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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Making sleep a profitable business
By Salim Rizvi in New York

It may not be a novel idea to tell people to sleep well, but providing them with slumber pods so they can catch up on their shut-eye is a first.

Arshad Chowdhry, a Bangladeshi American entrepreneur, is providing just such a service in New York.

He has started a sleep centre for corporate employees and anyone who wants to catch a quick "power nap".

Metronaps is situated on the 24th floor of the Empire State building surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

Mr Chowdhry says: "Metronaps is the first place in the US where people can come and take a midday power nap. It keeps busy executives alert and functioning at their best during the day.

"The entire process takes about 25 minutes and is designed to fit right into their business day."

'Limited time'

"We know that our customers have a limited amount of time, so we make it as easy as possible for them to do during the day. So we order lunch for them," he explained.

The cost? Fourteen dollars for 20 minutes in one of the state-of-the-art sleeping pods.

"Most people come in sceptical and curious but leave truly believing in the service that we offer," he said.

Mr Chowdhry and his business partner spent three years researching the design of the pods, which are specially adapted chairs fitted with vibration devices designed to make them nod off and lights to wake them up at the end of the sleep.

"These pods are designed to fit anywhere, like airports, highway restaurants and even in corporate offices. We designed the pods and oversee its manufacture and we own the trademark of these pods," he says.

Information overload

Mr Chowdhry points to experiments done at Harvard University which suggested that even a short nap helped reverse information overload.

"There is a tremendous amount of research that supports the notion that a 20-minute midday nap can rejuvenate people. It improves memory, learning and mood and can boost productivity by up to 30%," he says.

It is enormously efficient for me. I wish there were more of them. It is very convenient for me to take a 20-minute nap. It helps my productivity.
Ben Skinner
The National Sleep Foundation found the average American adult slept for less than seven hours a night during a working week.

Ben Skinner is a regular napper and one of Metronaps' satisfied customers.

'Enormously efficient'

He says: "It is enormously efficient for me. I wish there were more of them. It is very convenient for me to take a 20-minute nap. It helps my productivity. I also like the fact that it's discreet."

Mr Chowdhry got the idea when he worked as a banker in New York.

He noticed many colleagues dozing off at their desks.

"At work I realised that people are quite tired at work and falling off their desks or even sneaking off to the toilets to catch rest. Then I realised that we are really missing a comfortable and a convenient place to take a nap during the day," said Mr Chowdhry.

Three pods in a row
The pods look like something out of a science fiction movie
He studied napping at the Carnegie Mellon University for two years and at the end of the course he decided the idea was strong enough to create a business model around.

Mr Chowdhry said he had received enquiries about the pods, which cost $8,000 each, from companies in India, Pakistan, Singapore, China and some European countries.

'Wellness rooms'

Many US companies have created "wellness rooms" for their employees, to allow them to take breaks from the hectic action of their offices or the stock market floor.

Mr Chowdhry said several were considering buying pods and installing them in these wellness rooms.

Some pods are fitted with a visor, which swings down to provide more privacy.

"We have hit upon a nerve globally, not just here in the US. So we have started making international sales. We are selling through our website. And we have set our eyes on airports," he said.

Sleeping on it works
11 Jul 03  |  Health

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