I Tried Napping In 8 Public Places In New York City, And Here's What Happened

Editor's Note: This napping experiment was done in good fun, but what's not funny is that some people really don't have a private place to sleep — and that's no joke to us. Do your part to fight homelessness in New York City or in your town. Because everyone should have a comfortable place to sleep. 

“Excuse me Ma’am, are you in high school?” I was being rudely awoken from a public nap at the New York Public Library, and I wasn’t ready for it. I looked groggily up at the uniformed library official, who’d tapped me out of a blissfully warm sleep in a trendy green armchair. “No…” I answered. I kissed my sweet repose goodbye.

Adding insult to injury, NYPL retorted: “So ... you’re an adult?” 

“As IF,” I wanted to say back to him. “Do adults do their taxes? Do adults own desks and dresser drawers? Wear fancy underpants? Then NO I am not an ADULT. Have you ever heard of prolonged adolescence? Surely then, I fall under this ‘Teen’ category and deserve this righteous nap.”

Needless to say, I was “kindly” asked to leave the Teen section, and I left the library bewildered and sleep-blurred, deciding to seek another solution for my fatigue — caffeine.

Yet the experience left me wondering: where can one go to find a good afternoon siesta in this town, or any town? During college, sleeping in a chair or under a table was perfectly acceptable at any hour, where facilities were practically designed to lull sleep-deprived students’ eyes shut with the abundance of beanbag chairs and ergonomic couches. There, sleep was a natural thing, devoid of shame in the public arena. Even though our beds were also minutes away, there was something magical in the Z’s to be caught elsewhere, those “just close my eyes for a minute, maybe on this worn cushion in this over-heated Econ building” naps.

My newly-claimed “adulthood” is difficult enough already, with all the working and rent-paying and limits on my cereal consumption — and now no napping?  Yet since graduation, I’ve witnessed public sleeping as a subtle art form. With the proper tools and knowledge, I’ve learned, a good nap can be found most anywhere. 

So I decided to try out snoozing at eight public spots in New York City — loitering charges be damned. Here's what happened.  

1. The Clothing Rack Of A Uniqlo

Comfort Level: 2/10

For this nap, I squatted in between hanging striped shirts. The shirts were soft against my face and head, but the squatting became tiresome after only a few seconds. 

Privacy Score: 3/10

I’d never noticed the swarm of floor personnel at a store like this before trying to sneak a nap here. I guess this is how shoplifters (or characters from Scandal walking around with syringes tucked in their hands) see a Uniqlo floor plan. The nap was conspicuous, and felt unwelcomed.

Overall Quality Rating: 2/10

The store was loud, and because of my fear and crouched-ness, I barely approached sleep.

Duration: Less than two minutes.

2. The Dining Area At Whole Foods

Comfort Level: 5/10

With ample table space to splay my arms and nestle my head into my elbow, this was a great location for a seated nap, reminiscent of a memorable snooze I took in the back of a class on The Wire I ended up dropping. (Needless to say, I went to Brown.)

Privacy Score: 3/10 

A bit like an unwanted and unconscious guest at a dinner party, I did feel like I added an additional side of discomfort to the Whole Foods Hot Bar selections at our communal table. To my surprise, the nearest Jamba Juice personnel gave me space and solace, even though the Dining Area was reserved for “Whole Foods Customers Only” according to a sign I read, and I’d bought nary a slice of flaxseed bread.

Overall Quality Rating: 3/10 

Did not attain full sleep due to noise levels and the arch of my back, but a good rest nonetheless.

Duration: 15 minutes.

Extra Bonus: Proximity to free samples and cookie bar.

3. A Tiny House In The Children’s Section Of A Bookstore

Comfort Level: 2/10 

The small house, though quaint in appearance (I was particularly attracted by the large mushrooms placed as props by the front door) was cramped for a human my size and made me feel like a giant person — which was actually kind of cool, to imagine what life would be like if I were twice the size of a house, but not very comfortable in the end.

Privacy Score: 4/10

For the most part, my body was concealed from prying eyes, but my nap came to an abrupt end when a child peeked in. “There’s a lady in here!” the boy shouted, to a parent or perhaps to no one in particular. I gave a small wave and smile, and so no one would think I was passed out in a child’s bookstore, vacated the tiny house.

Overall Quality Rating: 2/10 

This based solely on the position of my neck, which makes a new sound now when I turn it a particular way to the left.

Duration: Four minutes. 

4. A Cold, Wooden Park Bench

Comfort Level: 7/10 

This was the most surprising to me by far, since I expected to freeze my popsicles off trying to nap in this winter tundra — but with the proper layers and a warm hat, I nearly reached an REM state. I’ll attribute this to being horizontal, which I’ve often found a determining factor as to whether or not sleep will be attained. (And yes, I know what this looks like.)

Privacy Score: 8/10

No one’s outside these days, and I had naught but pigeons to witness my sweet slumber.

Overall Quality Rating: 6/10 

Points deducted for the woodenness of the bench and wind chill factor.

Duration: Twenty minutes.

5. The Subway Car

Comfort Level: 8/10 (when sitting)

I usually find subways the perfect place to nap because of the lulling movement of the train (like the rocking lilt of a bassinet, those jerking stops), arm rests to slump on, relative warmth and shelter, and Unspoken Subway Law (see below). But it all depends on whether I can grab a seat. At evening rush hour, I found myself grasping onto a pole, trying in vain to both lose consciousness and remain vertical. Once I copped a seat, though, the nap was smooth sailing to the Land of Nod.

Privacy Score: 6/10

Although I had many witnesses to my nap in the subway car, they were all blinded by Unspoken Subway Law (No Speaking, No Touching, No Staring, No Recognition of Humanity). Everyone has fallen asleep on the subway at one point, so there’s no stigma. I felt almost a well-wishing in my endeavors, sent in the form of pure indifference from strangers — which in New York is like a high five and a hug rolled in one.

Overall Quality Rating: 6/10 

If I could put my bed on a subway, to let that motion rock me to sleep every night, I might. Though right now it’s the other way around, since there’s a train that comes through my bedroom window.

Duration: Thirty minutes. I even went a stop too far — the one danger of the subway nap is waking up some distant and fictional destination: Forest Hills, Far Rockaway, Tiernenog.

6. In A Slide 

Comfort Level: 5/10 

I nestled in the curve of the slide like a kidney stone in the crook of a small intestine. I didn’t care much for the hard plastic, but I appreciate the back support provided by the slide’s contour. It was still quite cold.

Privacy Score: 8/10 

No screaming children, hovering parents, or apathetic nannies. In the dead of winter, I was queen of the blissfully empty playground.

Overall Quality Rating: 3/10

Even though I slept undisturbed, I had to keep scooching up to stay on the slide. There’s a reason slides are meant for sliding.

Duration: Eight minutes.

7. The Asana Apartment Sofa At Crate & Barrel

Comfort Level: 10/10 

I walked around the store with a self-projected grace, not quite imagining what it would be like to own the furniture (I consider a pair of pants an investment item), but more imagining what it’d be like to live in Crate and Barrel. I’d stroll from staged room to staged room, stroking the leather chairs and reading all of the prop books. I’d have make-believe dinner on my favorite Basque Honey Dining Table (who needs real sustenance anyways, when you have the Toben Dinnerware Collection?). 

I could see other customers had already assumed this attitude, curling up on couches with books, backpacks, and coffee cups sprawled about them like they’d been there for hours. I found a couch with just the right springiness to it, the Asana Apartment Sofa. When I closed my eyes, I dreamt. I dreamt hard.

Privacy Score: 3/10 

Crate and Barrel employees must understand that customers like to hang out on their furniture. I found a discrete corner on the second floor with little foot traffic (pro tip: avoid blowout sales). I feel as though I’ve found a new oasis and cannot wait to go again.

Overall Quality Rating: 8/10 

Though all conditions were ideal — an almost sacred silence settling over the pristinely decorated landscape and the softest of down cushions brushed against my cheek — I couldn’t shake the fear that I’d be arrested by Crate and Barrel Police and escorted off the premises, and this unrest underlay my rest. 

Duration: Twenty-five minutes.

8. The Most Spacious Stall Of A Crate & Barrel Restroom

Comfort Level: 3/10 

Crate and Barrel boasted another boon — a public bathroom more spacious than my first New York apartment, and with just as much natural light. Though napping on a toilet is not for me, I appreciated the proximity of facilities to my newly-discovered furniture oasis.

Privacy Score: 10/10

No one bothers you here. No one.

Overall Quality Rating: 3/10

It was difficult to maintain balance sleeping on the toilet seat, even with the help of the wall, and the slouched position was not one of my favorites.

Duration: Five minutes.

To quote an inspiring McSweeney’s article: “Nap like no one is listening. Nap like you’ve never been hurt. Nap like nobody is watching.” 

Go forth, dear reader, and sleep well. And if you ever need to find me, I’ll probably be napping at my new home in Crate and Barrel. Or in their bathroom.

Images: Giphy, Maria Yagoda (9) 

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