Naps or Laps: Why You Should be Running Instead of Sleeping

Written By: Liam Watts

Ask nearly any student on campus how they’re feeling, and you’ll probably hear “I’m tired” more than once. As reported by a New Zealand study conducted in 2014, fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms to doctors; 36% of all patients report fatigue. Strangely, it seems college students are even more susceptible to this syndrome. Just asking around, it feels like the number of fatigued students must be closer to 75% or even 100%.

I’m tired, you’re tired. We’re all tired, but how do we deal with fatigue?

Some say it’s a matter of going to bed earlier and drinking more coffee. Others say we should be sleeping later, and taking more naps. Well, according to research conducted by Virginia Tech, there are four different types of fatigue that students deal with: physiological fatigue, physical fatigue, psychological fatigue, and mixed fatigue. Physiological fatigue is linked to stress: it’s the feeling of being exhausted by everything you must do. Physical fatigue is tangible fatigue resulting from overworking or sickness. Psychological fatigue is a fatigue that results from issues like depression and anxiety. Mixed fatigue is the combination of any number of these.

After analyzing the results of their findings, Virginia Tech reported that by far the most common form of fatigue facing students is physiological. They discovered that most student fatigue can be linked to stress, which has further effects such as lower rates of productivity and poor sleep. The problem isn’t necessarily that students are “tired” because they are not getting enough sleep, but because the sleep they do get is being ruined by stress. Additionally, stress can result in less energy and worse concentration in the short term. If this is true, rather than sleeping more, students need to find ways to reduce their stress, which will improve their sleep and lower this short-term fatigue.

Taking this information and building on it, researchers at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne conducted a study to find if exercise and cardio could not only lower stress and fatigue in the long term by improving sleep but could also be more beneficial for increasing energy and concentration in the short term. They did this by comparing baseline scores on a concentration test with scores taken after fifteen minutes of running, and after fifteen minutes of rest. Their results demonstrated that not only can doing short amounts of cardio improve feelings of energy and levels of concertation in the short term, but it can even be more beneficial than resting. This benefit, of course, comes in addition to the long-proven effects of cardio and physical exercise on stress reduction.

So, perhaps rather than more sleep, what students really need is better sleep. Reducing stress is one of the most important components to getting good sleep, and luckily not only is cardio an amazing way to relieve stress, but it also has benefits to energy and concentration in the short term. So, next time you’re feeling tired and worn out, perhaps consider taking a lap instead of taking a nap.