(Telegraph) The 40-winks workout: the UK’s first group napping class, tried and tested
About 10 years ago I joined a fancy gym – I went six times, which worked out at £100 a swim. Since then I have not been tempted to join another temple of treadmills. Now, though, I’ve found a class that is right up my street. It’s called Napercise and it involves nothing but taking a doze in the middle of the day.
Aimed at exhausted parents and stressed professionals, Napercise consists of 45-minute group sleep sessions designed to “reinvigorate the mind, improve moods and burn calories”, according to the organisers, David Lloyd. It’s the 40-winks workout. Finally, I have found my fitness calling.
The class takes place in a fitness studio filled with beds with fluffy duvets. The temperature of the room is kept low to help us burn more calories. We all jump into bed and snuggle up quickly, before putting our eye masks on. Then, as our beefed-up instructor, Martin Tanner, tells us that he will be walking around in case any of us get nightmares, we get the giggles.
“Quiet now, calm down,” he says. “Get ready for a nice, relaxing nap…” We settle. Then he says, “Night, night,” and we’re all off again. Giggling under the duvets like kids in summer camp.
And then that’s it. The lights have been left on. I wait for sleep to come. I find myself wondering if this is the strangest fitness trend I’ve covered. Is falling asleep with perfect strangers at 3pm weirder than the oxygen-deprivation workout or doing yoga while upside down?
I don’t think so. Because as nuts as it sounds, napping classes make some sense. Most of us are exhausted and sleep-deprived – especially those with young children. And it’s affecting not only our mood and concentration but our physical health.
Sleep expert Kathryn Pinkham, who helped create Napercise, says: “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.”
This is why sleep has become the health holy grail, with the likes of Arianna Huffington urging people to “sleep to the top” – literally – in her book The Sleep Revolution.
Some companies, including Ben and Jerry’s and Google, already have nap pods, and Huffington predicts nap rooms in offices are going to be “as common as conference rooms” in the next two years.
Studies show naps make us more productive, creative and happier – a feeling dubbed “nappiness”. They can also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Former prime ministers Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher both claimed to have slept just four hours a night, but took regular daytime naps. But is it really a good idea to go to the gym to do it?
Professor Jim Horne, a sleep neuroscientist, thinks not. “A 45-minute nap is too long. Short naps can be beneficial but only when they are between 15 and 20 minutes. After 20 minutes you fall into a heavier rest and when you wake up you feel groggy and heavy-limbed. It’s a form of jet lag. Your body doesn’t understand why you were asleep when you should be awake.
“I also wonder how relaxing it is to be lying in a room with strangers. The novelty of this environment sounds more stimulating than relaxing.” Finally, Prof Horne dashes claims that the low temperature of the room will burn calories: “If you are under a warm duvet, it doesn’t matter what the temperature of the room is.”
At the gym, I never quite nod off to sleep. Instead my thoughts wander to the dry cleaning I needed to collect and my supermarket shopping list. Just as I feel I am beginning to slip into a dream, Martin tells us to come back around.
“Who managed to fall asleep?” he asks. One man puts his hand up.
“And hands up who felt relaxed?” We all put our hands up. Maybe that’s enough. Prof Horne admits that just taking time for yourself, closing your eyes and relaxing can be beneficial and, while it seems ridiculous to drive to a gym to do it, for people who cannot find a quiet minute at home without being disturbed by children, this might be a good idea. In our go-go-go world it’s more acceptable to say you are going to the gym than going for a nap.
“You are all napercised!” says Martin, on our way out. “And remember, this is the first ever group napping class. You’ll go down in history.” I just wish someone had turned the lights off.