Like most people, my relationship with napping has evolved with age. Now, I could sleep all day, every day—I could pass out practically on command, and will if given the opportunity. That's a departure from childhood. But while most of my preschool peers dreaded the mandated naptime as it meant an abrupt playtime interruption, I had a different gripe: I wasn't allowed to nap.
Under strict orders from my mother, who was convinced I wouldn't sleep a wink at night if I napped in the afternoon, my preschool teachers skipped right over me as they gently tucked each student in for a snooze on their tiny cots. Lights dimmed, voices softened, and lullabies played, and even the most hyperactive kids began to grow sleepy. How could they not? It was hypnotic.
Especially when it was forbidden to you. For some reason, I couldn't leave the room, so I was forced to endure the irresistible temptation to close my eyes while every single one of my friends got to do just that. Inevitably, I'd begin to succumb, and a teacher would apologetically rouse me, gently shaking me awake: "Your mom doesn't want you to," I can almost remember her saying, encouraging me to return to my favorite activity—coloring—in the dark. It couldn't have lasted more than 15 minutes, but it sure felt like eternity.
Fast forward to adolescence, that perpetually exhausted period in every teenager's life, and napping became a hobby. I was like one of those kids denied sugar for so long tasting their first cupcake. I binged. Later, I'd sneak out of my mall job to spend my lunch break in my car, parked in the shade and reclined in the driver's seat, out like a light.
Khaliah Guillory was doing that, too. "Who hasn't done it, right?" she says. "You wake up and you're like, well, that was good, but I got this crook in my neck; I wasn't comfortable."
She grew tired (pun intended) of car napping, but going home for a quick lunchtime snooze wasn't a viable option. "For one, you have to commute," she says. "Two, I nap better when I'm outside of my place of residence. When you're home, you have distractions—you're tempted to get on the computer, you're tempted to turn on the television."
There had to be a place where one could comfortably and safely doze somewhere in Houston, Guillory thought, right?
Wrong. A lot of people professed to love—even require—naps, but there was no such place to indulge outside the home or car or, in extreme situations, a hastily booked motel room—not in Houston, and not even in Texas. So Guillory, a diversity, inclusion, and leadership consultant, had her Field of Dreams moment and decided if she built it, they would come.
Enter Nap Bar, her pay-by-the-snooze concept opening next month, that's...well, exactly what it sounds like. Guillory has created a homey environment for public dozing in the back of New Living, the organic mattress and furniture store in Rice Village with whom she forged a partnership to launch the initiative, the first of its kind in the state.
A decided improvement over the cramped car, the space will soon hold two stacked, custom-patented "nap pods"—think enclosed, sound-proofed bunkbeds, but nicer—for up to four naps at a time. Thick drapes and a sliding wooden door open to a twin-sized organic, non-toxic Bungaloom mattress and luxe bedding, plus a small fan, optional light, and personal storage container. Beta-testers, who gave feedback on everything from comfort to ease of entry for re-designed prototypes, overwhelmingly compared the cozy cocoon-like space to the pillow and blanket forts they built in childhood, Guillory says.
They also overwhelmingly fell asleep. "They came in here like, 'I'm not going to fall asleep. This is cool, it's innovative, it's progressive, but I'm not going to fall asleep,'" Guillory says. In fact, nine of the 13 testers fell asleep, and "one of them we had a hard time waking up." All but one reported a noted surge in energy level afterward.
From paint color to temperature to white noise, the space is thoughtfully designed to lull you to sleep. A "comfort concierge" equips each napper with the added perks including aromatherapy, a neck pillow, and even custom brain wave therapy—pre-loaded iPods with music (from Baylor physician-slash-DJ Dr. Cwanza Pickney) found to promote sleep. There's the option for add-ons, too, like lymphatic massages, hot showers, EarthCraft Juicery blends, and post-nap espresso. Nap Bar is currently testing a full-sized "exclusive suite" with a larger mattress in a separate enclosure from the pods to appeal to potentially claustrophobic nappers.
Nap Bar charges $25 for a 20-minute nap and $32 for 26 minutes; prices increase with nap length, and one can snooze for up to four hours—though, at that point, you'll have entered REM sleep and risk waking up groggy.
Nap Bar has been approved for coverage in Health Savings Accounts, Guillory says, and will also offer "Snoozers' Memberships."
"It's legit turn-key," she adds. "I want Houstonians to really fall in love with taking back some energy levels."
Nap Bar takes a page out of Google's book, with its own famously high-tech employee nap pods, and that of other cushy corporate environments primarily in Silicon Valley. The concept is also a nod to Europe's siesta culture, where society largely accepts a mid-day break specifically dedicated to snoozing.
Science is on Guillory's side, too. The CDC declared insufficient sleep a "public health problem," and Guillory eagerly cites a NASA sleep study conducted on weary pilots which found that a 26-minute power nap could lead to a 34 percent bump in productivity and a 54 percent improvement in alertness. A RAND study that aimed to quantify the ramifications of sleep deprivation estimated Americans are losing 1.2 million work days per year at a cost of $411 billion in lost productivity.
Eventually, Guillory wants to bring Nap Bar to the workplace—she envisions pods going up in infrequently used conference rooms. There are plans to launch mobile snooze units downtown later this year.
"This is a safe haven for entrepreneurs, professionals, stay-at-home parents, tourists, busy executives, whoever—humans—to come and just recharge," Guillory says. "We're gonna fight to reclaim one nap at a time."
Nap Bar opens to the public in mid-April with hours from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. inside New Living at 6111 Kirby Dr.