I took a power nap surrounded by strangers (here’s what happened)

I studied what my napping partners did and replicated their behavior. I lay down, covered myself with the blanket, and pulled the eye mask out of its bag to cover my face.

Napping is arguably my favorite activity. I say arguably because if it’s between taking a nap and eating chocolate, I’m torn. The decision could really go either way depending on how much sleep I’ve gotten compared to how much chocolate I’ve consumed in the last 24 hours.

Anyways, when Ladders got the offer to test out Rise by We’s new open studio power naps, I volunteered as tribute. It was the first time an employer had ever (knowingly) offered to pay me to sleep, and I was excited about my mid-afternoon siesta (I always say, go to Spain for the jamón and the naps).

At 2:35 p.m. sharp on a Wednesday, I marched about one block south (or east? I’m bad at directions) to Rise by We’s luxe New York location in the Financial District. I signed in, got my handy dandy ID from a fancy check-in screen, and felt very tech-savvy. Then, I got lost trying to find the escalator.

When I finally made it down to Rise by We, which is below street level, I walked into the “wellness club” and felt like Lucy discovering Narnia. “Oasis” doesn’t begin to cut it. Rise by We is a corporate hipster den of beautiful people and exotic colors (when I say exotic, I mean the kinds of colors we see in Central Park, or anywhere with trees). It is the scent of what ambrosia would smell like if it were a real thing. It’s basically like if Hawaii and Michelangelo’s “David” had a baby and named him “Rise” — which, to be fair, would be a way better baby name than “Elsie Otter.”

I know what you’re thinking: Nowhere in New York can be that special. Here, we’re all rats that sweat in claustrophobic cages all day and then scurry the streets in hoards. True, all of it. But hear me out. Let me tell you about the mineral pool.

In “Wonder Woman,” probably my favorite moment is when a completely naked Chris Pine is bathing in a glittering pool of something way purer than water. When Patty Jenkins directed the scene, she must have based it on this mineral pool on the basement floor of a New York high rise. I have visited waterfalls, and geysers, and hot springs. The mineral pool at Rise by We is the most beautiful water-based monument I have ever seen.

There’s a sauna, too. Apparently, people go into this sauna together, in some kind of perfect-person cult ritual, where they sweat and rub essential oils on themselves. It sounds like a way cooler and more Gwyneth Paltrow-friendly version of an orgy. This is why some of us look 40 at 23, and others look 23 at 40.

But I digress. I wasn’t at Rise by We for a spa day (though clearly, I would have enjoyed that a lot). I was there for a quick power nap before trudging back to my office in the cold and writing yet another serious piece of journalism much like this one. So let me get to the point: The open studio power nap was the weirdest thing I’ve done in my life. And I’d do it again any day of the week.

The space

I need to come clean: I was homeschooled. That means I never took those Pre-K naps that everyone seems to pine after as they get older, and if I wanted to sleep, I did so alone in my lovely little bed. I think I went to a total of one sleepover where I had to sleep on the floor. I did not like it.

So when I walked into Rise by We’s power nap studio, I was dismayed to find what appeared to be yoga mats on the ground, side by side in rows. This was an especially petrifying sight because my boyfriend recently confessed to me that I snore — and not quietly — so the thought of communal, visible napping made me suddenly self-conscious. But beyond that, I couldn’t imagine that the set-up would be comfortable for someone like me, who has been likened to the princess with that gosh-darn pea.

My other two napping colleagues seemed much more in sync with the situation. One of them plopped down, covered himself with a blanket, and got to napping.

Which brings me to the goodies: Each station/small strip of floor in what is essentially a yoga studio is equipped with a mat, eye mask, blanket and zabuton (a rich word for cushion).

I studied what my napping partners did and replicated their behavior. I lay down, covered myself with the blanket, and pulled the eye mask out of its bag to cover my face. It smelled like peace on earth. And so I closed my eyes and just breathed.

The noises

I should preface this by saying that I do not know if these sounds were intentional or just fortunate happenstance.

As everything else fell silent, the studio itself turned into an alien planet of *loud noises.* The sounds were so overwhelming and foreign that they almost lulled my mind to a numbing quiet, like what you’re supposed to achieve when you’re meditating but never do because you’re listing off all the presents you have to buy before Christmas (why did literally all of my cousins procreate?). Were the sounds invasive? Yes. Were they at times annoying? Also yes. Much like those machines that significant others ask you to keep on at night because they “can’t sleep without background noise,” the sounds — like air going through large pipes, maybe? I don’t know — were not always welcome, but could have been worse.

In fact, in a room filled with napping strangers, they almost felt like a necessary evil. I didn’t want anyone to hear me breathing, and I certainly didn’t want to hear them breathe. So a somewhat industrial soundscape was better than the alternative, and soon, I grew fond of the airy orchestrations that I liked to imagine came from a great mind — like Beethoven or Wall-E.

The people

Which brings me to the other nappers. I never spoke to either of them. There seemed to be an oath of silence between us. We were doing this very strange thing together, and it would only be okay if we never acknowledged it.

But what got me was when one of my fellow monks — the other woman— got up and left. It was about 30 minutes into our 50-minute nap session, and presumably, she decided she was now rested (she already looked pretty luminous going into me, at least by comparison. I looked like someone who had been recently hit by a truck and lived to tell the tale). Now, all of a sudden, I was in a dimly lit room alone with one other person, who happened to be a man, doing what is likely the most vulnerable physical thing anyone can do.

I did not know this man, and I did not trust him. This is a personal prejudice and has nothing to do with said guy, who is presumably a very nice and respectful finance bro. But I have been conditioned to believe that any blonde dude wearing a muscle shirt who looks like he went to The University of Pennsylvania is probably bad news, and those suspicions made me a little uneasy as I tried to return to my happy place. I never quite relaxed.

Again, none of this is the man’s fault, who seemed like a decent human just trying to get some zzzzzzzzzzzs. But it is pretty odd to sleep within feet of a complete stranger, and it was made weirder by the fact that the two of us were now alone.

The aftermath

I never went to sleep. Not fully. But I did get some restful “me” time, and the yoga mat/makeshift “Eat, Pray, Love” movie set was surprisingly comfortable.

When it was time to return to the reality of working life on a journalist salary — where Rise by We and its elysian spa is miles out of reach — I felt sleepy and a little grumpy that I couldn’t nap more. But as the hours ticked by, I found that I was more up and energetic than I usually am as day descends into night (that’s not saying much — typically, I want to be in bed by about 8 p.m., and if I’m not asleep by midnight I turn into a gremlin).

I also don’t know that my power nap made me more productive. I didn’t really do much of anything afterward, though I did get a craving for penne pasta and hula hooping. Those may be instances of correlation, not causation, but they would require further study to determine anything for sure.

All of that said, I would absolutely go nap again. Are you kidding me? I got paid money to sleep. In a utopia. That’s hidden inside a rat trap of a city. Who in their right mind would say no to that?

Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.