Among the chairs and tables on the second floor of the Student Center at the University of Miami, there’s a strange new object that looks like a prop from a science fiction movie or maybe the mutant offspring of a dentist chair and old-fashioned hair dryer.
It’s actually an “energy pod” — a high-tech napping option to recharge sleep-deprived, stressed-out students. The napping pod, decked out in school colors, is billed as a more comfortable and efficient alternative to humble couches and chairs. And it better be at $9,000.
Ish Singh, vice president of student government, championed the purchase of two napping pods, saying that cat naps promote better mental health, ease stress and boost productivity among students — particularly for ones who don’t live in nearby dorms.
“There are a lot of commuters who don’t have that space to go back to just for a 20-minute nap,” said the 20-year-old political science senior.
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UM’s Student Government teamed with the administration to buy two napping pods for weary students, along with a massage chair, for about $20,000. The massage chair and one napping pod, custom-designed by New York-based Metro Naps with the iconic “U” logo on the side, were unveiled in the University Center early this week. The other pod is in the Student Center.
Using one of the napping pods is pretty simple. You sit down, press a button, and the chair reclines. Soft mood music starts to play. The back of the chair gently vibrates. To slip fully into nap-mode, slide a visor around to create a quiet dark space good for dozing.
Maria Rodriguez, a 21-year-old economics freshman who commutes to school, tried out the napping pod for a few minutes and pronounced it much more comfortable than the other seats in the building.
“It’s great for when midterms come,” she said. “Everyone will be here studying, and people can take a break here.”
The napping pods are free to use. The massage chair, which vibrates for five minutes, temporarily costs a dollar to use. Once the manufacturer reconfigures the chair within the next week, it will be free.
Nappers are expected to follow pod etiquette, which means keeping naps to 20 minutes and wiping down the chairs with disinfectant wipes after use. No food or drink in the pod. And those who are sick are encouraged to recline elsewhere.
“Twenty minutes is not a lot of time. We have 20 minutes to spare,” said Sabrina Perez, 19. The journalism freshman commutes from Doral. “When we have to study, it really will help us get through the day.”
Studies have found that midday napping can actually reduce frustration and increase productivity — and not just for students but for many people working in high-stress occupations, from police officers to pilots and truckers. Research presented last year by Greek cardiologist Manolis Kallistratos, of the Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, found that midday napping is associated with lower blood pressure levels.