Read this expert advice on how to get more shut-eye
Although there is no such thing as a perfect night’s sleep, there are certain changes we can make to our lifestyles which should leave us feeling more refreshed when we wake. With more than 30 years’ experience working in the field of sleep and athletic performance, elite sports sleep recovery coach Nick Littlehales has created five tips to help people understand sleeping techniques.
1 Become aware of your chronotype
Nick says: “Identify whether you are a morning or an evening person to prevent adopting routines that are counter-productive to your natural sleep patterns. Chronotypes determine whether we are morning- or night-active.”
Morning-active (early bird): these people typically go to sleep between 9-11pm and wake naturally at 5-7am. They tend to love breakfast and work best in the mornings, and have less daytime fatigue.
Evening-active (night owl): this group typically goes to sleep between 12-3am, and wakes by an alarm at 9-11am. These people tend to enjoy evenings, dinner and daytime napping.
2 Identify your sleep-wake cycles:
Nick says: “An essential part of any sleep-wake cycle is to maintain a constant everyday wake time, ideally between 6-8am in harmony with the circadian clock. This applies to day, night and shift workers.”
3 Recover in cycles
In clinical conditions sleep is measured in 90-minute periods. So, rather than sleeping in one block of 8 hours, try to target five cycles (7.5 hours) or four cycles (6 hours) every 24 hours.
You can then take a 15-, 20- or 30-minute nap to take advantage of the two other natural recovery windows – midday between 1-3pm, and early evening between 5-7pm. In any 24-hour period you can create a sleep-wake cycle plan, which can cope with ever-changing schedules, whilst allowing you to maintain sustainable recovery.”
4 Consider what you sleep with
Nick says: “Make sure you shop around when selecting a mattress, pillow, duvet and bed linen, as these can affect your sleep patterns if they do not match your lifestyle, physical profile and sleeping partners. Sleeping on the correct mattress should only require using one very shallow pillow to sleep with.”
5 Fuel up with cherries
According to Nick: “Fresh cherries are great natural additions to any diet as they contain potassium and magnesium which aid everyday physical recovery, and anthocyanins which can help reduce inflammation and speed up muscle recovery after a workout. They also contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle to help relax, calm and prepare us for sleep.”