Have you been getting enough sleep? Chances are you haven't, thanks to our hectic daily lives. But would you pay to sleep at the gym?
by Brenda Lau
During my usual scroll on Facebook, a shared post popped out: "This exercise is all sleep, no workout". It was a video by Mashable that showed individuals attending a class called that "Napercise" invented by David Lloyds Club in the UK. The class covered some light stretching, followed by 45 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. Granted that the participants looked like smiling angels in their sleep, my immediate my thought was, "Why would anyone want to pay to sleep at the gym?!"
But as I watched through 1 minute and 33 seconds of the video - slowly getting impressed by their fluffy blankets and beds - I realised that many of us have a terrible quality of sleep, This problem is mainly no thanks to our technological gadgets and increasing environmental noises.
Now, the million-dollar question was: Why is there a need for a gym to invent this class?
The importance of sleep
In our increasingly hectic lives, everyone wants to get more done in a day and we usually sacrifice sleep. When was the last time you slept early to get a full 8 hours of sleep? I have been guilty of sleeping less than 6 hours the past week.
Despite being able to function as normal the next day, too little sleep has in fact been linked to memory loss and other serious cognitive issues, as well as an increased risk for osteoporosis and cancer. So, regardless of how many hours you spend at the gym, no sleep can just negate the effect of your progress.
Your muscles are unable to recover, and your bones get brittle. Poor sleep habits may alter the intensity of your workout too, as you are less energised. The lack of sleep can also affect diet and eating habits where the regulation for your hunger hormones is interfered and increases your appetite during the day.
To put that to the test, a small study conducted by the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory followed a group of athletes for three weeks and increased their sleep. It resulted in marked improvements of performance such as faster sprint times, longer endurance and lower heart rates.
Understanding the sleep cycle
You may already know why it's important to sleep, but why do we need such long hours of sleep? Can't we just take short naps in between the day? It just doesn't work that way because of our sleep cycle.
The sleep cycle is made up of the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and and non-REM sleep. Each type is linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity and you typically go through all the stages of the sleep cycle four to five times during the night, with longer and deeper REM periods towards the morning.
Stage 1: Your body prepares you for sleep, hovering between being awake and falling asleep. Your breathing and heart rates become more regular.
Stage 2: Your body temperature drops and you become disengaged from your surroundings. Your eye movement stops and your body prepares you for deep sleep.
Stage 3: Your body temperature drops further and your heartbeat and breathing rate drops to a minimal level. Your blood pressure drops and your muscles relax, putting you in your deepest and most restorative sleep. This is the most important stage of sleep and short naps won't reach this stage.
Stage 4: Blood supply to your muscles increase and your body repairs itself, releasing hormones that are critical for recovery, growth and development.
Stage 5: You finally reach the REM stage where your brain is actually more active compared to when you're awake. This is when your dreams are most vivid and your brain processes and synthesizes memories and emotions from your day. Your eyes dart side-to-side and the rest of your muscles are paralysed to prevent you from acting out in your sleep. REM sleep stimulates the parts of the brain we use to learn.
So, why the importance of understanding this cycle?
Improving your sleep
I tracked my sleep cycle using an app (there are many out there) and realised that if I get woken up in the middle of the sleep cycle (usually at stage 3), I feel disoriented and groggy.
So despite the adage that you need 8 hours of sleep each night, the more accurate advice is that you should complete your sleep cycles over the course of the night. The same goes for naps. It is recommended to keep it to 15-20 minutes or finish the entire 90-minute cycle until you're back at stage one. You could manually calculate your timings or rely on an app like I do (trust me it's easier).
Finally, exercise and sleep are correlated to one another. A recent study in Lipids in Health and Disease concluded that exercise can help increase insulin sensitivity and sleep quality, decreasing body fat percentage and sleep apnea.
Having quality sleep can lead to more energised workouts while exercise can lead to better sleep. Planning out your sleep and exercise schedule will help you be the best version of yourself the next day!
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