Expert tips for improving your sleep

Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, low energy and a lack of focus – exactly what anyone trying to get into peak fitness wants to avoid.

Indeed, it’s a broken sleep pattern that Littlehales believes he can ‘put to bed’ with his top tips for getting some well-earned rest.

Log off and switch off

Blue light from devices such as iPads and smartphones increase exposure to artificial luminosity, which encourages a wake state. To get into a sleep state, it’s best to down these devices and avoid taking them into the bedroom, or if you must use your phone in the bedroom, use an app designed to help diffuse the light.

Know your nap times

The body’s natural sleeping periods are between 1pm to 3pm and 5pm to 7pm. These are still common in Spain (where people will stop what they’re doing to have a siesta) but have been lost in most other parts of the world.

This may not be an easy thing for you to do during the working week, but even a short 30-minute nap during your commute home can be beneficial for your health. Just be sure to set your alarm.

Blackout… with curtains

Blackout curtains prevent any ambient light – an unavoidable issue for many – getting in from the outside world and make falling asleep straightforward.

Daylight simulators: let there be light

Daylight or down simulators gradually wake you up with increasing light levels emitted from what is essentially an alarm clock. So if you put it on at night when you’re reading your book, over a 30-minute period, the simulator (which replicates the body’s circadian process) will gradually go dark.

The same applies for the morning: set your alarm for 6.30am so that the light gradually gets brighter from 6am onwards. This way you’ll be awake before it starts buzzing.

Cool things down in the bedroom

You should sleep in a cool room: below 20 degrees. Scientists actually believe that anything between 16 to 18 degrees is ideal. The body feels this cooling process and falls into a sleep state process.

You don’t actually need more than one (good) pillow

If you have the right mattress, you shouldn’t need stacks of pillows and cushions, which actually interrupt the natural line of your body and sleeping position.

A clean sheet slumber

And lastly: don't underestimate the power of putting fresh linen on your bed – it’s a technique that automatically makes the 'going to bed' ritual more inviting, and that Littlehales used effectively with the British cycling team. Because, Olympic athlete or not, your body needs proper rest to recover, and you can only ever perform at your best if you’ve had good quality sleep.

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