"The city that never sleeps needs a nap!” So reads the advertising slogan of a wellness sanctuary called Yelo that opened in New York, catering primarily for business people who want a place to have a quick, private nap and are willing to pay $15 – $28 for it.
Quoting scientific research that says 20 to 40 minutes is the optimum time for a power nap, they have set up specially designed rooms they call YeloCabs that can be booked online in advance plus additional time for reflexology if required. Breathing purified air and lulled by your own choice of relaxing music and/or aromatherapy scents, you lie in a custom-designed YeloChair, tilted so that your feet are higher than your head to help send you off to sleep. At the end of your nap, the room slowly fills with light, simulating a gentle sunrise, and then off you go back to work again.
But, what has brought our culture to the point where city folk are so desperate for a nap that they will pay up to $28 per day for the privilege?
The National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 Sleep in America poll reports that 34% of employees are now allowed to sleep during work breaks, and a kindly 16% of employers in fact provide a free place to do it. Americans now sleep an average of just six hours 55 minutes per night, compared to 10 hours per night before the invention of the electric light bulb. And, the now mythical 8-hour working day actually averages nine hours and 28 minutes in the USA, with 20% of employees taking home an additional 10 hours extra work per week.
Every day is a race against time to fit everything in and something has to give. That something (until health fails) is often sleep. Hence what could be called voluntary sleep deprivation syndrome, and the massive level of sleep debt in the western world. Power napping is an attempt to catch up, but is it enough? The National Sleep Foundation explains, “When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to ‘pay back’ if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.”
Here in Bali, this lifestyle will never catch on. The Balinese love their sleep and can’t even get their heads around the concept that “time is money.” Even though they are known as some of the earliest risers in the world (many are up at 5 a.m. and nearly the whole island is awake by 6 a.m.), they wake up naturally because they are not exhausted. With night-time sleep and day-time heat-of-the-day naps, most of them are not rich or successful, but they are fully rested.
Living in both worlds as I do, I see that we need to find a balance between the two. Not so much sleep that we lose our get-up-and-go, but not so little that we impair our health and wellbeing. And, how much is enough? There is no magic number because it varies from person to person and depends on their level of sleep debt, but a rough guide is 7-9 hours for an adult, 8.5-9.5 for teenagers, and up to 18 hours for newborn babies. You can find the full list of recommended hours of sleep for all the different age groups at www.sleepfoundation.org.