We’ve been taught eight hours of sleep a night is gold standard for a healthy life – but an elite sports coach has claimed it’s simply not the case.
Nick Littlehales, who’s coached the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, said it’s better to take 90-minute naps in order to give the body more regular “recovery periods”.
“The hormone melatonin tells the brain to suppress bodily functions and the hormone serotonin tells it to unsuppress bodily functions,” Littlehales said during an appearance on breakfast program Lorraine.
“The whole relationship with humans and bodily functions and the rolling process of the sun round our planet, and getting into sync with that, is a game changer.”
His method works on the basis of getting five 90-minute cycles in at night, with a single 90-minute nap during the day, to cater to the body’s circadian rhythms.
The rhythms dictate the physical, mental and behavioural changes in the body that respond to different forms of light – including sunrise, sunset, midday and exposure to non-natural lights from our screens – over a 24-hour cycle.
Littlehales called the eight-hour sleep block a “myth”.
“You could have five [cycles] at night or four at night and chop your day into cycles with consistent wake time,” he claimed.
“It’s supposed to create rhythm to your day instead of doing it at random.”
The sleep professional explained his own routine, claiming he has a “consistent wake time” and opts for a “30 minute cycle in the late afternoon.”
“[I] do four cycles at night for six hours so I sleep all the way through,” he shared.
“If I’m doing lots of little things like that during the day my brain is happy and if the brain’s happy it will give the best sleep possible, that’s the biggest disruptor.”
Littlehales added that being asleep during the “deeper sleep stages”, which are from 10pm to 2am, are important for the body’s sleep cycle.
He also acknowledges a solid sleeping block isn’t beneficial for particular professions, citing doctors, pilots and other jobs that do “shift work” as the key people to benefit from smaller sleep patterns.
“Look at your day as rolling 24 hours, it has nothing to do with days of the week, the sun just rolls. Our job is to be more synchronised and get more balance,” he said.
The post wake-up routine, Littlehayles says, is the most important part for setting up our day ahead.
Explaining we should have a consistent wakeup time, the sports professional said, “You are giving the brain every opportunity to try and give you that level of recovery. Your brain is in control when you’re asleep, not you.”
“The fact is it’s the post routine, it’s the sunrise moment with the brain, being outside with daylight, doing a bit of exercise and delayed tech start-up.”
While many of us may have pre-bedtime routines, whether that’s drinking tea, turning off all devices, or taking sleep supplements, the professional claims good rest comes from what we do throughout the day.
”It’s getting the body functioning and getting serotonin into the brain through light that sets you up and allows you to take control of everything during the day,” he said.
For medical advice, always consult your GP.