Giving the Nod to Napping Pods

It’s easy for Sandra Salute, assistant director for wellness and fitness at California State University–Northridge’s Student Recreation Center, to recall one recurring complaint students had about the Oasis Wellness Center at the University Student Union. 

“The 20-minute naps weren’t long enough,” they would say to her. “I can’t just shut down, and sometimes it takes 20 minutes before I fall asleep.” 

The good news was that the cutting-edge napping pods, officially marketed as the EnergyPod by MetroNaps, were reprogrammable beyond the 20-minute standard the company notes as beneficial for well-being and productivity. 

“Now students are thanking us for letting them make reservations for 50-minute naps,” Salute said. “The nap pods are just one of the things we’ve put in place to address assessments we’ve done on stress and sleep difficulties in students.” 

The EnergyPod is contoured to take pressure off the cardiac system by slightly elevating the feet, while another curvature in the chair raises the knees and relaxes the lower back muscles. A privacy visor can be rotated to increase or decrease the user’s level of seclusion, and an interface console allows for timed waking by a programmed array of lights, music, and vibration. It also has a status indicator that communicates when the pod will next be available, and it can track usage for data gathering. 

Nap Pods, California State Northridge University Student UnionThey are not cheap at around $9,000 each. But given the 18,000 naps in EnergyPods that have been taken at the Oasis Wellness Center, the price per snooze looks better, especially if the service contributes to the success of what would have been sleep-deprived students. 

In addition to six EnergyPods, Oasis Center also offers three relaxation chairs, four massage chairs, and one American Disabilities Act-approved flat bed, all for stress reduction and sleep hygiene. All are available by online reservation, but other unions with napping centers and EnergyPods said a reservation system isn’t necessarily a requirement. 

Spencer Desmarais, assistant director of event services and operations at Washington State University’s Compton Union, said there is rarely a wait for access to one of the three EnergyPods available in the Chinook Student Center. He also noted that even if students don’t actually go to sleep during the 20-minute nap cycle the EnergyPod’s firmware is preset for, the time spent in simple relaxation has benefits. 

“The room where they are located also has storage lockers, and the lights are dim,” he said. “The door of the napping room is left unlocked, and 98% of the time you’ll find one of the chairs available.” 

University of Miami’s Shalala Student Center and Whitten University Center both purchased EnergyPods in response to requests from student government officers who said commuting students would find the rest stations particularly useful. Other relaxation stations and rest zones in and around student unions offer massage chairs, giant bean bags, hammocks, relaxation chairs, and aromatherapy. The University of Houston has offered inflatable hammocks through its Relaxation Station program and Texas A&M — Commerce has installed an entire hammock grove.

According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, the top two health impediments negatively affecting students’ academic performance were stress and sleep difficulties. ACHA’s survey of students at California State–Northridge found that stress affected 31% of CSUN students, compared to 28% nationally; and that sleep deprivation affected 21%, compared to 19% nationally. And a study by NASA found that a 40-minute nap can improve performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. 

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