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"Nap Capsule" Company Cashes in on China's Sharing Economy

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For a mere 10 yuan per half hour, a new capsule napping service is beckoning to sleep-deprived workers in busy Chinese cities.

Targeted at white-collar workers, users unlock each self-service capsule at Xiangshui Space with an app, climb in, and — after a refreshing nap — lock it on their way out.

You're charged via the in-app wallet on WeChat, China's most-used messaging app.

Each pod contains a blanket, and is equipped with USB and power plugs.

"Many professionals have a difficult time finding a nice private place to nap," Han Yue, the start-up's operations manager, told Reuters.

The service is operational in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, and is planning to expand to cities like Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen. 

Xiangshui Space is different from Japanese capsule hotels as it caters to customers who want a quick nap, instead of a full night of sleep, Han added.

Xiangshui Space's 10 yuan ($1.47) per half-hour rate, which applies from 11 am to 2 pm, is also significantly cheaper than similar setups in Japan, which are priced at 1,300 yen ($11.50) for two hours.

The rate drops to 6 yuan ($0.88) per half-hour during off-peak hours.

Japan first started building capsule hotels in 1979. But these hotels have changed from being places where people could stay the night, to places where tired workers go to nap. 

Naps are becoming increasingly important in a region that has been chronically sleep deprived. It's been estimated that a lack of sleep costs Japan $138 billion per year, while a whopping 73 percent of Chinese say that they have had problems falling asleep. South Koreans slept an average of 6.3 hours per night according to a study last year, while Hongkongers slept 6.5 hours per night.

It's no wonder that businesses offering people a place to nap are booming.

NineHours, a chain of capsule hotels in Japan where guests only stay nine hours, began in 2008, and offers guests the chance to use beds for as little as 1,000 yen ($8.82) per hour, for those who need a power nap. 

More recently, cities like Hong Kong have begun to offer places for power naps. Nap Lounge, which opened in March last year, offered tired workers a "private space" to relax for HK$40 ($1.92) every 15 minutes.

Sleeep, which opened in Feburary this year, offers guests the chance to nap from HK$149 ($19.07) per hour.

Nap cafés — which offer people a chance to sleep in a hammock or reclining chair — are also on the rise in South Korea, where people work the third-longest hours amongst OECD member countries.  An hour of napping is priced from 6,000 won ($5.25) onward, and some companies have even managed to set up more than 60 nap cafés in the country.

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