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The History of Nap Pods

The benefits brought on by a short respite from the day’s activities have been enjoyed by many iconic figures and luminaries throughout history. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill enjoyed this habit, writing in his memoirs, “Nature had not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” Consider Leonardo Da Vinci’s utilisation of Polyphasic sleeping, with 20-minute naps every four hours to sustain his master brushstrokes. Or Einstein and Dail’s fondness for micro naps, punctuated by the drop of a small object as they fell asleep as a built-in alarm clock.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the emergence of dedicated physical spaces for napping was pioneered by Japanese Architect Kisho Kurokawa. As a leading founder of the Metabolist movement in architecture, he emphasised synergy with the natural environment as well as the impermanence and interchangeability of buildings. These principles led to the development of the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo in 1972, and thereafter design refinement of the first-ever “Sleep Pods” at the Capsule Inn in Osaka in 1979. The cultural acceptance of napping on the job due to exhaustion in Japan is known as Inemuri. Unlike the siestas of Spain, it is common for Japanese business people to pass out in public, or at their desks without negatively affecting their workplace reputation. The connection to both the benefits of a nap as well as a contained space to nap in took another step as the 21st century loomed large on the global horizons.

Japanese Capsule Hotel

The term “Power Nap” was coined by the American psychologist James Maas in 1998. A catchy moniker that rolls off the tongue is a foolhardy way to infuse the public’s imagination with awareness of short-term naps growing and receiving media coverage in the U.S. through the early 2000s. This coincided with the rise of the tech industry and the adoption of amenities in the workplace. Images of ping-pong tables, dogs, free food, and evidently, space to relax and nap became coveted, and commonplace especially in Silicon Valley as the exhausted coders scrambling to conquer the Internet needed a place to charge their batteries. For example, one of the first contemporary nap pod companies, Metronaps, was founded in 2003. The Mountain View, CA Googleplex headquarters of the Internet search giant was built in 2004. These technology companies installed nap pods for the numerous benefits fatigue management provides. Taking naps offers advantages such as improved alertness and mood. Additionally, periods of relaxation in all types of working roles can lead to improved task performance and memory retention. These will lead to better overall results for an organisation and the growth of the technology sector contains prime examples of companies who invested in their nap/sleep infrastructure and achieved great success.

After the Great Recession passed and once-tightened perks were expanded, the mid-2010s saw a resurgence of the nap pod marketplace and consumer interest in napping culture. This revolution was spurred by a widespread appetite for lifestyle science literature on the topic of sleep and wellness. Bestselling titles such as The Sleep Revolution by media entrepreneur Ariana Huffington in 2016, and Why We Sleep by U.C. Berkeley professor Matthew Walker influenced millions of people to take their sleeping and napping habits more seriously. Further interviews with popular intellectuals, such as those featuring Dr. Walker on health/wellness podcasts such as Dr. Andrew Huberman’s Huberman Lab, or Dr. Peter Attia’s the drive allows for long-form exploration and explanation of the intricacies of sleep science to an interested audience.

In the present day, innovative companies such as Rest Space are providing a high-quality solution for the modern nap pod market, taking advantage of the health-first momentum that is here to stay and unlocking tangible productivity benefits provided by a well-rested workforce. More information on Rest Space can be found here.


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