8 techniques you can learn from athletes to maximize rest when you sleep

8 techniques you can learn from athletes to maximize rest when you sleep


Do you want to sleep better?

The response of more and more people is a resounding “yes” .

We have listened to all kinds of tips on how to get a good night’s rest, from taking the television out of the room, finding the perfect bed or disconnecting from your digital devices an hour or two before connecting with the pillow.

All of them contribute, but what happens if what is sought is to maximize the hours we spend in the arms of Morfeo? How to achieve the greatest rest in the time that we are sleeping as elite athletes achieve?

Nick Littlehales, specialist in the dream of the athletes, has dedicated himself to that.

Their focus is to maximize their recovery by putting them in contact with the way they are designed to sleep.

Person sleeping in a park
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Image caption There are certain times of the day on which we are designed to rest.


Littlehales has worked with some of the biggest clubs in football, including Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the English team led by Sven-Göran Eriksson.

These are your eight tips to feel like a sports star when you sleep.

1. Think of cycles, not hours

“The need to sleep eight hours is a myth,” says Littlehales.

Our dream follows a natural cycle of 90 minutes as we go from a deep NMOR (sleep without rapid eye movements or synchronized sleep) to a REM phase (rapid eye movement sleep or paradoxical sleep).

A man sleeps holding a soccer ball.
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Image caption There are experts who say that the need to sleep eight hours is a myth.


The important thing, he emphasizes, is not to interrupt one of these phases, hence it is advisable to structure sleep based on multiple 90 minutes : it can be 7.5 hours, 6 or even four and a half hours.

The advisable thing is to establish a time to wake up regularly and from there calculate the time backwards.

For example, if the plan is to wake up at 6:30 am, the hours we could go to bed are 5am, 3:30 am, 2am, 12:30 am, 11pm or even 9:30 pm.

2. Take into account one week, not just one night

Instead of reaching a number of hours per night, Littlehales talks about achieving the right number of sleep cycles each day and in a week.

“What we want to complete are 35 cycles in seven days, which are five per day,” he explains.

Woman waking up in bed.
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Image caption What is recommended is to follow a weekly and not a daily sleep pattern.


If one goes to bed late, simply look for a balance with an extra cycle the next night, or plan one during the day.

In this sense we can observe the week that lies ahead and establish a cycle plan around social and work commitments.

3. Shorter, but more frequent

Until the bulb arrived, the human being slept with a polyphasic dream, just as it happens with babies, which means with shorter, but more frequent times.

The circadian rhythm takes 24 hours and “as humans, we are totally connected to that process,” says Littlehales.

A child sleeps in a stadium.
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Image caption Instead of reaching a number of hours per night, Littlehales believes that it is about the number of sleep cycles per day and per week.


There are some moments of the day that we are designed to rest : midday is the second natural period to sleep, while another falls between five and seven at night.

Using these natural hours of rest helps recover the body, as happens with athletes.

For the British expert it is not unreasonable to think that people can sleep peacefully with a biphasic dream – less at night and a little at noon – or even three-phase, incorporating a cycle at the end of the afternoon.

4. “Periods of controlled recovery” instead of naps

It is important to clarify that resting does not always mean sleeping.

That’s why Littlehales recommends that people stop thinking about a nap and start talking about “controlled recovery periods” or CRP, for its acronym in English.

“The CRP has nothing to do with trying to go to sleep for a while,” he explains. “It’s about allocating 30 minutes (one third of the 90 cycle) and taking time for yourself,” which can be done anywhere.

A relaxed pet
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Image caption The controlled period of rest does not have to be sophisticated.


The expert adds that you can use sound, meditation, relaxation, put a towel on your head or be a silent place.

While you are not sleeping, these CRPs count towards the total number of cycles needed per week .

Many soccer clubs recognize the importance of resting for their players and are already incorporating rooms for that purpose in their training camps.

5. Have a clear routine

Not only are the 90 minutes before sleep that are important for our sleep, they arealso key 90 minutes after waking up .

“To get a good morning, everything you do from the moment you wake up determines the quality of your recovery.”

Hence, it is essential to establish a routine for when one wakes up, from delaying contact with digital devices, hydrating, feeding, exercising and moving the bladder and bowels.

6. Use a light device

If you find it hard to get up, Littlehales recommends getting a light therapy device, such as a sunrise or sunset simulator in a dark room.

This clarity and darkness will trigger a change in your system between your melatonin -the relaxation hormone- and the serotonin -the active hormone- .

Big bed
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Image caption The bigger the bed, the better.


Some businesses are taking note of this situation and have lighting systems that follow the circadian rhythm.

Currently one can download an application that allows you to measure the light to which one is exposed, inside and out.

7. Find a big bed

Altering how and where you sleep is a small change that can make a big difference.

“A superking bed is really just two adult sleeping spaces,” explains Littlehales, or what would come to be two individual measurements for two adults.

In this case size matters and it is advisable to have the largest bed that the room allows.

8. Sleep in a fetal position and breathe with your nose

“The ideal position to sleep is the fetal one on the side opposite to your dominant side,” he warned. And the best thing would be to sleep without the need to use a pillow .

Finally, he urges us to train ourselves to breathe with our nose because doing it through the mouth is one of the reasons that cause discomfort at bedtime and reduce the quality of sleep.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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