I Took a Nap at Doze, a Very Real Startup for Overworked Adults

$20 for 25 minutes in a nap pod.

Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong

I couldn't quite see through the pane of frosted glass on the door, but the office inside looked dim. Were they even open? I turned the knob, and the door opened readily enough. The lights were low for an office. Three smooth, white, gleaming pods stood in the middle of the office, and Brandon, the proprietor, sat behind a desk nearby. Oh, right. Of course the lights would be low. It's a nap startup.

Doze SF has attracted some ire on social media over the last week or so. "We've reached peak startup," one person tweeted. "In the tech world I can no longer tell if something is parody," said another.

I made my appointment on the Doze SF website the night before, my primary consideration being that if it was too early, I might oversleep and miss my nap appointment. It had been a rough week. I was covering a trial in Sacramento that required me to get up at 4 or 5 AM in order to catch a train. I was very, very tired, and part of me was excited to invoice Motherboard for a nap.

Fortunately for Motherboard, Doze is currently offering a promotion—one 25 minute nap, for zero dollars and zero cents. I entered the code, selected 12 PM, and the next day I showed up at New Montgomery and Market Street, ready for my sleepytime experience.

Doze is on the twelfth floor of the Hobart building—one of those beautiful old historic San Francisco buildings that are full of marble and brass detailing on the inside.

As I wandered down the corridors of the twelfth floor, I braced myself for the discovery that Doze was, after all, an elaborate joke.

It wasn't.

Photo: Sarah Jeong

The sleep pods at Doze are weird. I'd never seen anything like them before—though later, Brandon told me that both Google and Facebook have them on their campuses. He was not joking. In fact, nothing about Doze is a joke.

Brandon—who did not know I was a reporter at the time—was a little wry about all the attention his venture had been getting on the internet. After people started talking about—usually with a mixture of contempt and incredulity—he put this note up on his site. "The bottom line is that a little sleep during the day is simply a better way to deal with stress and fatigue. Studies have proven this time and time again. Whether a CPA, or a barista, our objective is to make this option more accessible to everyone." The page adds that Doze isn't funded by venture capital or angel investors. It didn't go through an incubator, or receive crowdfunding. In his words, it's closer to "Mom n' Pop shop" than a startup.

On the other hand, I've never gone to a Mom 'n Pop shop for a nap.

Brandon brought me over to the pods and gave me the rundown of how they work. They are large, soft, reclining chairs with armrests, nestled inside a dome. The dome is open in the front. Once you climb in, a panel rolls across the front to shut the dome off from the rest of the world. Inside, the dome feels much roomier than you'd expect. Noise canceling headphones are provided. A control panel on the side lets you adjust the incline, change the music, and even add a soft vibration through the chair.

Photo: Sarah Jeong

I climbed into the pod and Brandon closed the dome on me. I put on the headphones and hit the nap button to start my 25 minutes of peace and quiet. "Energy pod activated. Enjoy your MetroNap," a female voice lulled into my ears, as relaxing music began to play. It reminded me of a cross between Portishead and elevator music. It worked.

I began to surreptitiously take photos from inside the pod. None of them were good. I was, after all, inside a darkened pod where I was supposed to be sleeping.

I put away my phone and shut my eyes for a bit. The vibrations against my back felt nice. When I opened them again, ten minutes had passed. I was a little mad. Where had all my nap time gone? I was convinced I hadn't been asleep, and yet all the minutes had slipped away. I checked my phone and messaged my editor. "I'm messaging you from the nap pod. The nap thing is 100% real."

"You lie," she replied.

I kept glancing to the control panel on the side to see how much time I had left. What if I paid for another 25 minutes and invoiced Motherboard for that? In the name of journalism, of course.

Inside the otherworldly confines of my nap pod, I began to think about all the subpar naps I had taken in the past. When I was in school, I used the forty minutes between Torts and Civil Procedure to lie down on my dorm bed, fully clothed and completely wired from too much coffee, trying not to think about how stressed out I was. It only worked part of the time.

What kind of a life would you have to lead where it made sense to book nap appointments during the day?

As my minutes ticked down, a reddish light began to turn on inside the pod. Or had there been soft lights inside there the entire time? I couldn't remember anymore. They turned red, and then they turned white. My chair slowly lifted back up from its reclining position. My nap was over.

I lay back in the pod and glanced disconsolately at the now run-out timer. It was strange to think that Brandon wasn't actually that far away from the confines of my pod. I sat there for what felt like an eternity, not wanting to leave. Then I remembered I had to go write up my story, and opened up the dome myself.

"Did you get to relax?" Brandon asked me, looking up from his desk with a smile. I said I had, and asked him if I could take a few pictures of the pods. He agreed readily, laughing. He didn't seem to think that they were that strange or odd-looking—they were, to him, just another tech industry amenity that he was bringing to the outside world.

We chatted for a bit before I said goodbye and left the Hobart building. Right outside, a cluster of young men in identical logoed hoodies were milling around, unsure of where to go to lunch. I pushed past them, and walked quickly to catch a train to the East Bay.

On the train, my seatmate was a young man in a flannel shirt and jeans, slouching against the window with noise-cancelling headphones on. His eyes were shut.

Doze didn't make any sense to me. What kind of a life would you have to lead where it made sense to book nap appointments during the day? Were there really people who worked ten, twelve hours a day that desperately needed naps, but were too afraid of their bosses to try and nap inside their offices? It seemed a bit much—but then again, I wasn't the type of person to bring my laptop into a bathroom to try and write some code on the toilet, either.

Like the laundresses and boarding-house operators who made a killing off the California Gold Rush, maybe Doze isn't so much ridiculous as it is a sign of the ridiculous times in which we live, laboring under the tyranny of productivity.

I thought this to myself smugly, while running home to file my story as fast as I could.