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Pop & Rest offers Londoners pods for much-needed nap
FACED with long, tiring commutes and rushing to keep up with the fast pace of modern city living, Londoners are paying to sleep.
In dark rooms scented with lavender and supplied with ear plugs and eye masks, busy travellers, sore-headed partygoers and new parents desperate for a nap can rest in a so-called sleep pod for £18 (S$32) an hour.
Pop & Rest was co-founded in London's trendy Shoreditch area by Mauricio Villamizar, who said he aimed to flood the city with nap pods, setting them up in railway stations, offices and universities.
"There is a need for private space in the middle of the city. We like to call it an oasis of peace," he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The pods - which are popping up in cities across the globe, from New York to Madrid - were inspired by the rise in remote working and long commutes, he added, as well as the popularity of third spaces such as coffee shops, which are neither home nor the office.
Britain is experiencing a housing crisis as homebuilding has declined since the 1970s, driving up property prices faster than wages. This is forcing city workers to live further away from the centre, said Mr Villamizar.
The number of workers facing commutes over 2 hours has risen 34 per cent over the last 10 years, according to the Trade Union Congress, Britain's umbrella union group, with Londoners taking the longest to get to and from work.
With more people working further from their homes, eating out and using 24-hour gyms, some see sleeping on-the-go as a natural extension of busy lifestyles, while others worry it is outsourcing the concept of home.
Nancy, a London tourist from Amsterdam, said: "The city can be quite tiring and you just want to find a place where you can relax a bit. I think this could be an addition to the home, so why not?"
Event marketer Sinead Khan said the sleep pods reflected the impact of high property prices on people's lives. "There's a little bit of a moral issue with charging people to sleep, but at the same time, this is a city and with the price of houses and property being so high, it's still a space, and that's got to be a commodity.
"It's just the way the world is moving, but I don't think it will ever replace the concept of having a base that you come to and a home, because there is no place like home."
Regular user and sports massage therapist Victoria Hickman, 24, said the sleep pods offer more privacy and comfort than sleeping in a park or elsewhere in the city, and suit her busy freelance lifestyle.
"I'd rather spend my money recharging and having a really good sleep rather than going to a coffee shop and depending on caffeine or buying food just to keep my body awake," she said.
Public Health England, a government agency, recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and warns that a lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and physical and mental health problems.
With the advent of smartphones as well as warmer weather, many Britons are sleeping less according to advice body The Sleep Council, which found that almost a third of people sleep poorly most nights, blaming stress as the main cause.
Pop & Rest co-founder Yoann Demont said the sleeping pods are part of a broader "smart cities" movement - and hopes to roll them out to other cites in Britain.
The concept advocates a more interconnected use of public space and amenities to offer efficient services, which Mr Demont said appeals to millennials who generally work longer hours and have families later in life.
"It's part of the trend of being a nomad, we spend less time at home," he said. Rather than "monetising napping", he hopes to offer similar sleep services to low-income workers and homeless people in the future. REUTERS