SFO to try pay-as-you-snooze napping stations

There may soon be a way for travelers to take naps at San Francisco International Airport that is more comfortable than dozing off on boarding-gate chairs — but they’ll have to pay for the privilege.

After winning likely approval by the San Francisco Airport Commission today, airport officials are planning a six-month trial of Powrnaps Sleep Stations — single-occupancy pods offering nap time in 20-minute increments and featuring headphones playing soothing recorded sounds — in the International Terminal. The six stations, which include optional showers, may be up and running in the terminal by this fall.

Leo Fermin, deputy director of airport business and finance, said in a memorandum that the concept of a sleep station, though widely used in airports around the world, has not been tested much in the United States.

Powrnaps, a Seal Beach-based company, claims that its technology will allow people to take an efficient 20-minute nap recharge by inundating the customer — seated in the pod with headphones on — with soothing sounds meant to guide the person to sleep. The experience is not unlike listening to a quieter, cascading waterfall, company spokesman Paul Brown said.

Brown said the company had its eye on the airport market for some time. SFO will be its first stab at cornering the travelers’ market, particularly international travelers embarking on a 16-hour flight or people on layover from other western domestic hubs or Asia.

The company also has eyes on some of the biggest, busiest airports in the country, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

A 20-minute nap session would cost approximately $20 to $25, Brown said. Because of the cost, some travelers, such as San Francisco resident and electrical engineer Brian Sandoval, said they might give a nap station a shot, but likely wouldn’t pay for the service regularly.

“I’m usually fine sleeping on my backpack,” Sandoval said. “It’s uncomfortable, but I’m usually not at the airport that long.”

Chris Wiggum, an independent film promoter and also a San Francisco resident, said he is often well-equipped — with sleeping padand air pillow — to sleep comfortably in an airport. He noted that airport sleepers are surrounded by dozens of others in the same boat anyway.

“I would think that it would be nice to have something like that if I was going on some long trip and I was stranded,” Wiggum said. “It’s definitely better than lying on the floor. But I’d be worried that each minute gone by was costing me money.”

Naps by the numbers

» Less than seven hours: Average time an adult sleeps per night during the workweek

» 20-30 minutes: The average nap length that can help to improve mood, alertness and performance

» 34 percent: Improvement in performance resulting from a 40-minute nap, according to a NASA study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts

» 100 percent: Improvement in alertness resulting from a 40-minute nap, according to the study

» 33 percent: Adults surveyed who would nap at work if they were allowed

tramroop@examiner.com


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