Health and Medical Center’s futuristic relaxation pod helps shed stress

Matt Smith

We’re in college; we take naps. 

The New York Times did the math: At Virginia’s James Madison University, students take a total estimated 6,400 naps per semester. Campuses from Wesleyan to the University of Miami are investing in specialized relaxation spaces.

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It is a trend at American universities, and CSU is keeping up with the times.

The Still Point Reflection Space in the new CSU Health and Medical Center is a place to clear your head. The insulated room offers couches, blankets, yoga and meditation equipment, art tools and variable lighting to match your needs.

As it says on the door, “the Reflection Space is a quiet and spiritually nourishing environment for the Colorado State University community, from all background and cultures. This is a space to pray, reflect, meditate and relax.” 

Taking center stage is the relaxation pod, a white plastic sphere and recliner apparatus set into a little alcove facing the wall. It looks like Marvin the depressed robot from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” movie.

What looks like a repurposed dentist’s chair is actually a very comfortable massager. Laying back in the chair, the sphere surrounds you. The visor cuts off just about all light and sound. The accompanying headphones dampen the sound further.

Turning the machine on from the right side control panel tilts the chair all the way back while piping in soothing music and nature sounds. For the next 20 minutes, the relaxation pod is yours to catch some Zs or just kick back after a bad day.

When I first visited the pod, it was difficult to see how laying on a curved bench mere feet from the lobby of the Health and Medical Center could be relaxing. This impression was quickly dropped. When I pulled the heavy visor shut over me, it was like entering a sensory deprivation tank. Most of the already dim light was blocked out, and all I could hear was my own breathing. The moment I put those headphones on, activated the massage chair and closed my eyes, I was in the mood for a nap. In minutes, I forgot all the stresses of the previous week. 

The concept may be strange on paper, but in practice the relaxation pod provides a surprisingly tranquil environment free of the stresses of school or home. It is a calming experience you would not expect based solely on the pod’s jarring (dare I say, postmodern?) exterior. Until it gets more popular, the pod is almost always open to drop-in students in need of some extra space. 

“People are just barely getting to know the center and what it has to offer,” Daniela Soracá, senior business administration student, said. “Not a lot of people know about it. I imagine it will become this like, almost exclusive thing, you have to schedule it months in advance.”

Soracá is a frequent visitor to the Still Point Relaxation Space. While a fan of the pod, she sees some drawbacks.

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“The music selection is a little weird if I do say so myself,” Soracá said. 

Location is another important factor. The nap pods at Virginia’s James Madison University are found in the student center, while CSU’s pod is a few minutes south of campus. 

Soracá could see relaxation pods “in an area where people can monitor the use of it, but then also students can feel like they have some kind of privacy.”

The website of the National Sleep Foundation says “as a nation, the United States appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived.” It recommends 20-30 minute naps “to improve mood, alertness and performance.” 

Until CSU drops the tens of thousands of dollars necessary for more relaxation pods on campus, the pod at the Health and Medical center is all we got. Reservations can be made at the front desk 24 hours in advance.

Collegian reporter Matt Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @latvatalo.