JIM DODSON: The Afternoon Nap Revolution
I was relaxing in my favorite office chair at the world headquarters of PineStraw Magazine the other afternoon, deeply in thought following a large buffet lunch, when I heard our summer intern blithely advise an unscheduled visitor, "It's OK. You can go ahead in. The editor's just taking his afternoon nap."
I immediately sat up and shuffled some important-looking press releases on my desk.
"Hell-oooo? Are we awake-ee yet?" cooed the visitor, gently knocking on my door as she poked her head inside my office. She had a bright halo of tangerine hair and a face like an Irish setter.
"Yes, please, come in," I replied, my eye catching a useful line from a PR release about something or other. "I'm merely reviewing potential scenarios for the expansion of the existing paradigm."
"Catching a nap, eh?" she said with a wink. "That's OK, dear. I'm a great believer in afternoon naps. I make all my kids take them. If everybody in America took a 90-minute nap after lunch, believe me, this country would be in a lot better shape than it is."
She turned out to be a second-grade teacher doing summer volunteer work for a certain presidential candidate, dropping by to invite me to a reception for a campaign surrogate who'd recently had morning coffee with the candidate's leading Southern strategist to talk about certain issues on the evolving domestic agenda.
In other words, the campaign was also reviewing potential scenarios for the expansion of the existing paradigm.
"Maybe you should get an office napping pod," she suggested, handing me her press release on the upcoming reception. "They're the latest thing in fatigue risk management, you know."
"What's a napping pod?" I asked, wondering if The Pilot had a policy on fatigue risk management.
"Napping pods are the latest thing in power-nap technology, all the rage in big cities -- any place workers need relief from stress and fatigue. Hospitals and law offices have them. Artists, too. Basically, you climb in and settle back, shut the lid and off you go to a happier place. Ninety minutes later, you're a new man.
"Sounds kind of scary," I said, trying to picture myself nodding off in a pod after a large buffet luncheon. I might not wake up for days.
"On the contrary," she said. "Remember how pleasant it was when you were in kindergarten and you spread out your towel on the floor after lunch and took a nap? It's just like that -- only for grown-ups. They even have napping spas and sleep salons now where you can go and pay 50 bucks for a nice refreshing nap."
"Fifty bucks for a nap?" I was aghast. But I was also still a wee bit sleepy. Thanks to my insensitive summer intern, I'd been brought back from my happier afternoon place 20 minutes prematurely.
"One of the biggest challenges this country faces is chronic sleepiness," she said. "We've become a nation of sleep-deprived workaholics."
"You sound like you're running for office," I told her. "Or maybe selling napping pods."
She laughed. "Oh, no. I'm just a teacher who knows a cranky child who could use a good nap when I see one."
She glanced meaningfully around our somewhat cramped magazine office and smiled.
"Why, you've got enough room here to have your own sleep salon," she said. "Talk about being part of the napping revolution."
'Lunchtime With Sandman'
After she left, I went online to see if there really were any such things as "napping pods" or "sleep salons." At the risk of sounding like a cranky 6-year-old, I had my doubts.
But from The Washington Post's foreign service desk came an eye-opening report from Fukuora, Japan, about how high school teachers are dimming the lights and putting on classical music every day after lunch so students can catch a little shuteye in the afternoon doldrums.
"In a nation known for its tireless diligence, the students have joined a repose revolution that has investment bankers and bureaucrats sharing lunchtime with the sandman," reported correspondent Anthony Faiola.
A flurry of scientific findings, high-profile news reports and popular books on the subject of sustaining mental alertness, Faiola noted, have fanned the flames of a grassroots power-napping rage. Public schools are adopting after-lunch siestas, and department stores are selling office "desk pillows" at a brisk pace.
Citing statistics that show a marked improvement in mental functioning abilities following short naps of anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, students and employees now select their schools and work places based on their institutional napping policies. In sum, it's now fashionable to sleep on the job.
"In the past two years," Faiola wrote, "nap salons, as they're known, have popped up in major Japanese cities. One such salon in central Tokyo boasts some 1,500 members. Fatigued office workers can take a brief lunchtime nap on a daybed there for the equivalent of about $4.50."
The article concluded that in the office of Japan's Environmental Ministry and the headquarters of Toyota Motor Corp., employees can be seen unabashedly dozing off on company time, power napping into the 21st century. A side benefit of the trend, the Post notes, is that companies can now turn off lights at lunchtime to save energy.
Afternoon Napping Revolution
Needless to say, I was pleased to think I've actually been miles ahead of the international snoozing revolution for years with my daily private post-lunch reflections on expanding the existing paradigm. But then I Googled some place called Yelo and discovered I'm actually pretty far behind the trend in afternoon napping.
Situated on busy 57th Street in the heart of "The City that Never Sleeps," Manhattan's swankiest "sleep salon -- a Midtown sanctuary for the sleep-deprived urban warrior" offers its member clients 40-minute cat naps and a host of revitalizing spa services, such as foot and shoulder massage.
For a kick, I watched a video in which the owner walked a prospective client into an environmentally controlled "Yelo Cab" (nap cabin) and explained how the combination of dimmed mood-altering lights, customized sound and aromas combine to make the user "feel like a 5-year-old again" while experiencing the known therapeutic benefits of napping. One recent study by a prominent medical school, for example, showed that a short afternoon nap three times a week can cut the risk of a heart attack by 37 percent.
At Yelo, for about $75 (including the massage), the client can even awaken to a "simulated sunrise" instead of a traditional alarm clock. "Prehistoric man awoke to the sunrise," the owner explains in the video.
Only Dream About It
The next day in the office, I asked our crack summer intern to investigate how we might acquire our very own "napping pod." I'd just caught her yawning after a big lunch at Sweet Basil's. Too many late nights and long days for this college girl.
She came back with a pile of information about an outfit called MetroNaps that "enhances work force productivity through mid-day napping equipment -- the world's premier provider of professional napping products and services."
"I'm thinking we could use one for our office," I explained after she showed me a picture of the company's popular "Energy Pod." The contraption looked like a huge football helmet with its tongue stuck out, or possibly something George Jetson might have flown to work.
"This thing could do wonders for the productivity of our magazine," I pointed out, ready to embrace the new snoozing revolution and the latest in fatigue risk management technology. Suddenly I envisioned all sorts of therapeutic possibilities -- even to our bottom line.
"At $75 per session," I said, "we could rent it out for private seminars and business meetings. We could even generate a whole new revenue stream for the magazine by turning our little-used conference room into the first nap salon of the Sandhills."
"We could call it 'A Nap in the Pines' or maybe 'Sleepy Time in the Sandhills,'" she chipped in, stifling another cute yawn.
"Exactly, kid!" I said. "Get back to me tomorrow with some numbers."
She came into my office the next day after lunch, just as I was settling into my comfortable office chair for some deep afternoon reflection on expanding the existing paradigm. I'd just had the double cheeseburger and chocolate shake at Cook Out.
"They have a new model out," she explained. "It's just $12,480. Shall I put it on the expense account?"
"Let me think about it for a half hour," I replied, sounding a little like a cranky 6-year-old. I asked her to shut my office door firmly so no more unscheduled visitors could get in. Then I leaned back and closed my eyes the old-fashioned way weary bosses and cave men have done across the ages.
At that eye-opening price, alas, being part of the napping revolution was something I could only dream about.
Best-selling author Jim Dodson, writer-in-residence at The Pilot, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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