If you’ve ever thought about skipping the gym and opting for a nap instead, we’ve got some news for you. A fitness club in the UK actually lets you do both. David Lloyd Clubs made international headlines for its newest class: Napercise.
During the 45-minute class, members are encouraged to curl up in a pile of blankets and doze off. The class includes light stretching to release tension, relaxing music, sleep masks and plenty of blankets to help create a restful environment.
“Even 10–15 full minutes asleep — the power nap — will temporarily improve mental operations, performance, reaction times and subjective feelings of alertness,” notes Fiona Kerr, PhD, neural specialist at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Here are five reasons to grab a blanket and lie down.
1. NAPPING IS BETTER THAN CAFFEINE
Experiencing an afternoon slump? Skip the soda and take a nap. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that a 15–20-minute nap was better than caffeine for overcoming afternoon energy dips.
“Coffee not only does not have the same refreshing effects, but decreases memory performance and increases the number of mistakes made, so it may elicit the feeling of alertness but it is not a substitute for sleep,” Kerr says.
2. NAPPING BENEFITS HEART HEALTH
Taking a midday nap lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart disease, according to research presented at the 2015 European Society of Cardiology conference. Longer naps were associated with more positive impact on the arteries and heart.
3. NAPPING ENHANCES ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
You already know exhaustion can leave you feeling too sluggish to hit the gym or lead to a lackluster workout. Researchers at Stanford University found that getting 10 hours of sleep (including naps) improved the training and performance of elite college athletes.
4. NAPPING IMPROVES CREATIVITY
REM sleep, the stage of sleep associated with dreaming, could boost creative problem solving. Research found that those who napped or had periods of quiet rest (without falling asleep) came up with more creative approaches to solving problems than those who remained focused on the problems. The next time you feel stuck writing a report, take a quick snooze.
“Short-term memory only has a certain capacity for information storage, and this has to be cleared before the brain can absorb new information,” Kerr says. “Thus it appears that napping before learning or tackling creative and challenging problems, is as important as it is to nap afterwards.”
5. NAPPING HELPS WITH WEIGHT LOSS
There is no substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise, but napping could help shift the number on the scale. One study showed women who slept fewer than five hours per night were 15% more likely to be obese than women who slept at least seven hours per night.
It’s believed that fatigue affects the hormones that control hunger, leading you to consume more calories and choose less healthy foods.
If you struggle to get enough sleep at night, a nap can help, according to Natalie Dautovich, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and an environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation.
For the best results, Dautovich suggests lying down earlier in the afternoon to decrease the odds that the nap will interfere with your nighttime sleep. (One study found napping between 3–5 p.m. resulted in more efficient sleep than napping later.)
“Timing a nap for the post-lunch dip in alertness that occurs in mid-afternoon will help you to fall asleep quickly yet still have enough time before bed to replenish your sleep drive,” she explains.
Aim to sleep fewer than 20 or longer than 60 minutes, which will keep you in the shallow stages of sleep and ensure you don’t wake up feeling groggy — set the alarm to avoid oversleeping.