NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Once or twice a week, on his lunch break, Mr Eric Dobesh walks half a city block for a nap in a single-occupancy pod.
Behind a thick black curtain, Mr Dobesh dims the twinkling "stars" on the pod's black ceiling and sleeps until a restaurant pager buzzes to signify the session's end.
On the walk back to work, he picks up a salad. He eats lunch at his desk.
"I don't drink coffee, so I basically get by on willpower, food and naps," said Mr Dobesh, 26.
Over the past few weeks, he has been regularly dozing off at Nap York, a month-old business in Midtown Manhattan that calls itself a "wellness club".
Nap York and comparable venues, where people pay to rest or sleep, are expressions of a "culture shift" - evidence of people recognising "that this is a much more efficient way to recharge than having a Red Bull or, you know, a double espresso in the afternoon, or three cinnamon buns to get the sugar rush", said Ms Arianna Huffington, founder of the wellness site Thrive Global and HuffPost.
At Thrive Global's headquarters in SoHo, there is a nap room for employees. Ms Huffington predicts that "recharging rooms" will be "as common as board rooms" within the next few years because society is recognising the importance of getting good sleep.
"People don't really need convincing anymore," said Ms Huffington in a phone interview. "The conversation has moved from convincing people that it's important to actually helping them introduce micro steps in their lives, like not sleeping with their phones by their bed."
At the New York Police Department's Midtown South station house, Nap York recently created a bunk bed nap pod for the detective squad, said Ms Stacy Veloric, the head of marketing for the company.
At Google's New York offices, nap pods are scattered throughout, a spokesman said.
And at WeWork's Manhattan headquarters, there is a room dedicated to "wellness" and "quiet", though not specifically to napping. Most workplaces, however, have yet to incorporate sleep zones into their floor plans.
PAY TO SLEEP
Filling the gap in the meantime are a few options, Nap York being the newest, available to those willing to pay to sleep in the city that supposedly does not. At Nap York, customers pay US$10 (S$13) per half-hour. An app called Recharge allows users to book rooms in hotels in small-time increments at varying price points.
Options include Gardens NYC, an Affinia Hotel on East 64th, for US$30 per hour plus a US$30 service charge, and the Surrey on East 76th, for US$70 per hour plus a US$50 service fee.
At Yelo Spa, in Midtown East, nappers pay a dollar a minute.
"On paper, it sounds like something frivolous," said Ms Cathy de la Cruz, 37, of paying to sleep at a spa. "It's like buying bottled water."
Ms De la Cruz has been taking 30-minute naps at Yelo Spa a couple of times a year for several years. She checks in on Yelp to get a discount, she said.
"It seems like something ridiculous to pay for to a lot of people because they know they can do it for free, or they can manage their lives differently in a way where they just don't need to take a nap," Ms de la Cruz said. "That's not me at this point."
The way a society views sleep is socially constructed, said Dr Natalie Dautovich, an assistant professor in the psychology department at Virginia Commonwealth University and an environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation.
"Cultural perceptions of napping can range from laziness to viewing napping as a beneficial, typical, daily activity," she said.
"In the United States, we are only beginning to understand that sleep is a critical aspect of a healthy and productive lifestyle," she said. "Rather than viewing sleep as 'lost time' away from work and socialising, we are beginning to recognise that prioritising sleep is necessary to achieve optimal productivity and well-being."
On the 12th floor of 5 E. 57th St, nestled in a building surrounded by high-end storefronts like Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, Yelo Spa offers a particularly posh napping experience.
Inside, a bold aesthetic - walls of magenta and orange, and furniture to match - juxtaposes a menu of treatments meant to soothe. Clients can book facials and massages with sleep sessions tacked on at the end. Or they can just book a nap.
There is one nap "cabin", room meant specifically for sleeping despite its thin walls, but clients can nap in any of the treatment rooms. Clients choose a soundtrack - Polynesian, classical, ocean waves - and have the option to select an aromatherapy mist. Each room is equipped with a zero-gravity bed that adjusts to minimise pressure on the body. Sleep can come more quickly when one's legs are above heart level, according to Yelo staff members.
"What's funny about it is, it's like, the most old-fashioned thing in the world," Ms de la Cruz said of nap therapy. "It's sleeping in a bed; but somehow it feels like the future."
At Nap York, which occupies a four-storey building south of Times Square, a block of seven pods resembles a futuristic charging station on the second floor. A housekeeper cleans the vegan-leather-covered mattress and replaces the white pillowcase in each pod almost immediately after use. Either security guards or cameras are stationed on each floor.
On the first floor, clients can use an iPad to order beet shots, salads and sandwiches, which arrive on a conveyor belt set against a wall of live plants. The third floor offers egg-shaped "moon chairs" and a space for yoga classes, and on the fourth floor there are desks with chairs that fully recline for those who want to work and rest.
"Each floor is nappable," Ms Veloric said. "You forget that you're on 36th and 7th."
She pointed out the hundreds of live plants in the building before demonstrating a relaxed pose in a zero-gravity chair herself, her eyelids fluttering shut. "You feel like you're in the middle of the forest, surrounded by nature."
Rather than creating a space exclusively for sleeping, Nap York's founders simply wanted to provide a peaceful oasis in the middle of bustling Midtown, Ms Veloric said.
"Other people relax through meditation or yoga, or eating healthy, or just having a quiet space to concentrate and focus."
The pods - 23 more of which will be added by mid-April because of high demand, said Ms Veloric - are even equipped with reading lights for those who would like to relax but not sleep.
After a recent visit to Nap York, Ms Jeva Lange, 25, a writer for The Week, said in a phone interview that she felt silly paying for a nap, but understood the appeal of the idea. "It seems like such a hard thing to justify, but at the same time, I really appreciated having an hour and a half to give myself permission to do nothing."
Even the new Casper mattress store, at Broadway and Bleecker Street in Manhattan, has gotten into the shuteye game. Guests can schedule 20-min naps in advance, or walk in to test mattresses and doze off in one of six miniature "homes".
"Obviously the purpose of the nap room is for people to get a better feel of the mattress," said Ms Rhea Harless, 21, who works at Casper. But there was no pressure, she said. "You don't have to buy anything."