Napercise! The fitness class where the workout is a 45 minute power doze.
The Scots have brought us some pretty impressive innovations. Notable examples are Alexander Graham Bell who gave us the telephone, John Logie Baird who gave us the television, and Sir Alexander Fleming who gave us penicillin. Tip of the tam to all three.
And though it may be a tad premature, future generations might want to add David Lloyd to that list. He's trying to bring us…sleep. While he didn't invent it (angels did that), he is trying to make sure people get much more of it. At his fitness club in Gloucester you can "work out" by sleeping for a full 45 minutes in a comfy single bed. He'll even make sure the temperature is lowered and dulcet tones conducive to slumber are played as you take the snuggle train to sleepytown. As ridiculous as it sounds, from an overall fitness and well-being standpoint, it's pretty revolutionary.
Lloyd's ultimate aim isn't just fitness, exactly. He wants to address the UK's "tiredness epidemic", though they're not the only sleepy nation. In fact, Canadians don't get enough shuteye and sleep deprivation is considered an epidemic of global proportions (45% of humans need more pillow time). Those hit hardest are new parents who typically lose two hours of sleep per night during their baby's first five months and then about an hour a night until their child is two. That sleep debt is tough to repay. At the end of the day (literally), five hours of sleep a night is the norm for 26% of new moms and dads. Bloodshot, puffy eyes and life-crushing exhaustion is the norm for almost all of them though: about 86% report feeling fatigued. That life-crushing qualifier isn't an overstatement. Sleep deprivation increases one's chances of heart disease, diabetes and a barrage of mental health issues.
Kathryn Pinkham, a sleep and dream expert, who helped develop Napercise with Lloyd says fatigue brings with it a "higher risk of developing anxiety or depression." Of course, parents aren't the only ones at risk. Unsurprisingly, Pinkham also says "sleep is a lot more important than people realise" and we need to stop thinking of the obvious short-term consequences of not getting enough rest. Simply being tired the next day is the least of it.
Weight gain is another detrimental consequence of sleep deprivation. So it's actually quite sound to call Napercise a proper fitness class, even though the goal is sleep, not sweat. Pinkham confirms that "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."
The true benefit of Napercise, it seems, is actually stress management or rather, cortisol management. Our stress hormone cortisol spikes when we're stretched too thin causing our bodies to cling to existing fat while simultaneously making us crave both high-carb and high-fat foods. A classic double whammy. That response is a throwback to our cave human days, when stress usually meant food was scarce and survival was threatened. Sleep, you may have guessed, regulates cortisol.
Still, if you can only justify making time for a fitness class that promises to burn calories, note that Napericise has you covered there too. At least a little. According to Dr Steven Halls, a Canadian doctor who manages the pretty hilarious fitness site Moose and Doc, we burn calories (even while sleeping) based on body weight. About .42 calories for every pound we weigh per hour of sleep. A human who weighs 150 lbs will burn up to 63 calories during every 60 minute cycle of restorative rest. Those calories, he says, are "used to maintain essential functions in the body." That maintenance, David Lloyd and countless health care practitioners will tell you, is crucial for overall long-term health.
Given what we know about the benefits of sleep, it's surprising we haven't seen sleep workouts offered before now. Lloyd really is something of a pioneer. Though his class is only in the trial stages at his club, he hopes to offer it to the whole of Scotland and the UK before long. If he's right and the fitness and health benefits of sleep get embraced by the tired masses of planet Earth, gyms all over the world will be trading their treadmills for mattresses.
One can only dream.