Sleepless In New York? Try A Nap Inside A Pod.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The last protesters have gone home, but the remaining bleary-eyed Republicans may want to put their feet up for a quick nap. They might consider trying the trick savvy New Yorkers have found to beat the 2 p.m. office slump: power napping. Nestled on the 24th floor of the Empire State Building, MetroNaps has become a haven for the stressed cubicle dweller. For $14 a pop, the budding enterprise offers 20-minute naps that guarantee to leave the customer feeling rested. "Twenty minutes is long enough to leave you feeling rejuvenated without the drowsy effects of a longer sleep," explains Christopher Lindholst, who founded the company along with partner Arshad Chowdhury.

And to make sure those 20 minutes are as restful as possible, the two men have turned napping into a science.

They custom built the trademarked "pod chair," a swank spherical container that takes its design cues from Stanley Kubrick and the Jetsons. The upper part of the chair blocks out the sight of fellow nappers, while the lower portion adjusts to raise or lower the feet. The room is cooled to a comfortable temperature, and white noise blocks out the city below.

The entire napping process is designed to be quick and easy - the drowsy can walk in, store their bags in a locker, and be asleep within minutes.

The lights around the chair dim to initiate the nap, and when the 20 minutes are up, the back of the chair gently vibrates and the lights slowly come back on.

After visiting the "freshening up" station - complete with breath mints, sprays, and towelettes - the napper can be out the door within 25 minutes.

Mr. Chowdhury first got the idea for MetroNaps when he noticed the toll of sleepiness on his coworkers. He decided to leave his banking career and team up with Mr. Lindholst to start Metronaps. Although they've been in business only a few months, offers have already come in to franchise the pods.

"Airports, hospitals, bus terminals, office buildings, anywhere people get tired and might want to nap, have all shown interest," says Lindholst. Each pod costs about $7,950.

"As a society, most of us don't get enough sleep," says Rita Cheek, a professor at Montana State University in Bozeman who studies napping. "There is no single napping period that is most restful. The 20-minute nap is most well known ... but it really depends on the total amount of sleep you are getting in a 24-hour period.

"Power napping" is already popular in several European countries and Japan, where a study released earlier this month by the National Institute of Industrial Health concluded that for workers who took a 15-minute nap during the post-lunch period, "perceived alertness was significantly higher in the afternoon after the nap than after no nap." For most MetroNappers, it's all in the style. "The nap was really nice, and that room is pretty interesting," says Erin Stratford, a New Yorker who works in the area. "If it was a little cheaper, I think I would come here all the time."

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