Office Nap Pods: Are They Just For Show?

A small but growing number of companies support napping for their employees and some are even purchasing spaces in which to do it.

By Sheryl Grassie

In 2014, Oprah Winfrey popularized the concept of the power nap when she allowed, and even encouraged, her employees to taking short 20 minute naps during the workday to refresh. As awareness of the importance of sleep has grown, naps in general, and naps at work in particular, have gained popularity. There is a growing body of literature on why workplaces should support napping and how it makes for a happier and more productive work environment.

What Are Office Nap Pods?

As napping at work is becoming more socially appropriate, companies are making various napping stations, much like work stations, to help facilitate napping when you are not at home. Referred to generically as “nap pods,” they can accommodate a variety of different settings.

At the office during a long work day, at the library while studying for exams, and at the airport when you have a lengthy layover between flights are all possible settings for various types of nap pods. Are these trendy new devices just for show? Or, do they fill a very real and essential need? Let’s find out.

Benefits of Nap Pods

We know how important sleep is, and we know that when we lack sleep, a condition known as “sleep debt,” the experts encourage us to sleep extra hours to balance out the debt. One way to pay into your sleep deficit is to nap. Now that napping on the job is becoming more acceptable, with companies like Google, Huffington Post, Mercedes-Benz, NASA, and Zappos endorsing sleeping while at work, it makes sense to have a place to do it. Installing sleeping pods can be the perfect way to help employees refresh before a big meeting, extend their workday when they have evening appointments, or let them make up for poor sleep from the night before.

Although nap pods are relatively new to the market, the trend started prior with some workplaces designating a nap room: a place where people could go lie down. These rooms sparked the idea for more moveable and self-contained spaces. Nap pods now come in a variety of forms from simple, portable, low cost, pillow-like structures all the way up to expensive, space-age looking capsules reminiscent of a science fiction movie.

You can buy a small personal nap pod for $20 or an entirely self-contained pod with work and napping amenities for $20,000. One early entrepreneur in the field of work fatigue and sleeping at work, Christopher Lindholst, developed a company called MetroNaps. In 2009, they pioneered an office sleeping chair or “EnergyPod” called the i20 system. Since then, others have followed and over the last decade we have seen a sizable body of options appear on the market.

How They Work

Sensory stimulation is all around us. Fluorescent lighting, computer screens, indoor noise, outdoor noise, the bustle of a busy office, and noisy city life; all these things drain our energy throughout the day. The perfect way to recharge is to take a few minutes in a quiet sensory neutral environment. This is precisely what many of the pods are designed to do; either to buffer noise and light, or to block it out completely, so your body and mind can recharge, leaving you fresh and more able to focus on the tasks at hand. Some nap pods and napping rooms have soothing music as an alternative to total quiet.

Around the World

Western culture in general has been slow to embrace napping at work. We are still coming off of a cultural norm that prizes hard work and endorses lack of sleep as an achievement. We have, for a number of decades, seen sleeping very little as a character strength. In contrast, some Eastern and Asian cultures have been incorporated napping as an accepted part of one’s work day.

The National Sleep Foundation sites practices in China, where it is a daily routine for workers to take a nap at their desks after lunch for up to an hour, before returning to work.


Types of Nap Pods

There are three categories of nap pods. First, there are small, highly portable, pillow-like pods that cover the head. Second, there are tent-like pods that come in many shapes and sizes, including small tabletop versions that cover your head only or larger ones that cover your entire body. Lastly, the newer high-tech napping pods are designed as chairs, capsules, and even small rooms.

Our Picks for the Best Head Cover Nap Pods

THE OSTRICH NAPPING PILLOW 

A full head and neck cover with a cutout for breathing and spaces to tuck your hands, the Ostrich acts as a pillow as well as a noise and sensory buffer. Designed for power napping anywhere, it is light and portable for use on buses, trains, and planes. Use it in the car or at your desk; it is incredibly comfortable.

  • Price: $99.99
  • Options: 1 size, 1 color
  • Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars, 10 reviews

Travel Ostrich Pillow from BeddingInn 

A much less expensive version of the classic Ostrich Pillow, this private micro-environment is great for any remote napping location. It comes in several color choices and is highly rated.

  • Price: $16.82
  • Options: 1 exterior color: Gray, 4 interior colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, and Gray
  • Rating: 5 stars, 25 reviews

Our Top Picks for Tent Nap Pods

Privacy Pop Bed Tent 

A self-contained unit that a mattress can be placed inside, the Privacy Pop Tent can be used in an elevated fashion with a frame underneath or placed on the floor. Described as an oasis of solitude and seclusion, the tent-like structure is portable, lightweight, and comes in 7 color options.

  • Price: $129.99-$159.99
  • Sizes: Twin, Twin Bunk Bed, Twin XL, Full, Queen
  • Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars, 35 reviews

Alvantor Canopy Bed

Another version of the tent nap pod, it is constructed with a sturdy pop-up frame that then condenses down for easy storage. It is made of a soft, breathable fabric and comes in 4 colors. The fabric screens for light but does not block it out entirely.

  • Price: $79.99-$119.99
  • Sizes: Twin Bunk Bed, Twin, Full, Queen
  • Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars, 149 reviews

Our Top Pick for High-Tech Office Nap Pods

EnergyPod by MetroNaps 

This is the first chair pod designed for napping. It is a high-end, Cadillac version of a recliner with sensory screening features. Great for the office or home use, it is designed to support your body and your mind for the perfect nap experience. It had a zero gravity position, specifically designed music for sleep, and an intentional, gentle, light and vibration wake-up feature.

  • Price: $18,695
  • Sizes: One size

Summary

So, are office nap pods just for show? Our conclusion is that this trend will continue to grow, especially since office napping appears to promote productivity and a better work environment. From small pop-up head tents to custom-designed wall structures, offices are incorporating different nap pods and encouraging employees to rest up while at work. The expanding line of products available in the marketplace is a response to a very real need for many of us to get more sleep.


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