all those hours mucking about.

Speaker 2: When a person travels from 1 continent to another jet lagged, is there any way of conquering that or is it just naturally there?

Speaker 3: There are certain things that people can apply but even when we apply them with a group of athletes and they travel through time zones, east/west, west/east then we do notice the same protocols for the group do not work with all of the group. In general terms, it’s not trying to be vague, but what you do have to do is look at the various techniques. You can follow the food clock that means keeping to your normal food patterns and timings that you normally have when you’re in your own country. If you’re flying at breakfast time eat breakfast type foods at that breakfast time. When it comes to your lunchtime, whatever time zone you’re in, you eat lunchtime food at a time that’s lunch. It’s that process, that’s called the food clock process. Some people will not eat and drink through the whole course of the flight. Literally, as they get to the other zone allegedly just kick into that time and food zone straightaway. I find that extremely difficult, I have to say (chuckle).

Another 1 is that when you do arrive in that other time zone you could use light and dark to reset your clock quickly. If you do happen to land at lunchtime somewhere and it’s during the middle of the day but it’s, actually, your night then by exposing yourself to a lot of daylight … you can even get little devices that increase that increase that exposure to daylight into the eyes or through the ear canal to make sure that your brain is being triggered to be in a wake state when it, actually, wants to shift to a sleep state. You can reset it with light.

Some people just ignore it. It depends on how long you’re there for. Literally, they will stay in their own time zone irrespective of what’s going on wherever they are and just ignore it. I have to say I just recently did a long haul from the UK to Australia through Dubai. I, certainly, when I got to the other end … My timings were pretty good, actually, because I was pretty much following the [inaudible 00:39:36] clock. But I really felt it in the first 24 hours, 36 hours of being there. Even with all of my knowledge and everything else you have to still have to accept that when you’re doing a lot of travelling there are little things that you could take with you. With light devices, there’s 1 called the Human Charger that’s just fantastic because it’s just putting daylight straight in through the ear canal into the pineal gland and can give you a real, sort of, nice boost that you can be used during the day or anything else.

It’s using light, [following 00:40:07] the food, clock process, ignoring it. You’ve just got to be conscious that whatever you’re doing, that the impact you can’t necessarily control that well. You do need to make sure that within your plans is that it doesn’t kick in and it did work then you’ve got a little bit of extra time in front of you. If it goes wrong you will absolutely love that time to get yourself back on track because it can be horrible for some people.
Speaker 2: Is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that an athlete or a team should know about to enhance their performance through sleep?
Speaker 3: I think, just in a recent workshop with some rugby league players but it applies to many. I think, in general terms, because running through those 7 key factors and around that 90 minute cycle process of adopting cycles rather than hours. Once you start looking at that, one of the things we say all the time is when an athlete is preparing for a, particular, event. In some cases that could be every week or twice a week if it’s football or Olympic games is a specific one. As they get closer they find it extremely difficult to sleep the night before or the night after because of the adrenaline levels, anxiety, stress, and just excitement and it makes it very, very difficult to sleep. A lot of the times they spend it worrying that they can’t get to sleep and they should be asleep. One of things that everybody in any sport is if you think cycles rather than hours, you think about that process a lot of my athletes will not even try to sleep the night before a big event or after that event because there are so many factors that are against that process.
What you’re trying to do is make something happen that doesn’t want to happen because there are so many factors inside of you that are counterproductive in changing them. You can do other relaxation techniques. You can do things that bring a more positive outcome to it. You can use other types of recovery techniques just by relaxing in the dark. Maybe listening to types of music, maybe reading certain things, maybe doing certain simple tasks. Even watching yourself when you last won something when you were at your best, put some positive mindset. Maybe certain yoga exercises, meditative exercises. There’s lots of things available to us. That could easily be far more beneficial than to spending unnecessary hours trying to do something and not achieving it. Mentally and physically recovery is very important when you could maximize it that way. It’s not about this 8 hours every night in a nocturnal period and putting so much pressure on it. It’s get the pressure off and that would help them enormously. That’s one of the things, I think, athletes can really take on board, and even amateur athletes, and anybody who loves their sport at any level is take the worry away from sleeping and get in control of this a bit and you’ll feel the benefits from it massively.

Speaker 2: Fantastic. Is there any technology that you recommend bar your own R90 products?

Speaker 3: Technology has provided us with the opportunity to measure sleep through apps, wearables, and various things along that route. In principle, they can be used and provide some information to the user but they can also be counterproductive in the sense that if it does tell you that you had a really bad night’s sleep, what are you going to do about it that day and what are you going to change? The answer would be nothing. If you’ve had a really good night’s sleep does that affect what you do that day? Are you any better, quicker, or faster? You certainly don’t want to be waking up when there’s something extremely important to do that day and to be told that you slept really badly. A lot of those applications and devices around sleep end up being used but then they end up being shelved. At the same time, they’re using data which is predetermined and they might be using accelerometers which is all about movement and motion sensors. It’s not really giving you how you’ve actually slept. It’s taking a judgement, it’s giving you a note, it’s giving you a guide or a base mark to work against. Be careful about those.

There are certain things out there. The Human Charger, if everybody just tapped in the Human Charger dot com, no doubt, that is a little trendy device that really does work. It helps boost through energy slumps during the day. It helps reset for jet lag. It’s a natural way to create a stimulant by keeping the serotonin levels high in your body than melatonin levels which is that wake happy hormone. It is a much better natural way than pumping coffee inside you and things like that.


We’re encouraged to have black out in our bedrooms which is good because that’s the darkness. That’s encouraging the levels or melatonin which triggers the brain into the sleep state. It’s good to get blackout and be in blackout when you’re trying to go to sleep. The problem is is the waking in blackout is more difficult. When you have blackout this sunrise/sunset process is you’ve done the sunset process by having a blackout room but, now, you need to create the sunrise process because there’s nothing getting in.

There’s another product. If your listeners will go to That’s L-U-M-I dot com. That is a company’s product there’s other manufacturers and suppliers but it’s a good company with a nice range of products. They produce daylight simulators and SAD lamps, seasonal affective disorder lamps which affects everybody this time of year. The Dorm Wake simulator, quite simply, is a wake alarm, it sits on your bedside. If I’m planning to be asleep for 11 o’clock on my 5 cycle routine then part of the sleep cycle routine is if, finally, I do get into bed I will switch on the alarm. That daylight simulator will be putting light into my room, nothing else, and then gradually over the next 15 to 30 minutes it’ll slowly go down back into darkness and switch itself off. The same applies in the morning, is that, my wake time is 6:30 so at 6 o’clock that light will start to come on and it’ll reach it’s peak by 6:30. That means that I and my body has been brought to life by the change in those hormones by daylight being in my room.

That’s another great SAD lights are the same, we were touching on beforehand, that it’s not what you do while you’re asleep it’s what you do between wake and sleep. A great piece of technique, at the moment, is to use an SAD lamp in your offices or around your home. We’re exposed to so much more darkness, so much more artificial light, so much more about that process that we need to … You can put SAD lamps around your home, on your office and things like that which will really help with that process.

You can get some, it’s called F, just the letter, hyphen lux, L-U-X, those are diffusers. You can get them onto your devices and your computers. Which simply diffuses the blue light that’s coming off your device. If you’re absolutely just stuck in front of computers and devices is that if you can remove that blue light trigger with things like that, that would really help.

There’s also 1 area most of us, in particularly, most athletes are mouth breathers. Dragging air in and throughout the mouth and using the nose very infrequently. When you’re going into a sleep state and those muscles relax and, you remember as children, is that as you’re in a lovely deep state you’re just breathing, very gently, in and out through the nose. If you’re mouth breathing all day long and you try to go into sleep state and you find it difficult to breathe in and out through your nose because it’s now what you’re doing naturally. Breathing in and out through the mouth dehydrates you, dry mouth, snorting, snoring, you name it. Taking water to bed because you get dehydrated and all that sort of the stuff so it’s a bad process. There’s a product they can look for which is called mute. It’s M-U-T-E,, very literal. Their devices are simply inserted into the nasal passages. It’s very simple it just pops in. A lot of my athletes use them, for travailing and to encourage natural nose breathing.

They’ve, also, got a product called Rhinomed which is a very similar device but it’s just focused towards more endurance sports. Literally, you, probably, must be aware of the things called nasal strips, the little plasters you put on your nose to open up your nasal passages. Well, these products Rhinomed and Mute which are easily found are even sold in booths these days, I think, is that those products can really help, at certain points during the day, part of the pre-sleep or even to use while you’re actually asleep, to really increase the levels of oxygen to natural nose breathing. That can have a really quite significant affect on how well you will sleep.

There’s a few bits of tech. It’s not all about gadgets some of them are just little things that you could put in. You start to see how you could really find a way to approach sleep and not waste valuable time doing it. Get it done, get the benefit, get on with your life.
Speaker 2: Marvelous. Nick, I just want to say thank you very much for coming onto the show and sharing your story, your experiences, your knowledge, and little tips and tricks how to enhance an athlete’s performance through sleep.
Speaker 3: No problem at all. It’s been a pleasure. All the success to you.
Speaker 2: Likewise.
Speaker 1: For more on the vigorous life go to That’s R-O-W-I-N-G-D-O-W-N-T-H-E-R-I-V-E-R dot com. Thanks for listening.

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