Growing up in Hong Kong, Alex Kot was constantly tired. At school, in the playground, at mealtimes, and even when on the phone with friends he would pause every other sentence for a good, long yawn.
He was eventually diagnosed with apnea, a serious sleep disorder that results in daytime fatigue and a constant state of tiredness.
Meanwhile, Kot’s childhood friend, Jun Rivers, suffered from narcolepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by a tendency to nod off at inappropriate times.
Today, the pair are operating a unique capsule hotel in Hong Kong, called Sleeep, that aims to tackle two of the enduring problems of urban life: lack of sleep and lack of space.
“We know a lot about the importance of a good night’s sleep,” says Kot. “Many people in Hong Kong are working so hard and are very stressed out. We want them to come here to relax and enjoy a good sleep. It could be for the whole night, or just an hour’s nap.”
Traditionally, capsule hotels have had a shabby reputation. Originally from Japan, the coffin-sized sleep spaces were often frequented by drunken salarymen who missed their last train home.
But a new kind of swanky capsule hotel has been popping up across Japan. With a blend of function and style, they’re attracting both local business people and foreign hipsters in search of a fashionable place to lay their heads.
Sleeep, located off a graffiti-strewn concrete staircase adjacent to one of Hong Kong Island’s busiest streets, Queen’s Road Central, is the city’s first upscale capsule hotel, and every detail has been thoughtfully planned in terms of design and usability.
The hotel is a pilot project, with only eight capsules, or sleepers as they’re called. And compared with its slick counterparts in Tokyo, such as First Cabin or 9h (Nine Hours), it still has much to live up to.
But it has a welcoming atmosphere, with cool design and clever use of technology. The hotel occupies just one room of a 367 square feet space, with two small corridors of sleepers and lockers. Each pod is clad in black, white or gray, with the interior of the cubicles finished in pine.
To maximize the quality of sleep, guests can chose between different firmness of mattresses as well as a variety of blankets. Pillows are available in memory foam or eco-down; both vegan-friendly, Kots says.
The sleepers are equipped with responsive smart lighting to help occupants wind down or wake up more smoothly, and guests can programme a blue light to imitate real sunlight. A thick layer of magnetic felt effectively blocks out both light and noise. Kots explains that air supply and climate control are constantly regulated.
Checking in and out has also been simplified. You book and pay online, and use a QR code to access the hotel. No cash, no standing in line, no keys, no hassle. And while most functions are automated, there is always one staff member on site.
The entrepreneurial pair are also keen on sustainability. For example, they have installed a thermal recovery unit that transfers waste heat from the air conditioners to provide hot water for showering. Soap and shampoo is from eco-friendly local brand So Soap. And there’s almost no plastic on the property.
“We believe in minimalism. Not just in design, but when you use something it should be of good quality to reduce waste,” Kot says.
The duo have applied to patent the sleepers, and plan to expand the concept – first to more locations in Hong Kong, and later to other cities.
Care to try one out? For a limited time the hotel is offering guests a chance to visit for a snooze – and pay as much, or as little, as they deem fit. Now that’s an offer to sleep on.