A nap chamber
A nap chamber Credit: Noa Rosinplotz

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

I stopped taking naps when I was a baby. Even sick, I can’t manage to actually fall asleep during the day. It’s not that I’m never tired. I’m just incapable of checking out when the sun is shining.

I know that’s weird because napping is a national pastime. People nap at home. They nap at work. They nap when they’re not supposed to. They nap on weekends and weekdays, after lunch and before dinner. 

People don’t generally characterize naps as “empowering.” Until now. Instead of hiding in a cubicle or under a desk to snooze, zeitgeist-y downtown professionals in the District can now shell out $15 for a nap in recharj, a new nap room at 1445 New York Ave NW. 

At that price, I figured, maybe even a nap skeptic like me could catch some Zs. 

The meditation room leads to six small, curtained-off nap pods, each of which contains a soft beanbag, sleep mask, blanket, and cheery pillow, with a message like “love” or “peace.” Tea, water, and headphones are available at no charge. 

Everything from the cool-but-not-cold temperature to the pillow shape (perfect for hugging) is tailored to fit the needs of harried midday nappers. Even the music, a blend of white noise and nature sounds, has been carefully selected. 

“The tonal waves speak to a frequency in the body,” recharj manager Christine Marcella says. “Low tones bring you down, then happier music brings you up.” 

After I’d left my things in a locker, the lights dimmed to almost pitch-black, and Marcella closed the curtain surrounding my bean bag. If I was ever going to nap, this was the time.

The shared sleeping experience takes some getting used to. Yogibo beanbags, though comfortable, aren’t exactly quiet, and it can be disconcerting to hear the movements of fellow sleepers in the near-total darkness.

After what was probably two or three minutes (but felt like several hours), I gave up on lying down, too guilty about the constant noise from my turning. Now sitting cross-legged, I waited for another minute or so. The low tones weren’t helping, and my feet were very cold. My repeated attempts to read the tag on the pillow for entertainment were making my eyes ache. I was completely unsure if I had 15 minutes left, or one. 

With nothing better to do, I found myself back on my little nap blanket, waiting for nap time to be over, like one in a row of 5-year-olds thinking about nothing, wishing desperately for quiet time to end. But then as I daydreamed, staring ahead at the floating white curtain, I realized it was working. 

I wasn’t asleep. In fact, as I learned later, recharj instead aims for “conscious napping,” a sort of light, dreamy doze. Instead, I was resting, completely prevented from checking my phone or moving or speaking. 

It was still cold, and I was still about to slide off the beanbag, but it was relaxing, because that was the only possible thing it could be. Once I became aware that I was “recharjing,” so to speak, I stopped overthinking. Several minutes later, a loud alarm sounded, the lights came on, and it was over.

If you are a napper, and many people are, I can’t think of a better way to spend $15 than recharj. You will almost certainly nap, and you will almost certainly be comfortable while you do it. 

As for ceiling-starers like me, it’s still an experience. There are very few other socially acceptable ways to spend 20 minutes hugging a pillow.