At 4:22 pm, I pushed up my sleep mask to find the quietly perky nap concierge waiting for me. I don’t know if she’d let me sleep past my 4:15 wake-up time or spent seven long minutes trying and failing to rouse me. I was too embarrassed to ask.
“OhIfellsleep,” I mumbled.
“That’s great!” she whisper enthused, leading me back to the bedtime-themed changing area.
I had successfully napped at The Dreamery.
Casper’s announcement that the mattress brand had created a space where New York’s tired could take 45 minute naps for $25 was met with a range of reactions. Some thought it was a genius move. Others said that it could be read as a nightmare extension of late-stage capitalism, where the last of our basic human needs are being commodified. Still more pointed out the possibility that said pods would be used as a location for sex, both alone and with others.
Personally, I felt exhausted, for reasons both related to this — the deep ennui that sets in when I am forced to recognize that a marketing scheme is “a good one,” the enervating implicit question of what to do about the late-stage capitalism monster — and not. (Who sleeps well in summer? Not I.)
In my sleepiness I saw an opportunity: to zonk out during work hours and charge it to Vox Media. No one asked, but I volunteered to take an expensive, expensed nap.
I was so excited, I could hardly sleep the night before. Would I be able to actually doze? Or would I spend each waking minute inside the pod trying to have funny thoughts to write here — or worse, trying to do the math on how much company money was slipping away? (No, because I already did the math the day before: it’s 55 cents per minute.)
So I arrived for a 3:30 pm nap on the first full day of The Dreamery (that’s what it’s called) — early enough in its life cycle that I was able to somewhat feasibly hope that not all the pods had yet been boned in. And I took some poorly composed photos to prove it all.
It’s a spa for sleeping, and spas work, at least on me. As you enter, cheerful but sedate pajama-top-wearing counter people check in nappers, softly offering unisex Sleepy Jones pajamas (on loan) and a little cloth baggie of Sunday Riley facial products. (They can’t take them back.) The welcome area doubles as refresh lounge, where the newly awake can drink free cold brew or La Croix and reacclimate to being up.
The front-desk person brings you back to the changing area, where each curtained stall holds a sink stocked with Q-tips and cotton pads and a mirror with a cute saying (“What a time to be asleep” or “You miss 100% of the naps you don’t take”) and lockers containing towels and Casper-branded socks. Under a sign imploring visitors, “Grab your sleep supplies here” are tie-dyed earplugs, blinky-eyed sleep masks, “bed head taming devices” (combs), and Hello brand toothpaste and brushes.
When you’re ready for bed, you enter a little waiting area (with “You are getting very sleepy” written on the wall and a monstera leaf), where the nap concierge (a title that could be codified but I might have made up) lays out the ground rules (TLDR: “be quiet now please”). Finally she escorts you into the actual sleeping chamber.
The room itself feels as close as I’ve ever felt to being in heaven, not exactly in a “this is the most wonderful place I’ve ever been” way but in a “seeing Defending Your Life at a young age influenced my impression of the afterlife” way. It’s what I hope being dead will be like, and that’s a compliment. Large circular wooden frames dot the floor, giving the pleasantly random impression of a high-class merry-go-round. The vibe will fit well at cavernous, future-forward, sterile, heaven-smelling airports, the likely next locations for the experiment, according to the brand.
Each pod holds a Casper mattress with Casper sheets and a Casper pillow, with — if you’ve made a reservation to be tired in advance, as I did — a little card with your name on it, wishing you sweet dreams and giving you the wifi password, in case you can’t sleep. The gray curtains are heavy and are shut for you, and the light is nearby so you can turn it off yourself. It will come on again slowly, to gently wake you when your three-quarters of an hour are up.
The dark area was the perfect place to think anxiously about the commodification of the unconsciousness. Charging 55 cents per minute so people can engage in a natural bodily function sounds Orwellian, but it might already be true that there’s no such thing as a free nap. I rent my apartment and bought my bed. Pay toilets still exist (at least in Europe), food remains resolutely unfree, and, hey, have you heard about health care? And in a country where we already have a litany of laws (from loitering statutes to park curfews and bans on sleeping in cars) that effectively make homelessness illegal, we can’t easily argue that our basic requirements to live aren’t already coming at a price.
Does this mean we should pay $25 for a 45-minute nap? No, Jesus, it means we need to fix our broken systems and live different lives. But snug in my pod, that thought queues up the siren song that goes, “Well, but until then … ” Because lying down is nice, and the bed and pajamas and sheets and vibe are by no means uncomfortable.
Certainly the Dreamery is not the only place a person can sleep. The thing that might make it difficult to do so within its walls is the current national mood, which indicates that while an explicit development in the pay-to-snooze arena might result in some revolt, it would more likely lead to a mainstream acquiescence that if other people want to sleep, they should have made more money. This isn’t what’s happening now, exactly! But the thought is wearying.
And then there’s the fact that I have personally cried out for want of a nap pod in the past — many, many times, saying, “I would just PAY for the chance to SLEEP for a BIT, my god” to friends and co-workers and the internet. It’s one thing to complain about capitalism, but if I keep it up when the system creates a thing I actually want — and then I make my company pay to let me try the thing I want and continue to fret about it, ruining the experience — aren’t I just a crank? And another thing: If I’m wearing this sleep mask will I even know that the 45 minutes have ended and the light has come on? Is the pricey sleep slipping away?
This is the last restless half-dream thought I have before sensing the presence of the nap concierge. I wake up and understand I have in fact been out, at least some. I feel thwacked, groggy, unready to leave the pod so soon.
Here’s a twist: the nap ends up being a steal based on Sunday Riley products alone, thanks to 1 oz of Ceramic Slip clay cleanser, .3 oz of Tidal brightening enzyme water cream, 5 ml of Luna retinol sleeping night oil, and 5 ml of C.E.O. rapid flash brightening serum. With $10.71 worth of cleanser, $11.47 worth of cream, $17.50 worth of oil and $14.16 worth of serum, it all adds up to $53.84 worth of free products, so you’re more than doubling your money. Throw in the cold brew, the toothbrush and paste, and, oh yeah, the nap, and this might be the best investment you make all year. That can be read as an endorsement of The Dreamery, an indictment of the skincare industry’s prices, or a quirk of a system that gives its freebies only to the fortunate.
Anyway, there is no ethical rest under capitalism. Sleep well!