Sparks Street Pod Hotel offers free naps

Eight sky blue cylindrical sleeping pods, called the “Pod Hotel,” were set up at Sparks Street Mall From Oct. 15 to 19 to give Ottawans a chance to get caught up on something they often lack – sleep.

Located at the corner of Sparks Street and Elgin Street, guests were invited to take free 20-minute naps from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since the “Pod Hotel” was all part of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline’s crafty marketing scheme to promote its Breathe Right Nasal Strips, every visitor was given a free sample of the sleeping devices, which help relieve nighttime nasal congestion.

Inside each plastic pod, there was a pillow (the cover of which was replaced after each sleep) and a small mattress. People could secure a pod in advance by reserving a spot on Facebook.

Ottawa, along with Montreal and Toronto, were the three stops of the Canada-wide tour for these sleeping pods.

The installation of the “hotel” came soon after a GlaxoSmithKline survey that was released earlier this month. The poll found that about 90 per cent of Ontarians aren’t getting eight hours of sleep. In fact, most middle-aged workers (between the ages of 35-64) reported sleeping less than six hours per night. The survey was conducted across Canada with more than 1,000 participants.

Bryce Wylde, a Toronto-based alternative health expert who helped design the sleeping pods, says the tour is meant to promote the benefits of GlaxoSmithKline’s chemical-free congestion relievers.

Despite GlaxoSmithKline’s obvious overarching business plan, Dr. Joseph De Koninck, a sleep expert at the University of Ottawa, says he thinks these pods could be helpful in raising awareness on the benefits of nap – especially its ability to increase overall wakefulness.

“It’s natural that we need to nap, especially midday and early afternoon. A 20-30 minute nap will usually get you three or four hours of extra vigilance,” he says. “A cup of coffee will only provide you with some vigilance for an hour or so.”

Even if people don’t fall asleep in the “Pod Hotel,” De Koninck says they’re good for coping with a stressful day. “Relaxing is extremely important. To be in a relaxing position and take deep breaths for four to five minutes is very helpful.”

According to De Koninck, an increase in those who are sleep deprived may be due to our reliance on electronics.

“It’s getting worse because of all the distractions that are out there. Because of the Internet and cell phones, people work all the time, and now, in the evening. All of this is contributing to stress and reduces the amount of sleep people are getting,” he says.

Visitors’ experiences at the “Pod Hotel” helped illustrate De Koninck’s last point.

“I think the relaxation helped,” said Stephane Hamelin, a downtown worker, after his 20 minutes in the sleeping pod. “But you know, you go in there with your mobile and you’re just texting again.”

Hamelin said he benefitted from the “Pod Hotel” even though he was not able to fall asleep.

“You hear all these noises around you, and it’s kind of an unfamiliar space . . .  you’re on Sparks Street,” he says. “I sleep around five to seven hours a night, and I just can’t nap. But I would try this again.”