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Nap Time with Nicolas Ronco

Apparently, the city that never sleeps is also the place where dreams are made. Though it may seem impossible, with the invention of YeloSpa, some of the busiest, most successful people of New York are accomplishing this incredible feat. Every day, a small hoard of attorneys, hedge fund managers, and private equity investors ambles over to this heavenly sleep spa for a quick power nap.

But you don’t have to work on Wall Street to be stressed. Anybody feeling deprived of sleep, overwhelmed at work, or in need of a mental reboot should consider napping at YeloSpa. Intrigued by this innovative approach to physical and mental health, I decided to pay a visit to founder Nicolas Ronco, and try to get some shut-eye myself.

Coming from the noisy, bustling, bitter city streets, I entered the spa and immediately felt at ease. A quiet, warmly lit environment greeted me. As I sat on comfortable, purple cushions, a kind attendant brought me a cup of hot tea. There, Nicolas shared his story, how for many years his job required he live on a plane, travel to countries like Japan and Hungary, and constantly feel exhausted and sleep deprived.

new-reception_deskIn his world travels, he noticed a major cultural difference between Asia and the U.S. In Asian countries, they had a very different understanding of personal space. Employees felt secure napping in their workplace; pedestrians had no issue being pushed into others on a crowded bus. He left with a new perspective on American society: people needed a safe place where they could relax and recharge. And so did he.

For two years, Nicolas and his team engineered a room that would make his guests feel safe, but not claustrophobic. In 2007, he created his masterpiece, equipped with choices for natural light, sound programs, and aromatherapy. At first, he shares that, “people were resistant. They couldn’t fall asleep, feeling guilty that they were sleeping in the middle of the day.”

When people discovered that sleep increased their productivity, however, twenty minutes at the spa was better than a lunch break or a cup of coffee. “If guests are stumped by a problem at work, when they take a nap, the quick REM sleep often helps with problem solving. They wake up with new ideas,” Nicolas revealed.

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I was curious to discover the effects of the YeloCab nap experience myself. After I spoke with Nicolas, an attendant came over and patiently let me smell the different options for aromatherapy. I selected my favorite and she led me over to the cab.

Upon entering, the cab’s blue light calmed my mind. Climbing into the seat, I melted into the chair’s plush cushions, leaning back to a zero gravity position with my feet above my heart. Nicolas had told me that position improved blood flow: “It also allows people to recover and prompts the body to produce more collagen, which has an anti-aging effect.”

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Putting on some comfortable headphones, I selected a sound program and closed my eyes. The blue light faded into a soft, dim glow. My body unwound.

As a first-timer, it took me about 15 minutes to fall asleep. The room’s hexagonal shape almost cradled me. Once I calmed and let myself drift off, I indulged in a deep, gentle slumber for the rest of the 25 minutes. A simulated sunrise quietly woke me as my session concluded.

Leaving YeloSpa, I felt rested and awake. Once outside, the hectic, New York energy no longer disoriented me. A homeless man even managed to scream “SATAN!” in my face on my way home. Though startled, it was all the easier to move on and remain calm.

Since founding YeloSpa in 2007, Nicolas has had many clients write to him, saying Yelo has saved their lives. “Our naps are like healing patches for those with unhealthy lifestyles,” he says, “We help our clients with their health, their mental sanity. They have a refuge.”

With that, I couldn’t agree more.

Lani Allen

Lani Allen is a junior at Columbia University majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in Spanish. Having served as Vice President of her class for two years, she has since contributed written pieces and illustrations to many on-campus publications. As a writer with an interest in the beauty industry, Lani intends to pursue a career in either journalism or fashion marketing.

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