The Professional Athlete Podcast with Ken Gunter

22nd April 2020

Elite Sport Sleep Coach and author Nick Littlehales has been helping athletes and teams competing in the world’s most competitive leagues improve their performance through sleep for over 20 years. With the necessity of sleep transcending any one individual sport he’s worked with an incredible list of elite clients that include Christiano Ronaldo, British Cycling, Team Sky (Tour De France), Formula 1 Racers, NFL Players, numerous Premier League Soccer teams and beyond. Focused on redefining human recovery, his goal is to provide elite athletes and individuals with a simple and achievable technique that can be applied to improve sleep. His book Sleep, which has made the topic of improving sleep and the quality of your life approachable and applicable.

Today, his technique is known as the R90 Technique and Nick introduces listeners to the first of the 7 Key Sleep Recovery Indicators. These indicators when addressed can have a profound impact on improving sleep. We discuss the role of the Circadian Rhythm and how in present day society we’re finding new and inventive ways to mess this up. The impact of your chronotype and how being an “owl” or a “lark” can have a substantial impact on your optimal routine. The idea that we should be paying closer attention to sleep cycles, rather than just a broad recommendation of hours per night. Why people not getting the appropriate levels of recovery through sleep is preventing them from achieving their personal best. The way in which our brain and body function are completely synced to this planet. Why sleep is the last part of your day that you should sacrifice and how counterintuitively we can actually do more by doing less.

Speaking to sport and beyond Nick attests that sleep quite frankly creates more resilient human beings. When looking at training for sport, alongside training and nutrition sleep needs to be considered an equal, if not prioritized as the most critical of the three pillars of athletic success. Amidst this albeit slow, yet increasing awareness within sport of the impact of sleep he warns to be wary of the flood of technologies hitting the market promising to help improve the natural practice. He expands as to why sleep is something that we should be able to do naturally if we can only get out of our own way. He further explains why Blue Light is undeservedly getting a bad rap and how in actuality it is when of the greatest resources humans have at their disposal.

He recounts his experience working with British Cycling as part of their goal to put a Brit atop the podium of the Tour De France within 5 years through the revolutionary approach of aggregated marginal gains. How sleep became one of the many underserved areas where the team could find an overlooked advantage and the extent that he and the performance staff for Team Sky would go to in order to optimize the sleep environment for riders when traveling and subsequent success and domination by the team that followed.

We wrap up discussing the impact of time zones on one of his NFL clients. The underappreciated role natural light plays in our lives and wellbeing. Lastly, sure to spark a number of uncomfortable conversations between couples everywhere, he explains why humans can sleep anywhere in any environment, but they were never meant to sleep together.