We're ALL about sleep here at CBHQ as we're spending a fortnight re-training our brains to 'switch off' so we get better Zzzs. Our #SleepingBeauty campaign is devoted to debunking common myths and understanding why our pillow-time is crucial for a healthy mind, glowing skin and overall wellbeing. 

So, in the spirit of feeling more zen, we've been trialling the coolest excuse for a few precious minutes of midday 'me time'. Our pop-up {awol pod} provides a sanctuary when stress levels are soaring - replete with soft blankets, air-purifying plants and a 10-minute relaxation programme to help you 'reboot', just thirty minutes within this cocoon make you feel like your brain has been turned 'off and on'. We spoke to the founder about why a quick 'power nap' help to combat the afternoon slump...

{Cult Beauty} Firstly, can you talk us through the concept - what’s an ‘awol pod’?

{Lucy Bond} Here at {awol} we want to empower people to practice mental downtime and self-care in the workplace. Everyone has their own way of recharging and with this in mind we’ve designed a cosy, multi-use retreat where people can duck out of their busy day and unwind in privacy. Inside we’ve used luxe, natural fabrics, super squishy cushions and optional ambient lighting, making it the perfect relaxing nook to take a breather. We also provide smart tablets programmed with guided relaxation and stress SOS sessions in case you need a helping hand.

{CB} Why is office ‘down time’ so essential in this day and age?

{LB} With more hours spent in the workplace than ever before - as well as the gadgets that mean we're contactable 24/7 - the line between work and downtime has become blurred which is having an impact on our mental health. We would find the idea of physically running non-stop from dawn till dusk without a break a little crazy, but we don’t realise that’s what we’re often pushing our minds to do. Our brains are actually designed to have rest periods and a well-rested mind is scientifically linked to better mental health, sleep, productivity, creativity and brain power in general.

{CB} What was the trigger that led to the pods’ evolution? What prompted the leap from idea to inception?

{LB} I spent the best part of my 20s connected to a screen from waking to sleeping, powering through my day and usually dropping into bed feeling frazzled but with my mind too busy to drift off to sleep.

Eventually I started to feel burnt out and stressed, so I decided to try out a meditation app and worked some short screen breaks into my day. It was so effective for de-stressing and I began to feel better in myself in general. The problem was there was nowhere quiet or private to take a breather and trying to get a moment of calm while at work was challenging to say the least! I found that a lot of people felt the same and I started to dream up a private nook which eventually turned into awol.

{CB} Many employees would love to take advantage of a nap - firstly is a ‘power nap’ actually helpful and what’s the perfect ‘window’ to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed - not groggy?

{LB} The good news is yes! Power naps are great way of giving you a boost when your energy levels are flagging and have lots of other scientifically proven benefits including increased productivity, stress reduction, improved memory and even enhanced creativity.

The ideal nap time is between 20 to 30 minutes, exceeding 40 minutes is more likely to lead to deep sleep which will affect the quality of your sleep later on and will make you feel groggy when you wake up.

{CB} Do you have any tips to help maximise the benefits of ’nap time’?

{LB} The hardest part of napping tends to be disconnecting our minds and relaxing into a snooze. We all have our own way of getting into our relaxation zone, for some it’s a scent, for others a meditation or a ritual. Figure out what that is for you and use it as your way to switch into rest mode, it will soon become an association that your mind and body attaches to rest and sleep and will be all the more powerful.

Also try and resist the urge to clock watch, set an alarm for peace of mind and let yourself unwind. Inside our pods we’ve created phone charging pockets where tech can be optionally hidden out of sight to help you resist the temptation of peeking!

{CB} The pods come with ‘air purifying’ plants. How does greenery help to enhance your sleep quality?

{LB} Having a great rest and sleep is largely down to the right environment. Our air-purifying plants are team players in this, helping to deliver the perfect environment for relaxation - and wellbeing in general - on two levels.

Firstly, just looking at plants is good for you! Research shows that simply being surrounded by nature - including indoors - reduces stress, blood pressure and heart rate and improves feelings of wellbeing. Secondly our plants have been proven by NASA to tackle indoor air pollution, helping you to breathe easier.

{CB} There’s a lot of guilt surrounding sleeping patterns, with those who struggle in the mornings often labelled as ‘lazy’ or made to feel less than their ‘early bird’ counterparts? How can we modify people’s perceptions?

{LB} It all comes down to science, which tends to help bust any myths or misconceptions… We each have our own body clock, also known as our circadian rhythm, which dictates what time of day we feel most awake, the level to which we’re hit by the afternoon slump and when we’re ready for bed. Although our rhythms are similar in that we sleep by night and wake by day, they do vary person to person, separating the early birds from the night owls. Both have their benefits!

{CB} For night owls who struggle with ’typical’ office hours, do you have any ‘wake up’ techniques to make mornings more productive?

{LB} Being a night owl myself, I like to use my night-time productivity to make my mornings easier. I find it helpful to have an outfit picked and ready to wear, and a to-do list for the next day so that it’s off my mind and on paper, and I’m a step ahead when I start work.

For mornings, I know it’s painful, but resisting the urge to press snooze will actually make you feel less groggy and also means you won’t spend the morning chasing your tail. I also like to incorporate nice ‘moments’ into my routine which makes it more tempting to get up and just generally puts me in a good frame of mind. Some of these include using luxe shower products, making a tasty breakfast and taking 10 minutes to listen to the awol ‘rise and shine’ session.

{CB} Have you noticed a relationship between sleep and mental health? What are the giveaway symptoms - physical and emotional - of too little sleep?

{LB} Absolutely, this all-powerful body clock of ours is linked to every cell in our body and importantly our hormones. When our sleep’s disrupted it can make us feel moody and irritable, our alertness and productivity levels tend to take a dive and we’re much more likely to reach for caffeine, sugar and calorific food. In the long-term it can also cause our body to produce increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

{CB} Similarly, is it possible to have too much sleep? Is there a prescribed ‘ideal’ - is the 'eight hour' guideline still relevant?

{LB} The amount of sleep we need comes down to factors such as our lifestyle, genes and age. For the best part of our adult life the recommended guidelines are between 7-9 hours, but what feels right can vary from person to person. If you find that you’re sleeping for more than 9 hours on a regular basis and still feel tired it may be worth taking a look at your sleep quality and potential lifestyle factors.

{CB} It’s usually mid-afternoon that the sluggishness hits. Are there any ways we can avoid the post-lunch slump?

{LB} The afternoon slump is a natural part of our rest/wake cycle but there are some things you can do for impact control. If you can, use this time to take a short break to rest your mind and body. Powering through when your body is signalling for a break is likely to just drag out the sluggishness for the rest of the afternoon. Another great option is taking a walk and getting some fresh air and natural light. If you have a meeting booked and some willing colleagues why not suggest a quick walk and talk around the park?

{CB} And finally, naps for staff are probably a tricky ’sell’. How can we convince employers to adopt an ‘awol’ policy? Are there any eye-widening stats you can share?

{LB} Whether it’s a power nap or just resting the mind, having regular moments of mental downtime is essential for our overall wellbeing. Research shows that having happy, healthy and well-rested employees significantly improves employee productivity, problem solving and creativity. It also creates a positive and healthy company culture which helps to attract and retain great talent.

With mental health increasingly in the spotlight on a global scale, we are seeing governments and businesses taking a much more progressive and proactive stance towards mental wellness in the workplace which is really positive.

We do still have a long way to go though, with a staggering 48% of UK employees saying they’ve experienced a mental health issue in their current job. In 2017 the cost to businesses as a result of poor mental health in the workplace was £34.9 billion, and that was just within the UK!

Meanwhile the ROI for preventative mental wellness initiatives was up to £8 for every £1 spent, so you can really see the impact this type of solution could have.

Thank you so much Lucy! Learn more about {awol} then check out our {sleep boutique} brimming with stress-busting balms, soaks and sprays to help boost your brain power and make dreams come easily...

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