ILLUSTRATION BY HANNA BARCZYK
“People often think of naps as a luxury or a lazy, frivolous indulgence, but naps are actually productive and life-changing,” says Tricia Hersey, the self-described “Nap Bishop.” “They provide a visionary space to reimagine, reinvent, innovate for the future, and heal from the past.”
Hersey is the founder of The Nap Ministry, an organization through which she facilitates collective napping experiences in Atlanta and Chicago. In light of global trends, many of us should consider joining her congregation. About 35 percent of the U.S. population sleeps less than seven hours a night, which has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare sleep deprivation a public health crisis. In Japan, every year hundreds of hard-working businesspeople succumb to karoshi (“death from overwork”). And neither Japan nor the U.S. are even among the three most sleep-deprived countries in the world, according to a 2016 study by the insurance company Aviva. (Those would be the U.K., Ireland, and Canada.)
“Being overworked is a global issue, but it disproportionately affects marginalized people whose sleep deprivation often leads to health complications like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure,” says Hersey, who holds a master of divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Her response to the problem was to start her services, at which she preaches the holiness of naps to “shine a light on sleep deprivation as a social justice issue.”
While The Nap Ministry takes a community-based approach to midday dozing, others have seen an entrepreneurial opportunity. As The New York Times wrote, “Sleep is the new bottled water. Although it can be had for free, it is increasingly being marketed as an upscale amenity.” Nap bars and cafés have popped up in cities throughout the world. At Yelo Spa in New York City, the sleep-deprived can buy time to snooze in cocoon-like leather pods that offer sonic therapies. Ohirune Café Corne, a nap spot for women that opened in Tokyo in 2013, provides aroma-therapy bedding for $1.50 per minute. In Madrid, Siesta & Go reclaimed a cultural tradition when it opened last May. And King Spa & Sauna, a Korean chain operating in the U.S., charges a $45 entrance fee for up to 24 uninterrupted hours of rest in silent, oxygen-enriched “cabins” that feature simple mats and wooden neck rests.
Are those by-the-minute napping rates worth the price? “Even a 10-minute nap has its benefits,” Hersey says. “I love a good nap on a comfy couch with soft pillows and blankets. But really, from church pews to park benches, I love seeing people catch some sleep wherever they can, because naps revive us.”