Much Needed Rest: 5 Questions With MetroNaps CEO Christopher Lindholst


MetroNaps EnergyPods

Most of us used to spend about one-third of our lives asleep—but that’s no longer the case. Harvard researchers estimate that sleep deprivation costs US companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity. But even just six minutes of shuteye during the day can improve your memory and lower stress levels.

That’s where MetroNaps comes in. The company’s mission is to make sure we get back the shuteye we’re missing. MetroNaps sees its EnergyPods not as just a place to sleep, but as a solution for workplace fatigue.

With a preprogrammed setting to deliver an optimal 20-minute nap—complete with relaxing music, lights, and vibration—the EnergyPods are popping up at corporate offices, universities and hospitals around the country.

MetroNaps EnergyPods

The company was formed in 2003 when founders Christopher Lindholst and Arshad Chowdhury saw an opportunity to offer the increasingly overtired American workforce a chance to get some needed rest. brandchannel sat down with Christopher to learn how MetroNaps is creating a much-needed nap culture—and the value behind a better-rested world.

brandchannel: How are companies such as Google and Samsung using your EnergyPod as a workplace benefit—and to boost their employer branding?
Christopher Lindholst MetroNaps

Christopher Lindholst: EnergyPods tend to naturally slot into their wellness initiatives. The pods are useful as they provide a very clear, much-needed solution. If you want your employees to enjoy the benefits of naps, you need to offer a place where they can do it, and the EnergyPods do just that.

Google uses it as a representation of the company’s new ways of working—to reflect a more open working culture that’s not about how many hours you spend glued to your seat, but about what you get done.
MetroNaps EnergyPods

BC: Why do you think there is a growing demand for EnergyPods and other sleep solutions?

CL: Over the past five years or so, there has been much more discussion about sleep and napping, and we’re seeing a higher level of basic sleep awareness.

We’re working with a lot of student organizations, for example, that see napping and sleeping as a way to help mitigate student stress on campuses. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to be stressed because your coping mechanisms are deficient, and you just can’t react to things and shoulder them the same way you can as if you are well rested.

The amount of technology we use today is significant—and that’s an issue for people of all ages. Phones, tablets and computers are keeping us up late, and the explosion of on-demand content means you can read the paper or watch Netflix at any time of the day or night. All of this generates a bigger sleep deficit.

BC: How do the EnergyPod’s features help deliver a better nap to combat this sleep deficit?

CL: We used our original retail location as a lab, and tested all kinds of things when people came in to take naps. At first we thought they would really like a menu of things, but we found that people are so stimulated and surrounded by choice all the time, that it’s more stressful to choose. It’s like sitting in a massage chair with 40 buttons on it when you just want to de-stress and relax. We simplified the pod to the point of having a one-touch button that plays the same program every time.

The duration of the nap is crucial. A sleep cycle is 90 minutes, and you want to keep people from going into the deeper cycles of sleep. That’s why we’re proponents of the 20-minute nap. Once you go beyond that, you begin to enter deep sleep, and if you wake up in the middle of it, you’ll feel groggy and drowsy rather than refreshed.

It’s also important to remember that we all experience a natural dip in our circadian rhythm in the afternoon. You can work your way through that with coffee or sugar, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, it becomes more difficult to manage that dip. As the US population sleeps less and less, their exposure to fatigue in the afternoon is growing. This trend of insufficient sleep means people need to nap more or they won’t have enough energy to make it through the day.

BC: Is napping going to become universally accepted? Is it right for every business?

CL: Because napping is such a fundamental part of our natural human rhythm, organizations will have to provide some sort of space for people to recharge.

In the coming decade, people will wonder why a company doesn’t offer a place for napping during the workday rather than the opposite. It probably won’t happen within the next two years. In fact, it might take 10 years—and it will take a generation to completely change the mindset on this—but it is definitely coming. It’s part of why we target universities so heavily, so the incoming workforce has an understanding of napping and will be a much more obvious option than it was for their parents.

BC: Did you personally take naps before starting MetroNaps?

CL: I did, but I didn’t have a full understanding of it. That was part of the serendipity of how we started MetroNaps. My cofounder was working in investment banking and seeing people working crazy hours and going into the bathroom to hide and take a nap. I was working from home for a large corporation across lots of time zones. Stripped of that office stigma, I would take naps because I had to talk to Europe or Australia in the evening or early in the morning, and I could plan my daily rhythm around what I had to do. It made sense to take naps.

Based on both of our experiences, we started creating concepts around napping. From there, as I learned more of the science and technique behind it, I became the skilled napper I am today.

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