Taking fitness goals to a whole new level, a gym franchise in the UK is offering a trial run of "Napercise" classes this weekend. According to David Lloyd Clubs' website, the 45-minute sleep sessions are "designed to help reinvigorate the mind, body, and even burn the odd calorie."
Playfully dubbed the "40 Winks Workout," the class is targeted at sleep-deprived parents, giving them the opportunity to climb under the covers in the middle of the afternoon and drift off to some "atmospheric sounds." Additionally, as participants dose off in their single beds, the temperature of the studio will be lowered to a level that "promotes calorie burning during sleep," the website notes.
The idea comes from recent research conducted by the franchise that found that 86 percent of parents admit to suffering from fatigue. "Filling an exercise studio with beds might look unusual, but if it proves to be a success, we're definitely excited at the possibility of rolling out the programme to more of our clubs down the line," a spokesperson noted in the gym's announcement.
The sleep sessions were developed in a partnership with bed retailer Dreams. In a statement, the company's sleep expert Kathryn Pinkham stressed the importance of getting plenty of sleep. "We tend to focus on the short-term effects such as being tired or lacking concentration, but it is also essential for our long-term physical and mental wellbeing too. In addition to a lack of sleep bringing with it a higher risk of developing anxiety or depression, when we are sleep deprived we lack the energy to exercise regularly, and also the mental clarity to make good decisions about the food we eat, which could negatively impact our physical health in the long-run."
Although a little unconventional, the "Napercise" classes could have real health benefits. According to a study published 2003, a brief nap between 60 and 90 minutes was found to be as beneficial as an eight-hour night of sleep. Even researchers at NASA believe a 40-minute nap can improve alertness and performance.
Although she finds the concept a bit odd, Rebecca Spencer, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says "Napercise" classes could help people who don't have the space or time to go home and nap, such as travelers, commuters, or university students who don't live on campus. "I think sleep should be individual though, not in group format, but whatever works," she says. "Anytime someone sleeps, it serves a function—sleep benefits memory, decision making, mood, and immune health."
Michael Grandner, director of University of Arizona's Sleep & Health Research Program, says the concept is "a great idea." "There is a large and growing literature showing that sleep is important in overall health and fitness, alongside exercise," he tells Broadly. "People who don't get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight, more likely to have trouble losing weight, and more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes. Not only does sleep promote cardiovascular and metabolic health, better mental functioning, and optimal healing/recovery, there is also data that shows that changes in sleep can produce changes in the food you eat and your ability to exercise."
"This program could probably help in two ways," he continues. "First, it provides a formal, structured time and environment in order to actually make it happen. It's too easy to make excuses unless you have it on your schedule. Second, even when people can take the time, they often don't have a good environment for it. Office environments are rarely conducive to sleep. Most people don't quite have the time to go all the way home. And even if they can, the home environment may be too distracting."
The real question is, could "Napercise" fly in the US? Spencer thinks it's possible, thanks to the interest in nap pods and other accommodations in many workplaces like Google and Proctor & Gamble today.
Grandner is a little more hesitant. "The US, with its work-hard/play-hard culture, doesn't leave much time for sleep," he says, "There are many incentives in the US for sleeping less, but hopefully the conversation is changing."