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Life

Japan wakes up to the benefits of napping on the job

Sleep cafes prove a hit as companies encourage workers to grab 40 winks

Customers at Nestle Japan's Suimin Cafe are provided with a partitioned space to doze in and a cup of coffee before they go to sleep to help them wake feeling refreshed 30 minutes later.

TOKYO -- As summer approaches and the nights grow warmer, sleep can be hard to come by. As Japanese companies look for new ways to improve productivity, and groggy workers aim for a better quality of life, they have hit upon a common-sense solution: midday catnaps.

According to one survey, people in Japan slept least in June and July last year. A variety of services are springing up to help alleviate the sleep deficit.

Nestle Japan has opened Suimin Cafe on the fifth floor of a building near JR Oimachi Station in Tokyo. There the weary can find luxurious beds and leather chairs bathed in dim, warm lighting, separated by cloth partitions. The spaces provide an ideal environment for napping.

"I had time before my next engagement, and I came here for the first time," said one recent customer. "It was refreshing."

At 750 yen ($6.90), the cafe offers a nap plan where customers can have a cup of coffee and doze for 30 minutes, after which they wake up feeling refreshed as the caffeine kicks in, the unit of the Swiss food processor said. Nestle no doubt senses a market opportunity: It sells a lot of coffee in Japan.

For those looking for a deeper slumber, there are also sleep plans of one to three hours, priced between 1,500 yen and 4,950 yen. For these longer courses, customers are offered a cup of decaf before hitting the hay and a regular cup after they wake up.

Nestle Japan's Atsushi Murata recommends that coffee drinkers to have brews of varying caffeine content on different occasions, depending on their sleeping habits.

Suimin Cafe is the company's first permanent nap room. It has experimented with temporary locations on three occasions since 2017 in Tokyo's fashionable Ginza and Harajuku districts. The cafes proved very popular, with customers sometimes waiting in line to get in.

Other companies are helping people unwind as well. For people who cannot fall asleep just by closing their eyes, Body Work, a Tokyo company that runs the Raffine chain of massage rooms, has begun a service where customers can lie down and go to sleep while receiving massage on a sleep-enhancing, breathable mattress.

The Summer Deep Sleep Plan, offered in a tie-up with Tokyo bedding maker Airweave, is priced at 2,160 yen for 20 minutes. Customers can buy more nap time for 1,080 yen per 10 minutes.

"The plan alleviates the unpleasantness of the heat, and you can receive treatment in comfort," said Body Work's Miyuki Oikawa.

Believing that power naps can make employees more productive, Tokyo social media app developer Gaiax in May set up a lounge where workers can take a company-sanctioned snooze. The room, which it opened on a trial basis, has mattresses supplied by Koala Sleep Japan, the local unit of the Australian bedding maker of the same name.

Gaiax, a Tokyo app developer, in May set up a nap room for employees on a trial basis.

"I had a better sleep in the new lounge than I was able to before," said Gaiax employee Machiko Kojima.

"We wanted to promote the idea that an effective nap can enhance work performance," said Tomohiro Kimura of the company's administrative department.

The municipal government of Fukuoka in southwestern Japan has partnered with Tokyo bedding manufacturer Nishikawa to create a campaign aimed at encouraging employees of local companies to take a short nap during the workday. Participating companies are given free blankets with an attached hood and emblazoned with the words "charging now."

The organizers received many inquiries after they launched the campaign, in which companies are asked to encourage employees to take one 15- to 20-minute nap a day. On a single day, 1,000 blankets were snapped up.

The campaign is a part of a city project to create a sustainable society, according to Mayor Soichiro Takashima. "We wanted to change the general thinking that dozing off at work is shirking," Takashima said.

Ryutaro Shirahama, a sleep specialist and head of Yokohama's Respiratory & Sleep Medical Care clinic, said those interested in catching some serious Zs should leave their smartphones behind. The screens can stimulate the brain and inhibit sleep. "Rest thoroughly when you should," Shirahama advised.

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