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Urban nappers find lost sleep at Yelo wellness center

Nicolas Ronco is a sleep evangelist. He naps religiously, usually 20 minutes a day, and created a temple to sleep in midtown Manhattan so that other New Yorkers could do the same. Yelo (named for the sun and not the stars?) opened to much hoopla in February 2007, with a New York Times story proclaiming, “the city that never sleeps needs a nap.”

That’s pretty much the motto of Ronco, who grew up napping during the hot midday in Tunisia. When he did an MBA in NYC and started working long hours at Time Warner, he took the business-road less traveled: a power nap instead of a power lunch. “I’d sneak home and nap for 25 minutes. I’d be alert during the 3:00 budget meetings when everyone else was nodding off,” says Ronco. Or running to Starbucks.

Yelo founder Nicolas Ronco

Ronco became interested in the idea that a nap is a human need that doesn’t go away with childhood—and has since developed an academic’s passion for the subject of slumber: “For 50,000 years we’ve been taking naps; human sleep is supposed to be poly-phasic (i.e. not just one eight hour block, but several blocks of time). It’s only been mono-phasic since the Industrial Revolution,” says Ronco.

So what do you pay for at a napping spa? All treatments, whether reflexology or just a nap, take place inside YeloCabs, a groovy pod-like room designed with input from an MD and a sleep expert to be the perfect setting for sleep. It features a zero-gravity chair that raises your legs above your heart to lower your blood pressure. “In terms of blood circulation, you’re sending a signal that your heart can relax, so it goes down by 7-15 bpm,” explains Ronco.

After getting comfortable in the chair, an attendant covers you in a cashmere blanket and leaves. The room is pitch black and misted with your choice of aromatherapy while a relaxing soundtrack (also your choice) plays in surround sound. Needless to say, I found it a big improvement on a nap at home. I fell asleep in probably 5 minutes, and so deeply that the simulated sunrise built into the room’s lighting design didn’t even rouse me. Ronco says I must have fallen into a Stage 3 sleep, rare for a first-timer and too deep a level of sleep for a nap. Still, after a few minutes of grogginess, I felt legitimately refreshed and finished the workday with unusual focus. I could see how this might be better than a double skim late-afternoon latte.

The naps start at $15 for 20-minutes and go up to $28 for 40-minutes. Not bad for a fresh start on the day.

Yelo, 315 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, 212-245-8235,

Do you ever find time during the workday for a short nap? Tell us, here!