Dec. 1, 2020

06 - The Myth about Sleep for Athletes - Part 1 - Nick Littlehales

06 - The Myth about Sleep for Athletes - Part 1 - Nick Littlehales

This week I’m introducing you to part 1 of a 2-part episode on Sleep.  You get to listen in on my conversation with world renowned Sport Sleep Coach, Nick Littlehales. Nick has developed the R90 Technique that has been proven time and time again to improve sleep for elite level athletes. This is outlined in great detail in his book Sleep The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body & Mind.  He has quite the resume when it comes to working with elite athletes and coaches. Among those that he has consulted includes, Team Sky, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, New Zealand’s Olympic Rowing Squad, and various coaches within the NBA, NFL, and MLB. This week we talk about Nick’s role in being apart of revolutionizing the British Cycling team’s sleeping habit, explain what sleep really is and debunk the myth of 8 hours a night.

Notable Links from episode:

Sleep (the book):

Atomic Habits (the book):

Nick Littlehales Information:




Jase Kraft's (Host) Information:





Jase Kraft: [00:00:00] Good morning or afternoon or evening, whatever it may be for you right now, I just appreciate you gracing this podcast with your two ears. And if this isn't your first time here, make sure you're subscribing to the show and your podcast app so you don't miss an episode. And if you like, in what you're hearing, consider leaving a review. If your platform lets you leave a review, it definitely goes a long way for making this content discoverable. And it just makes me happy to see what you guys are thinking of the show and any thoughts that you have. So this week is going to be part one of a two part series on sleep. So you're going to get to listen into my conversation with the world renowned sport sleep coach Nick Little Heils. Nick has developed the AR 90 technique that has proven time and time again to improve sleep for elite level athletes. This is outlined in great detail in his book, Sleep The Myth of Eight Hours, The Power of Naps and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind. He has quite the resume when it comes to working with elite athletes and coaches. Among those that he has consulted includes Team Sky, a British cycling team, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, New Zealand, the Olympic rowing squad, and various coaches within the NBA, NFL and MLB. This week we talk about Nick's role in being a part of revolutionizing the British cycling teams sleeping habits, as well as explain what sleep really is and debunk the myth of eight hours a night. And you'll definitely want to be taking notes or listening to the episode multiple times. Let's get into it.


Jase Kraft: [00:02:06] You're listening to the Science of Sports Recovery podcast, each week we explore how to recover more efficiently from training so you can work out harder and realize your full potential. This is the Science of Sports Recovery podcast.


Jase Kraft: [00:02:35] Hey, Nick, it's great to have you on the show. I'm so excited for our conversation today.


Nick Littlehales: [00:02:39] It's a pleasure to be on your show. Is you keeping well today?


Jase Kraft: [00:02:42] Yeah, I am. I am doing very well. So it's bright and early here mid-afternoon where you are at.


Jase Kraft: [00:02:52] Yeah. So we'll just dive right into it and make your journey to become the sport sleep coach. I know it's a little bit unique and in fact that you didn't necessarily plan on this route. It just kind of happened to you. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that how that all came about? Like, how are you known as the sports sleep coach now?


Nick Littlehales: [00:03:16] I think it it all started in the sleep industry most of my life and in various different classes. I always loved sports, of course. But around the late 90s, I was an international sales and marketing director for a big international company. And then lots of stuff and everything else and probably a little bit of a mid-life crisis and just sleep taken for granted. Not performance criteria, no definitive approach to, you know, get your eight hours and all that sort of stuff that nobody took any notice of, basically. And so I was off on a journey to do something else. I just happened to do something in that sort of interim period was sponsor local football club, put the company's name on the shirts that engaged me with one or two functions. I ended up talking to Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson because of that, because they were local to my UK office and the journey started. Right. And along that little route, there was sort of National England squad one or two little things where you're doing. A new manager came into the UK called Awesome Venker. You had a completely different approach to human performance, football, athletes and everything else. And that creates a little moment when I actually was asked to go and speak to the first team squad arsenal.


Nick Littlehales: [00:04:44] So I was kind of thinking, what actually am I doing? Obviously, a workshop like that with a bunch of young male athletes talking about sleep. It was probably one of the weirdest moments, but I can remember looking back at that particular time. But it sort of, you know, the morning after I sort of woke up and the media had put two and two together.


Nick Littlehales: [00:05:07] And, you know, coach in the world of sports is a common theme. And they put sleep and you all these pampered footballers, I've got a sleep coach. And I thought, well, that's me. And so maybe that's what I'm doing. So it's sort of from that particular point, it was trying to put together actually what I was doing. It was considered to be, you know, not very industry specific because it was a bit maverick, a bit off the wall. But I was always fascinated with the, you know, get your eight hours, don't eat too late, 16 to 18 degrees and all this sort of stuff. But then there just must be a better way of redefining what this is all about to just help these athletes get from A to B, B, roll on two decades, a paradigm shift in behaviour and technology and twenty four, seven. And along that route, I've worked with a lot of organizations and individuals in all sorts of sports around the globe, and that sort of culminated in a technique, in an approach that you could adopt to any individual or any group. And probably where we sit now, James, is just the the world seems to really got involved with sleep. Yeah, for probably two reasons. One performance, one, because of the pressures of the modern day world and also some of the consequences of not having the sort of defined approach to this, which can be mental health and wellbeing and all sorts of other aspects. So, yeah, I think the the world sleep is a bit deceptive because it describes something that we've been taking for granted and still do. So I think when you try to shift it, we kind of try to talk more about human recovery performance and sleeping in cycles and just changing the way that people perceive it. So I'm yes, I'm an elite sports coach, but it's it's probably got less to do with the actual process of sleeping and more to do with what you do from the point of weight to the next point when you become a. 


Jase Kraft: [00:07:17] Sure.So it's not so much from what you do at night, but throughout the whole day. Why is it important to get that right for athletes?


Nick Littlehales: [00:07:30] I think that's one factor that I think has been. Examined over these last two decades is people worrying about it and, you know, I'm not getting my eight hours, I'm not getting enough sleep or I'm not getting quality sleep or I don't feel rested or energized when I do sleep. So it's kind of like it can be a waste of valuable time. I always thought, well, because I'm not academically qualified, but it's just a journey of experience and research and and know hands on experiences with individuals that you kind of think, well, when we go into a sleep state, the brain takes over. So we can't control that bit because the brain is putting us into the various stages of sleep and almost a paralyzed sleep state when we're in the deepest stages. So we're out of control. So if we if we focus on what we do to the point of waking throughout the four phases of the day and bring back some of the things that we should have learned at school about circadian rhythms and prototyping and sleeping in a multiphasic way, pre and post environments and products. If we to try and bring all that together, we can probably help an individual understand that they can actually have a very proactive recovery program. So they're active in their recovery, not just not doing nothing if they can change the way it looks. So when you started to see, you know, the 24 seven media world of sports sort of really start to kick in and games and events being played at different times and the increase in schedules, you just thought, well, there's no way you could slot in the norm into that.


Nick Littlehales: [00:09:12] So you've got to give them another approach. But don't make it up. Don't try and just create something that sounds great. It's got to come from some sort of basis of natural human performance. And so, yeah, and it's always nice to change the language. I think it's there so that somebody goes, oh, you know, go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning. Have a great night's sleep. Well, let's start thinking about that slightly differently, because sleep is all about patterns and rhythms and cycles. The sun rolls around our planet. It doesn't give a damn about our behavior as human beings. So as long as human beings keep synchronizing with that process, you're going to get consequences. So maybe it's a really good time just to reflect on that and see if we can not necessarily sleep more or sleep less, but actually try and look at human recovery in a different context. So that makes them interested is can they stop wasting time doing it? Can they make it more productive? Can they stop worrying about it? And that sort of reveals a more natural process is exactly what it should be.


Jase Kraft: [00:10:17] Yeah, yeah. I think you hit on a lot of points that when I'm talking with athletes there have questions about sleep, it's like, how long do I need to sleep and can I do it shorter but more efficiently? I think that's kind of the main questions that anybody wants to hear, because, like you said, we view sleep and it's natural time as kind of a waste of time. Like I'll sleep when I'm dead, I think loses a sleep when you're dead.


Nick Littlehales: [00:10:52] I mean, a lot lot of the clients over the years just go, hey, Nate, could you could you come up with a technique or or something or a device that I could just get all this over and done within twenty minutes? Yeah. Yeah. Well, we can try and find that within the norm, but that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make it efficient. We're trying to make it smart.


Nick Littlehales: [00:11:16] We're trying to make it uncomplicated. And, oh, this is what's going to happen today. We've got a solution for that. That's what's going to happen tomorrow. I've got a solution for that. So it's kind of just like a little subconscious thing that goes in the back of your mind that, yeah, when anybody's asked me, you know, obviously you're an elite sports sleepless night because you must sleep brilliantly every night and you sleep well. Last night I said, look, I gave up thinking like that a long, long time ago. What you have is a little subconscious technique that's going on around your every 24/7 rolling process. I don't think Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I just think it's a roll in twenty four hour process. So when I wake up in the morning, I'm just thinking about these little things I can do that helps me in my brain reveal good recovery. Now as long as I'm doing that and also dealing with the out of control outside influences, you know, some things are positive. I want to take advantage of it. Some things may be negative and I want to control that a bit better.


Nick Littlehales: [00:12:17] This is what twenty four seven is all about. You're not in control. So if I've just got something like that's going to happen, I didn't realize that. So what do I do here? Oh, that's going to happen. I want to take advantage of that. That's cool. Yeah. And as long as I've got that then I know. That I am getting the most consistent and sustainable levels of recovery as I possibly can, but once I get to that point of not worrying about it, then suddenly, strangely enough, because you can sleep anywhere, any time on anything in any way, that's what humans do on this planet. Suddenly you just become it's like, you know, the lightbulb going on, the door opening is just wild and trying to do this like that before it creates all the sort of counterproductive consequences. Did you not sleep well last night? How many awakenings did you get? Do you feel energized in the morning in the master? Is no athletes or any high achiever or anybody on this planet is going to wake up in the morning and go, I didn't sleep well last night. I'm not going to work.


Nick Littlehales: [00:13:24] I'm not flying. I'm not being a surgeon. I'm not being a nurse. I'm not being a politician. Certainly not going to do that. I'm not being a parent and taking my kids to school.


Nick Littlehales: [00:13:34] It's you know, it may well come one day, but I just can't see that is ever going to be one of those high performance factors that determines exactly what you're going to do today. It's more about the sort of behavior journey of this is what's going on and how do I react to it.


Jase Kraft: [00:13:54] Yeah, yeah. And we all get a little bit more into details about what Nick's talking about with Priestley, what to do in sleep and that.


Jase Kraft: [00:14:02] But before we get to that, I do want to dive into a little bit of your team or your time with Team Sky, that British Cycling Club, because I don't know. Sergeant Atomic,


Nick Littlehales: [00:14:17] Why are you a cyclist yourself?


Jase Kraft: [00:14:19] I'm not. But the reason this story stands out to me is, are you familiar with the book Atomic Habit?


Nick Littlehales: [00:14:26] I am. Since you mentioned it in our previous book.


Jase Kraft: [00:14:30] Ok, yeah. So James Clair writes about the story about the performance director at this British cycling team. And before this guy got there, they were pretty pitiful.


Jase Kraft: [00:14:44] I mean, over the hundred years, I think they had won Olympic gold. And then in his five years, his thing was marginal gain. So little things that they could do to improve their team, like, for example, working with Nick on their sleep routine, washing their hands correctly so they don't get viruses, you know, making sure that their bikes are absolutely clean every time they after they ride them just a little marginal again. And over the ten years. And they won one hundred and seventy eight world championships, sixty six Olympic gold and five Tour de France victories.


Jase Kraft: [00:15:24] So that's clearly like his philosophy where you are a part of that.


Jase Kraft: [00:15:30] And I want to know like what they why they came to you or you to them how that came about. And then what were you telling them about sleep specifically?


Nick Littlehales: [00:15:44] Wow. That's an introduction to a question, I think.


Nick Littlehales: [00:15:50] I think yes. The whole journey, just like bumping into Manchester United and Alex Ferguson back in the late 90s and then wandering on that route. It's always been a challenge because it's never been consistent. So it's always been little pockets of elite sport where something comes up and they go, oh, well, involve in that. And so I should have given up almost every year along that journey. But every now and again, something happened to just keep me involved, which is cycling was one. And as you mentioned it, a five year strategy for the British rider on the Tour de France podium. And British cycling was just nowhere.


Nick Littlehales: [00:16:27] I think they were just sharing one bike and had a basket on the front.


Nick Littlehales: [00:16:33] So they they were able to with the funds of Sky, which is where teams go to and from to to look at how they could make that happen. And they knew, as far as products are concerned, Pavel's Gayles, Gael's pedals and gears and saddles and the Frayn's and all that sort of stuff, then every other team, principally the Germans and the Australians, and would be they've all got that right. Yeah. The bit that really is going to matter is the engine that's on it, the human being. So that's when trying to find a way of like, is it a helmet? Is it a this? Is that they just went well, maybe if we can find tiny little things, they'll all aggregate up to an overall better performance. So they couldn't ignore one of the largest chunks of any ride this time, which is when they were asleep. So the clinical side of sleep is very intrusive. And they very much look at disorders and the clinical environments and all that sort of stuff, which is absolutely correct, but what they were looking for was can we find some blind spots, some little hidden things, those aggregation of things within the world of sleep that could add up. And is it practical? Now, I was the only sort of guy who was wandering around at that time. Right. So I really didn't have any competition.


Nick Littlehales: [00:17:58] OK, so they contacted me and I got engaged. The as you pointed out, it's quite strange in the world where we find ourselves today about teaching athletes how to wash their hands. Principally all that was about you start to grow like a Tour de France or a bouncer or Giro d'Italia or something like that. And at the start of the process, if you're going into different hotels and moving around everywhere, if you pick something up, it's probably going to reveal itself in the second week. Right? You don't want it to. So it was I have to say, we started to to look at all sorts of stuff, you know, techniques, Cronan sights, training programs, sleeping habits, looking at the individual riders homes, the kind of products that they were using because there is no consistency. You know, they've all got the coaches and the richness of the Lycra seats and the air this and the helmet. But they all sleep in different environments, you know, some of their pajamas on some of their boxes, on some partners, some with not some in the countryside, some in the cities. So we try to get some sort of more consistency with that and bring some of those familiarisation things along to the to the actual the whole process of this strategy. And the one key thing that came out of it was trying to familiarize the environments on the ground.


Nick Littlehales: [00:19:16] So so every night for three weeks, different environments than not hotel rooms and things like that. So we started off playing with one or two things. And that culminated in actually creating an individual sleep kit for each particular rider. So that had the smells and all the little things that struck the balance, the comfort and the going into the hotel on zippi it on the floor. Right. It gets in. It works out the best recovery they can hop. So zip it back up, take it to the next hotel to the mindset. Then you started looking at high particle filters in the room for an hour to drag all the mock up the air because breathing is really important for recovery and sleep. Then you should have a. backing all the surfaces to protect from viruses and going around with a high powered hand hoover where all the needs don't go to get all the stuff out of the way. We started to put things on top of the mattresses inside. And then we just forget that because that mattress has been there for years. And and so literally from the mindset, it's almost like having a little nap or control recovery period if you're in the peloton in the middle of it, because you're being dragged along by the peloton, you know, so when you look at the lead riders who are going to win, they're actually they're almost having a nap in the peloton because they're surrounded by all their other team team riders.


Nick Littlehales: [00:20:42] They've been tested in the wind and everything else, and they're almost be dragged along at 40 km on up by the person. If they're up the front, it's hard work. That's why within a team, you've got the ones who take all the, you know, the aggressive stuff and have to push it. But the lead rider is always being protected. So they reveal that winning over three weeks. So it's kind of like when you start talking about maps and control recovery periods and multi cycles, sleeping patterns and familiarisation and just stupid little things like, you know, in those crazy days of when you get into the aggregation of marginal gains, right. You it can become almost OCD because if everything can add up, then everything can add up. So you start looking at everything and then you just go, what about how do they wash their hair? What do they wash the hair in? You know, what's the depth of the carpet in the training sense is creating friction on their training. So, you know, you suddenly just go, whoa, so you do get a little bit intense about it. But to give you one example, we should probably put a smile on your face, is that, you know, I sat there, the sleep kids on the floor and all the whole team around.


Nick Littlehales: [00:21:59] Dave Brailsford today is now on all these top guys, Shane Sutton from the Australian coach and all sorts of things. And I just said, look, we're looking at these sleep kits. We try to design everything about it. So I designed all that for them to use was estranging is my actual personal profile is if I put fresh on my belt. But not only is it cool and fresh, but I also think I want to get in. And I also think I'm probably going to have a good night's sleep. But now that not my apply to everybody. But it certainly does to me, and we should have looked at that one, so if we get this kid, we put it in the room and we put fresh linen on it. So they've got a fresh bag every night weeks. Then while they're riding and they're all thinking, what are we going to do at the end of this ride? What's going to happen? Because they have all sorts of things to do. And when we get off the bikes, we start. All that preparation is kind of wrong thinking. I've got to go up to that room and try and sleep in there. So they try to do other things to avoid death because it wasn't me, didn't smell like that and it wasn't there.


Nick Littlehales: [00:23:03] And somebody else suddenly they were go, I want to go up there because the air's fresh, it's nice and clean and everything else. My stuff is a fresh bad and I'm just going to go in, curl up and do it, get up and go. So we didn't even have to try and test it, you know, like track the dates it sleep night. There's no point because everybody just would love it. Just love it. Just love. All right. So awesome. I think although I was very much on the sort of fringes of the main objectives of performance of writers and equipments and technique, I was sort of in there in and around it actually with something that appeared to be the real sort of game changer, because when they sort of talked about it, it was always about those obvious things, nutrition and techniques and pedals and bikes. This this is like suddenly they had something that never talked about before, which is called sleeping. So when you hear it as you rattled off because British cycling was was managing team Sky, then British cycling road and track male and female Paralympic cyclists, all of those people we all benefit from the whole approach. That team, Scollay, was we were applying to Tim Scott. And so when you wandered into London 2012, it was just an amazing you've got better stuff that I have.


Nick Littlehales: [00:24:28] But it was just an amazing time of the Tour de France when a time trial is breaking world records again, which they thought they'd never be able to do. And in the background, all of these people were actually sleeping on their own sleep kits, not actually sleeping on the beds in hotels, just absolutely crazy, but provide consistency that I think it just an amazing time of realising that actually it was a large proportion we hear all the time. It's a third of your life. It's eight, nine hours a day. You probably spend more time doing this than anybody else. And yet we just don't even think about it. So I think that process was was just let's think about it. And I just happened to be the person who's actually been wandering around for maybe a decade thinking about it. Yeah. So that's why I got involved. And it was just simple, logical, crazy stuff that elite sports just never thought about before. Yeah, but fortunately, fortunately, I think the state of British cycling at the most at the time and everything else around it did create a unique set of circumstances where they would just have to look at everything. And that's probably the only reason I was involved in that, because that was the structure that created the car.


Jase Kraft: [00:25:46] I think you gave them the the home field advantage and sleep when we talk about especially in its par with every sport. But I'm in endurance sports, and when you have a meet or a race in near your hometown and you get to sleep in your own bed and then go race, I get so much better than trying to sleep in a hotel like you say, where you don't know how everything gets cleaned and all that kind of stuff. But you talk about in your book sleep, you talk about that the ideology of kind of eight hours is misguided. And we should start talking about sleep and cycles. And you mentioned 90 minute cycles. Can you explain more about what what are you doing in that cycle? What's the body doing? And why should we think about it in cycles instead of time?


Nick Littlehales: [00:26:43] I think any anybody in the clinical area sort of might get the impression that we're trying to encourage people to sleep less or to ignore this challenge. There's not. I think what I really struggled with is that if within the twenty four hour process, a human being should be a human adult, should have some sort of eight hour period presenting themselves to sleep to allow the brain to go through these different stages, rejuvenate and replenish, if that's the case where 30 percent of the twenty four hour period, that's where the silvertails comes from, that's fine. But how do you tell that to a nurse who works night shift? She has to sleep through the day. So that doesn't make sense to her about sleeping at night in a Monifa she's at. Working, right? So what, we can't do that, then you start looking at elite sports and they've got training sessions, they've got game times, they've got this, they've got traveling and everything else. I'm basically in the US with things like, you know, NHL, NBA coaches traveling for 60, 70 hours, going to games through time zones. And it's just like so how how do you how do you actually apply that? And if you look at research, it says if you you should get around eight hours, but if you only get six, you're likely to have a short life and things are going to go wrong.


Nick Littlehales: [00:28:09] So I think that's a worrying factor I've already got in my head. So it's kind of I can't really do it. And even if I allocate eight hours, you know, I'm sort of there lying in bed and sometimes I fall asleep quickly. Sometimes I can't get to sleep. Sometimes I wake up at two o'clock in the morning, three o'clock in the morning, going to the toilet or I've just woken up, got thoughts in my head and can't get back to sleep. Sometimes I wake up early. So actually all I'm doing is actually allocating theoretically an eight hour block with maybe an hour before and an hour afterwards to sort of come out of it and go into it, which is probably a 10 hour period. And yet the majority, it's on account of players and the majority of time I don't feel energized and replenishable. So I think when you had a world of nine to five on weekends off and no tech, you know, 24/7, probably got away with it. But when you shifted into the last couple of decades and when I was first coaching, there wasn't such a thing as an Ironman or triathletes, which just like weird things over there somewhere, I just wasn't there. So an extreme sports and all sorts of stuff and playing four times a week and different. So I think we've just the bit was how on earth am I going to be able to talk to a bunch of athletes and change their perception? And so inside a clinic, a lot of professors and clinicians I'd ever bump into and worked alongside in so many different directions, they would look at a 90 minute cycle.


Nick Littlehales: [00:29:42] It's called a poly monograph, and it takes the brainwave patterns of your frontal lobe and get wired up in a clinic. And they would look at that period of going through all the various stages because your brain wave and then they'd look at the next 90 minutes. So they're not looking at it in one big block. They're looking at it in a 90 minute cycle, because within that period, the brain will hop in and out these different stages of sleep, REM sleep, and there's sort of a balance. And then it'll start to change because as you're going through the process, the things changing. So the deeper sleep stages are normally revealed in the two cycles before 12:00 midnight and the two cycles afterwards, like between 10 p.m. and two a.m., the cycles between two a.m. and sort of into sunrise is more about like sleeping. So that's why they look at it like that as to when the client falls into the sleep state, if they can see. So five, 90 minute cycles is seven point five hours. That is the eight, but it's five cycles now.


Nick Littlehales: [00:30:44] So we're not moving away from this eight. We just saying this five cycles. We also know that up until electric light came along into our world, humans never tried to sleep in one block. So this eight hours is fine, but it's concentrated on monopsonistic block sleeping. But we never used to do that. It was always twice a day, three times. It's a biphasic Triphase Multiphasic. So because we were more aligned with the circadian rhythms and like Dockum temperature shifts, we slept like that. So be quite normal to wake up at two o'clock in the morning and be active for a cycle. So it's only the certain things that have been changing our behavior. So yeah, it's a big, long answer to your question. But what it was, is the strange thing is, is way back then the length of a football game in the UK is 90 minutes long with a break of 15 minutes in the middle. So immediately we've got a cycle with a break, like a stop period before you do something again. You can't go for 90 minutes and all that sort of stuff. But what we're trying to do is get five cycles in every twenty four hours because that equals seven point five hours. We want five, 90 minute cycles. So maybe we can get all five, 90 minute cycles nocturnally like have them do, or we can get those five cycles within that twenty four hour process.


Nick Littlehales: [00:32:03] So maybe four cycles nocturnally and define a little bit, maybe a midday cycle, maybe a late afternoon cycle, two phases of the day. Just so it just enabled us to think five cycles ago. Thirty five cycles in seven days. That's what we're targeting, that's what we're looking at. And it's a combination of back to back 90 minute cycles and also shorter 30 minute cycles, which we call CERP, is used to be called naps about. Then you start thinking about. So what we start with, instead of just wake up in the morning, there's only so many hours left, I need to try and sleep. Repeat, what we then started doing is like in every 24 hours, we have a consistent wait time because that's what sunrise is all about. That's what the brain loves. That's why we synchronize this process. Consistent weights on choppy 24 hours, up in 90 minute slots, usually 16 times in four phases of the day. What you do in the first phase of the day and midday, what you do to the second phase into early evening, what you do in the third phase into midnight and then midnight into the end. It's all about the first 90 minutes of, you know, the big important stage that sets you up for how this is going to go.


Jase Kraft: [00:33:15] And then when you say the 90 minutes of your if your day talking midnight to one one 30, are you talking like from the moment you wake up, when you wake up?


Nick Littlehales: [00:33:27] Because it's sort of it's so much I learn something from I'm not a military person. I don't have I but I got us to work with some Marines and the military people. Yeah. And I was just teaching them just like everybody else, because that's it. But what what came about was something they called a 180. And it is because you see so much stuff that you do not wants to be hanging around with you all the time. You've got to get rid of it. And my I, I might not describe it, but it was literally just go up to the wall, try to dump everything in that wall that you've got in your head of what you've just seen or what you've just experienced. Turn around completely as one idea and walk away from it. Doesn't mean to say that those things are going to disappear, but what it does say is you've got to leave them somewhere. So I think the point is you've got a nice, consistent way to use that all the time. All the time, because there's no point changing it.


Nick Littlehales: [00:34:25] Go to bed early or sleeping late and stuff like that. It's about rhythm to the patterns in twenty four hours. So my consistent wait time is six thirty, so I will wake any time. Five forty five, six o'clock, five past six, ten point six. Whatever the alarms just on at six thirty now the first 90 minutes between six thirty and eight o'clock. That's when. And this is why it's so important to understand your credit side because it's very easy for morning types like me to get up to hydrate fuel up bowel and bladder mental challenges, loads of light so I can become a sleep coach by eight o'clock. Right. For a piano boy, there are probably going to be snoozing and snoozing and snoozing because they're getting brought into the day. So what we say is the first 90 minutes of the first hour of your day, from the point of consistent wait time, forget what's just happened. Did you sleep well? Don't care how many kids don't care, but it's done so now. Hydrate fueler, gutteral challenges, bowel and bladder. Get on with it every 90 minutes. Just point your brain in a different direction for two minutes and change the visualization. It's a mindspace. It's a moment. It's a little bit of thing that just helps you and your brain going through this well. And then if you like me as an AMA, I do not want to be falling asleep at eight nine o'clock at night, which is what I am, is do they wake early and go to sleep early. So the way I protect that is I sleep four cycles at night, six hours between twelve thirty and six thirty. My consistent work, lots of little tiny breaks or I wouldn't even know I was doing them, you know. You wouldn't even know that were going on right. Yeah. But I put a thirty minute cycle in late afternoon because that's thirty percent of the ninety because I don't want to do a full 90, I just want to knock it out.


Nick Littlehales: [00:36:11] I just want to say, OK, I'm not even trying to say is that, is that time consistent where you put in thirty minutes.


Nick Littlehales: [00:36:18] It is consistent because I've been doing it for a while but for most to start it, there might be a bit of variability because they've got other behavioural things going on. But once you go between five and five thirty, I have got a very important meeting. So you want to do a podcast with me, but you can't do it in that half hour because I've got something else. That's something else is my thirty minute. Because whether I fall into a little microsleep or not, the more I more I've been doing as we couch this in the brain starts so that you know. Right. You know, you're little. Thirty minutes later on today at five o'clock next time I tell you we're probably going to microsleep you but and you start to think I might go somewhere a little bit more private or I might just make sure I'm not going to fall off the edge of a cliff just. Yeah, because I can feel it. But even if it doesn't fit, I still do it right. And it could be meditation, breathing, visualisation change. What happens is that takes the pressure off phase three.


Nick Littlehales: [00:37:16] So I'm not rushing around in phase three trying to get everything done. My step down, get my blue blocker glasses on, try not to eat like this because I've got to get to bed by eleven. I create some space. And if they're in that process from the. Point of work that didn't go very well last night, conversation with Brian Krakow did it up, it up nice, nice, nice Pangandaran. So when I said go right, I'm going to put myself to sleep now and I'm gonna curl up and take over. And maybe maybe we've got more chance of going through those six hours without disturbances and grabbing that deep sleep stuff in the early cycles and not being woken out of the light of sleep cycles. And I think once you start thinking like that, it becomes, you know, we hear about five a day vegetables and fruits and good balanced diets and all sorts of stuff that we're probably the unknown human performance. The sex factor is actually getting the five day cycles rolling 24/7. Is that enough? Because you just don't know about this.


Jase Kraft: [00:38:27] Let me ask you this. And for those first of all, I want to point out, you mentioned consistent wait time is, above all, kind of one of the main things that you need to do. Correct. And then you mentioned the five cycles of 90 minutes. So whether you do that at night or throughout the day, does everybody need five cycles or do like elite athletes or athletes? I train really hard. Is there any time where they would need six?


Nick Littlehales: [00:39:01] We talk we are in sort of all the conversations over the years trying to move from this mindset of get your out at night, which sounds even a little bit crazy when you look at the multi schedules of the modern world. But yeah, so you're trying to move from there to a different place and that sometimes takes a little bit of time to sort of get your head around it. What we're saying is, as you've mentioned it and in the sports that you're in with endurance. So I've got a cyclist who's doing one challenge, which is riding around Ireland. Yeah. And no sleep on a bike race across America, work with a number of clients, you know, thirteen days on a bike, racing against time and then not making it easy, just going down the tarmac, flat track. I mean, I reckon it's hard. So what you do is you use the same process to create a Multiphasic Recovery Program for that particular individual, for that particular period. So what you can do is you can bring them into it by changing those cycles, moving them around a little bit to see what's going to happen. They go into it. It's like pre during and post. They go into it and able to smash it and then they come out of it and go back to a normal approach. Right. Single handed round the world sailor, you know, let's say for three months on a boat stripped out the can only sleep. About twenty five things are in place. So then they would adopt a complete Multiphasic approach where they might have to be awake on deck for twenty four hours, 48 hours, because they can't leave the deck.


Nick Littlehales: [00:40:41] It's too dangerous. So if you go in to things like that with the mindset of I've got to get my eyes out, you wouldn't be able to do those things. Surgeon pilots, you know, you just wouldn't be able to do so. I think all it does is just define a little bit better, like, oh, here is a challenge. OK, now what we do, let's go, Huberman, let's go. Which is six times a day. Let's go four times a day. Let's go three times a day so we can we know where the best places to be in that. Twenty four cycles. So maybe two cycles between ten and twelve year we likely to get the deepest sleep stages, one or two cycles between 12 and two. We're to get it and balance this out and really try to make those thirty minute cycles. You know, you've probably heard about the pilots tend to work to twenty six minutes, you know, to try and get some recovery on long haul flights and things like that. So it's kind of once you start to get that you think, well, certainly the concept of there is your challenge, you want to do it and you want to smash it. But your mindset coming into about recovery has changed so that you can really take full advantage of it. So the the ride on race across America, we just mapi to a lot of there's a moment off the bike, hit the deck.


Nick Littlehales: [00:41:59] Twenty minutes, fetal position on the floor. Don't even take your helmets off type of thing. Bang back on the bike. Go but don't do it half an hour later because if you do it half an hour later, that we're going to miss it. Right. So we do it there. We do it there, there. And then you've got you can work out. I think there's there's different people out there with different things. Right. We're all a bit different. So there are some normality to this. But I think if you if you found that, you could really function in a healthy way. On maybe, you know, six hours a day, but then you can find this out. So if you've always got this much, I need to get my age or sleep nine or go to bed early or catch up in listen up. If you've got no you really don't know what is your optimum recovery program. You don't know how far you could push it. So a lot of people get into addictive behavior, trying to force themselves to sleep with sleeping tablets and melatonin supplements and all sorts of stuff like the forcing themselves into sleep. And when you get into that particular area, it becomes really dangerous. So you don't want to be getting into that area at all. But it's so easy to do that with this process. So before a major event, never mind in sport, my my partner, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, we're about to have a baby. Yeah. And am I doing my age?


Nick Littlehales: [00:43:31] I was quite happily when my partner is in hospital about to give birth to my first child, am I. I'm not bouncing around the world so completely out on adrenaline and everything else.


Nick Littlehales: [00:43:42] The excitement, obviously there's no way I'm sleepy. So even in the world of sport, choosing your moments where not to sleep or try to sleep and using other recovery techniques could be an absolute game-changer. Is actually not trying to sleep pre and post something because it's just too much going on. You don't want to be forcing yourself to sleep about that for hours, but there you go.

Jase Kraft: [00:44:14] All right. This part is over. We'll finish the conversation next week. But if you found value in this episode, please consider giving this review on iTunes. And if you haven't already subscribe. So now so you don't miss any important topics later. If you have any questions or suggestions for the show, please send them my way and most responsive on Instagram at JAe c h e e s e.


Jase Kraft: [00:44:42] Or you can email me directly at


Nick Littlehales

Sport Sleep Coach

Nick has developed the R90 Technique that has been proven time and time again to improve sleep for elite-level athletes. This is outlined in great detail in his book Sleep The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body & Mind. He has quite the resume when it comes to working with elite athletes and coaches. Among those that he has consulted includes Team Sky, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, New Zealand’s Olympic Rowing Squad, and various coaches within the NBA, NFL, and MLB.