New program creates space for homeless to nap
Sleepy? You could probably use a nap.
A 2012 study by the u.s. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly one-third of American workers get fewer than six hours of sleep a night.
The problem only gets worse when you don’t have a home.
“Sleep deprivation is a huge problem for homeless people,” said Rev. Rick Reynolds, of Operation Nightwatch, which provides housing and outreach for those on the streets.
Shelters require clients to be up and out of the door first thing in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m., and clients may not get to their sleeping areas until as late as 11 p.m., Reynolds said. When they do finally get to “bed,” usually a mat on the floor of a common room, their sleep is often interrupted.
“Imagine, you know, 80 snoring guys,” Reynolds said. “Somebody’s going to get up and step on your foot.”
This week, Operation Nightwatch is launching Naptime, which is exactly what it sounds like: a smattering of mats spread out in the afternoon for those seeking some extra shuteye.
A trial run of the program will be “small scale and limited,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to have, like, eight mats available, and these will be pre-assigned the night before.”
Operation Nightwatch staff members are collecting plastic earplugs like those given out on airline flights. They’re also gathering sleep masks and trying to figure out the best way to launder them. If the effort takes off, they may try to find ways to make the room darker, he said.
Reynolds is not expecting a rush of would-be nappers.
“Just because it’s unfamiliar and maybe feels weird to people, it may be slow to be adopted by folks,” he said.
People who lack homes of their own are faced with so many other things to take care of — like getting across town to a hygiene center where they can shower, or waiting in line for a meal — that many are actually very busy during the day, Reynolds said. Sleep often takes a back seat to the challenges of survival.
This is all the more reason homeless people may need to nod off. Sleep deprivation can hinder one’s ability to make sound judgments and cope with stressful situations, Reynolds said. Studies have shown that over the long term, a sleep deficit can lead to a rise in the stress hormones, which have been linked to anxiety, depression and weight gain.
Given sleep’s potential benefits, Reynolds is planning to give Naptime enough time to settle in.
“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some convincing to people that this is a good idea.”
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