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Nick Littlehales' Guide to Understanding Sleep

Nick Littlehales' Guide to Understanding Sleep

Everybody in today’s world have been fed a misconception about how much sleep we really need. I ask my athletes how much sleep they aim to get each night and everybody automatically, with no thought about it, say 8 hours.

My technique is called the R90 technique, it is used worldwide and is simply recovery in 90 minute cycles. That is what the foundation of the whole technique is, it comes from the fact that within the clinical environment you measure sleep and collect data in 90-minute periods.

Chop your day into 90 minute slots and think about recovery from the point of wake all the way to the point of sleep, and this is the trick of unlocking high levels of quality sleep.

We start with knowing about the circadian rhythms. The physical, mental and behavioural change that follows roughly a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in your environment. Little does everybody know how much this impacts everything that we do throughout your day. We are so out of sync with that process in the modern world we are living in. These light, dark and temperature changes, sunrise & Sunset, trigger millions of cells and every day key body functions, levels of melatonin and serotonin and when they are produced.

Then we move on to getting to know what your chronotype is and what that means, so whether you are a morning or a night time person. This factor impacts on everything we do, from what time we should be going to bed and what time we should be waking up.

In the R90 technique we count sleep in 90 minute cycles rather than the standard 60-minute hour. This puts you in full control of how many cycles you need, where and when during the week. Moving from one cycle into another naturally will hopefully unlock all the sleep stages and benefits. This process provides a subconscious routine, concerning timings and outside influencers allowing you to plan and or react to every day events in a controlled, not random way. Lost cycles can be incorporated throughout the day in controlled recovery periods (CPRs) more commonly known as a nap, either for 90, 30 or 20 minutes.

From knowing all of that, we think about pre-and post-sleep routines. What you are doing in those final stages before entering sleep and what you do in the first part of your day is critical to how you are going to recover late that day and even the following day.

We look at the relationship between your activity and recovery. This is key to make sure you’re grabbing your rest moments throughout the day. We are pushing too hard in our day to day lives with all these new technology advancements and it is really taking its toll on us.

We take into consideration your sleep products. This is one area where people will go blind into the market place, as they don’t do it often, and they go in there and get swamped by false marketing on all kind of products, it is very misleading. Your product should not aggravate your sleep but it should tick all the boxes where sleep is concerned. It is not about how much you spend either. The best sleeping position is, foetal, on the OPPOSITE SIDE to your dominant more sensitive side, with your full body shape easily accepted by the mattress surface and you’re much lighter sleeping weight evenly distributed from head to toe, maintaining a balanced postural alignment. Ideally complimented by ONE shallow pillow, simply comforting the head, not raising it up. Although common place, it’s not advisable to use several pillows of different shapes and sizes to make an incorrectly profiled mattress more comfortable. A mattress for two adult partners should be at least two single bed sized sleeping areas, commonly known as Super king. General rule go as big as you can.

And finally, we look at your sleeping environment. As more and more technology is trying to creep their way into the bedroom it is extremely counterproductive. Change the term, it is your sleeping recovery room and not a bedroom. RE-think your bedroom to ensure its main function is to promote a natural sleep state and maintain it for the long hours allocated to nocturnal sleeping. We have brought a lot more into this room that can be very counterproductive. [TV’s, standby lights, smart devices and laptops]

Go through those 7 areas and make small adjustments and improvements that will improve your overall recovery. The R90 technique is something that is used across the world not only with elite athletes but also with corporate and wellbeing programmes, nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers and students.

Everyone can fit into the R90 Technique, it is a very easy process that doesn’t have to manufacture itself in the same way for everybody but the main principle of where you start does. Which is outlining your constant wake time. Everybody has one that is related around their chronotype, despite whether they’re a morning or night time person, the demands of their occupation or even family and lifestyle. Is there a time that you could use as your constant wake time? 

Make a target that you maintain every day and every week, even at the weekends and keep that time set in place as part of your daily routine. The most common one I find for the morning chronotype is the waking time of 6:30am. If you then roll back in 90 minute cycles you get 5am, 3:30am, 2am, 12:30am and then 11pm, which will be your set sleep time. 11pm through to 6:30am is your five 90 minute cycles, that’s 7.5 hours of sleep.

Create a pre-sleep routine starting 90 minutes prior to your set sleep time, which would be in this case 9:30pm bringing you up until 11pm ready to sleep. Also, a post sleep routine should be in place between wake time 6:30am until 8am.

Book a one-to-one Sleep Profile Consult to redefine your approach to recovery and help you maximise your performance. Visit the coaching section for more information.

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