Two high schools in the Las Cruces Public Schools district and two in the Gadsden Independent School District are using sleep pods – Restworks Energy Pods. The high-tech pods, a reclined chair with a domed sensory-reduction bubble that closes around one’s head and torso, were purchased through grants from the New Mexico Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico to be used in the school-based health centers.
The pods, which vary a little from school to school, generally feature a one-touch start button which activates a relaxing sequence of music and soothing lights. Some have headphones for nappers to wear. At the end of 20 minutes, the pod begins to vibrate gently and an uptempo beat gradually starts playing to wake the student.
Currently, LCPS and GISD are the only school districts in the nation using the pods.
The first one, purchased in 2008, was installed at Gadsden High School. Linda Summers, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at New Mexico State University, helped secure the grant after discovering the pods – which, at the time, were being used in a sleep lounge in the basement of the Empire State Building.
“Tired New Yorkers would go down there for a short nap in the middle of the day,” she said.
Summers, meanwhile, was looking for something better than cots to help students coming to school insufficiently rested. As soon as the sleep pod arrived at the school-based health center, she began learning it had other benefits.
“If they came to us and they were tired, we stuck them in there,” Summers said. “If they had a headache, we stuck them in there. If a teacher had high blood pressure, we stuck him in there.”
The sleep pod, which runs on a 20-minute cycle, helped all of them. Of 100 students who used it, 99 were able to return to class within 20 minutes – with tremendous increases in energy and mood, Summers said.
It even helped calm down agitated students who had been involved in fights.
In 2011, Summers secured federal funding for three more – to be installed at Chaparral High School, Oñate High School and Las Cruces High School. In 2015, Summers purchased one for the School of Nursing through legislative mental health funding secured by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces.
Sandy Peugh, a longtime school nurse who is now the health services director for LCPS, said she first saw the benefit of the sleep pods when she was a school nurse at Las Cruces High.
“We found, as we were using them at the high school, that it was great for kids who weren’t getting enough sleep at night – which teenagers don’t, for a variety of reasons,” Peugh said. “They were coming to school exhausted, and we’d put them in the pod. Within 20 minutes, they were coming out refreshed and focused, and they were able to stay at school, so instruction time wasn’t missed.”