I Took Naps During Work For a Week
And I think you should too.
Published Sep 3, 2018 9:45 AM
Dear reader, I’m tired. And more than likely, so are you. Between our increasingly fast-paced, plugged-in, work environments, and screen-filled downtime, Americans simply aren’t finding enough time to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s quarterly Sleep Health Index report, only 27 percent of Americans are getting the recommended sleep time of seven to nine hours per weeknight. (Sixty-five percent get less sleep than that, and 8 percent get more.) Personally, I find myself getting between six to seven hours of shut-eye per night, when I well know that I feel my best after eight.
I’ve found that particularly poor stretches of inconsistent sleep leave me drowsy and unfocused by midday, wreaking havoc on my productivity and efficiency. I set out to find a solution to this disconcerting stagnation and discovered power napping. The National Sleep Foundation states that just twenty to thirty minutes of power napping can “improve alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.” You might be saying “That sounds nice, but I can’t just cozy up and start napping in front of my boss!” I understand, and am not (necessarily) suggesting you become that person with a sleeping bag under your desk. I found that leaving work for thirty minutes each afternoon to power nap improved my midday energy and productivity far more than a trenta-sized cup of coffee. How did I find a way to sneak in those thirty minutes of sweet sweet repose? Like many of life’s questions, I found the answer where I least expected it.
Perched at the corner of 36th street and 7th avenue, in one of the most hectic stretches of Manhattan (only blocks from both Times Square and Penn Station), you’ll find an all black exterior with the playful, yet direct name, “Nap York,” emblazoned in white, glowing letters. Happening upon this enigmatic storefront on my daily walk to the Domino offices, I made it my mission to discover what was inside. “Could this place actually be some kind of venue for…naps?,” I thought, incredulously, as the City that Never Sleeps honked and chattered around me.
As I would come to discover through a conversation with Nap York founder, James Wong, and a week of first hand experimentation (read, midday naps) my quizzical surmise was right on the mark. Nap York is a “premiere wellness club”; a plant-filled, oasis-like environment offering a variety of wellness services ranging from a healthy cafe and quiet workspace, to intimate yoga and meditation classes, to (true to their name) 24/7 “nap pods.” Available to rent by the half-hour, Nap York is on a mission to make the use of nap pods as normal as your midday caffeine fix, and give New Yorkers (and eventually the world at large) some much needed rest. Determined to put this new concept to the test, I took matters into my own hands, taking four consecutive naps in a single week (all between 2 and 3 P.M.), and documenting each experience
I approached Nap #1 as one might a first date; intrigued, excited, and a bit nervous. It was the middle of a work day, and here I was about to attempt a nap? Was this even legal as a working adult? I decided to take my chances given all the buzz I had heard around the rejuvenating benefits of power napping. I was in prime form to test these benefits given I was coming off a weekend of late nights and early mornings. As I walked through the doors of Nap York at 2:30 P.M., I was in the depths of post-lunch fatigue, and fully ready to give midday napping a try.
A whispering Nap York team member led me from the delightfully plant-filled cafe, to the silent second floor, past a towering security guard (on duty to ensure nappers remain undisturbed) and a row of snake plants to my pod; an elevated, all-black nook, wreathed in yet more plantlife, the entrance enclosed by a blackout curtain. After stowing my watch, wallet, and phone in the under-bed storage, I clambered into the pod.
Developed specifically for Nap York, the stand-alone pods span 6 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. These dimensions were selected to be spacious enough to accommodate a wide range of body types, as well as those of us who experience claustrophobia. How do linens and cleanliness work? Each pod is fitted with an Airweave mattress wrapped in vegan leather which allows for it to be fully sanitized between each use. While a standard nap does not include traditional bed linens (you can upgrade to use them), each napper receives a fresh pillow and blanket to cozy up with. Think of it like falling asleep on your comfy (vegan) leather sofa at home.
The most magical feature of the nap pod is the “starry sky” ceiling display. Comprised of hundreds of twinkling lights, this feature was added to further alleviate any anxiety stemming from claustrophobia, by making the room feel more expansive (this worked for me!). For Nap #1 I enjoyed the sparkle for a few moments before switching the lights off in order to get down to napping.
Was it strange attempting to fall asleep in the middle of a Monday in a spaceship bed? Certainly. After tucking the restaurant-style buzzer under my pillow (A Nap York attendant buzzes you awake once you’ve reached your desired nap length) I settled in on my back and struggled to quiet the steady stream of ideas and to-do’s racing around my cranium. I used some meditative breathing to begin slowing down and drifting off into a peaceful daze somewhere between sleep and consciousness.
Although my power napping debut was not perfect (it took a while to get comfortable, and outside rustling and buzzing perked my brain up at inconvenient moments), the fact I was able to briefly disconnect from one of the world’s busiest cities on my lunch break was still a revelation. Although I didn’t fall into a deep sleep (Wong noted that most people are not able to their first time, as one’s body isn’t accustomed to the new setting), I returned to the office with diminished grogginess and a light buzz of energy. Color me intrigued.
My Tuesday nap arrived at 2:30 P.M. and boy, was I ready. Slogging through a low-energy afternoon, I had my comfiest work pants on and was down to nap. I fussed with my slightly-small blanket, waited for the motion-detecting light at the end of the pod to go dark, and drifted off quite swiftly.
I must have fallen fully asleep, as I awoke some time later, startled by the sound of my own snoring. I apologize to any adjacent nappers, I’m rarely a snorer, so I blame it on adjusting to the new pillow height. Falling back asleep wasn’t happening, so I decided to use the rest of my remaining time (with no visible clock, I had no idea how much time had passed) to practice meditation. The lack of visual distraction made my pod an ideal location for this practice, and I had much better results than I typically do in my Chinatown walk-up.
Leaving Nap York, I was still yawning a bit, but my mind felt much sharper and able to focus (not something that coffee really does for me). I was raring to get back to the office and write. I found this to be a pretty extraordinary mental shift considering the state in which I arrived. As Wong described to me on the way out, “it’s like diving to the bottom of a pool. You just need to touch the bottom (deep sleep) and then you’re ready to go back up.”
Wednesday. Hump Day. The mid-week stretch. By day three I did not feel overly sleepy, but was definitely feeling an overall sense of midweek fatigue. By now, I was much more adept at finding my pod, arranging my various sundries, and nestling into a chiropractor-recommended supine position.
This time, In order to settle my mind I spent 5 minutes with the ceiling-star-lights on so my brain could have something to focus on while changing gears to Nap Mode.
There was not much to report on the sleep front here. After a first act of flirting with sleep, I eventually slipped off. I’m not sure if I hit deep sleep, but it took the buzzer to bring me back to the world. Back at my desk, I felt more alert and able to close out my day with my new form of energy—sharp and calm.
The final day of my experiment and parting is such sweet sorrow! By this time I’m already feeling a personal cadence begin to develop. Come midday I’m looking forward to the mental and physical break that a quick nap provides. While there are many healthy ways to reset mentally (a quick walk around the block is a go-to for me), there was something unique about completely unplugging from exterior stimulation that really got my brain back in fighting form.
By Nap #4 I felt at ease in my pre-nap routine and at peace with my choice of lunch break activity. I hoped that this would be the round that I masterfully dropped into a deep sleep after 5 minutes and popped back up fresh as a daisy half an hour later. While this didn’t happen for me (still a majority drowsy-but-not-quite-asleep resting) I still emerged feeling better than I went in. Furthermore, I’m convinced that just as with any skill, given the proper commitment and practice, I could train my body to get the most out of these brief forays into sleep and become a pro-napper.
Where do we go from here?
On domino.com alone, we’ve written ninety stories on the topic of sleep, nearly all on ways to improve your sleep, from pajamas, to supplements, to beauty products. And yet, while I have an intense interest in designing all aspects of my life, I’ve yet to design the necessary ratio of rest into my day. Given I have the privilege of a balanced, wellness-friendly workplace, one can imagine the extents to which our cultural de-prioritization of sleep must be undermining the health of those in fields such as medicine, or public service, that call for prolonged or inconsistent shifts.
Studies have shown that functioning with 17-19 hours of sleep debt can impair one’s cognitive functioning to the same extent as being intoxicated, and yet, we continue show up to work, still attempting to function efficiently. If you need that broken down in terms of dollars, according to a study by the NIH, insufficient sleep costs the U.S. around $411 billion each year in lost performance. While generally sleeping enough each night is a lifestyle challenge that depends on environmental factors and personal discipline, our workplaces can do more to relieve our exhaustion. I have a bold solution: Each workplace should provide facilities and opportunity for mid-shift power napping. That’s right, just in the days of our youth, each of us should have the option to take a workday nap when our nightly rest isn’t cutting it.
If this sounds juvenile, consider the fact that in recent years leading companies like Google, Facebook, and the Huffington Post have each instituted “nap pods” in their corporate facilities. Why would some of the world’s most innovative and productive companies provide employees with this opportunity if it did not in fact drive overall productivity? From my perspective, my team would benefit more from me disconnecting from our busy work environment, recharging, and coming back sharp and vital, than having me lose focus and energy by sitting in one chair, locked into one screen, for nine straight hours. Therefore, whether you work for a three person startup, or a multi-national corporation, I encourage you to have a conversation with your Human Resources representative about destigmatizing napping in your workplace. Be it membership to a service like Nap York, an in-office nap pod, or a quiet phone room, where there’s a will to nap, there’s a way to nap.
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