Book Review: Sleep by Nick Littlehales

Good quality sleep is vital for your physical and mental health. This book gives you an insight into why it’s so important, and how to improve your sleep.

Nick Littlehales is the former sales & marketing director of Slumberland, the mattress company. He went on to become the ‘sleep coach’ for Manchester United Football Club. He persuaded manager Alex Ferguson to create a ‘nap room’ for the players to catch a power nap between morning and afternoon sessions. Players who napped were more alert in the afternoon.

YouTube has an excellent interview with Nick Littlehales, hosted by Dr Rangan Chatterjee: The Sleep Hacking Secrets of the World’s Top Athletes. I recommend it.

The strapline of Sleep is “The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge your Body and Mind.” Nick advocates 5 x 90 minute sleep cycles per 24 hours, rather than 8 hours unbroken sleep per night. Waking up in the night is natural, he says, and advises the reader not to worry about it.

The book explores the concept of circadian rhythms, our sleep/wake patterns over each 24 hour period. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology, and Nick goes into some detail about how specific hormones trigger wakefulness and sleepiness.


This crucial hormone is commonly known as the ‘sleep hormone’, as it primes us for sleep. Melatonin is produced in the brain in reaction to darkness, which is why it’s vital to restrict bright light in the hour before bed. That means no electronic gadgets or TV before you sleep, something most people find challenging. Vitamin B12 helps produce melatonin.


This is the wake-up hormone, triggered by natural light in the morning to help you become alert after a night’s sleep. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, and too much throughout the day is not healthy, particularly when you’re preparing for bed.

Sleep Disruptors to Avoid

Eating late in the evening

Irregular work schedules


Bright light in the hour before bed and light in bedroom at night

Caffeine after 12 noon


Lack of exercise


Poorly ventilated/dirty/cluttered bedroom

Bedroom that’s too warm

Illness and chronic health conditions

Unfamiliar sleep environment (such as hotel rooms)

Noises at night

Eliminate as many of these ‘sleep disruptors’ as possible, and your quality of sleep will improve significantly.

(Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and an online nutrition coach)

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