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This $895 jacket is designed to help you sleep on long-haul flights

“We wanted zipping the Deep Sleep Cocoon up on a plane flight to be like hanging up a Do Not Disturb sign. Bright lights disappear. Everything gets quieter. And people leave you alone.”

It’s no secret that I love naps. In college and grad school, I carefully planned my courses to allow for a siesta. And one of the best things about working from home is that I can recharge my batteries some carefully timed midday shut-eye. While I have effectively built my entire life around napping, I’m fully aware that this isn’t that common. Most people aren’t able to get the sleep they need over the course of the day.

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This week, the British apparel company Vollebak has come to their rescue. The company released a jacket that doubles as a nap pod, called the Deep Sleep Cocoon, making it easier to sleep anywhere. In addition to inducing sleep, it may induce sticker shock, with a price tag of $895. But then again, Vollebak may be counting on the fact that it’s hard to put a price on sleep—particularly sleep on the go.

[Image: Sun Lee/ Vollebak]

Like many of the products in Vollebak’s line, this jacket was inspired by imagining how we’ll in the future—in this case, how a garment could play a role in space exploration and travel. In space, there’s no environment to regulate your circadian rhythm—and astronauts have very little control over their surroundings. The cabin crew, scientific protocol, and the conditions of space decide what light, sound, and ambient temperature to which you’re exposed. Astronauts on the International Space Station, for instance, experience 16 sunrises every day. And the crews that will someday head to Mars or beyond will experience hundreds of consecutive days outside the Earth’s rhythm of day and night.

“The original idea came from astronauts,” explains Vollebak cofounder, Steve Tidball. “When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed back onto the Eagle to return to Earth after the moon landing, sleep was out of the question. The noise of pumps filled their tiny cabin, bright warning lights couldn’t be dimmed, and even the window shades were glowing as intense sunlight shot through them. The sleeping conditions we take for granted on Earth, like quiet and darkness, are far from guaranteed in space.”

[Photo: Sun Lee/ Vollebak]

So Vollebak’s designers envisioned a jacket that could serve as a kind of microhabitat. The company describes it as a cross between a cocoon and a spacesuit.

The exterior of the jacket is similar to a common windbreaker: it is made from a three-layer material that is both waterproof and windproof. But the unique selling point is its hood, which is built a bit like a space helmet. It can fold down over your entire face—leaving enough room around your face so you don’t feel claustrophobic. But unlike the hard shell of a space helmet, it’s made of soft, comfortable material, meant to make using it feel warm and cozy. The hood design was, like many of the company’s products, inspired by nature, in this case woodlouse. Woodlice have a segmented exoskeleton that creates a barrier between the insect and its environment—Vollebak’s hood is similarly built with five segments that create an on-demand shield.

[Photo: Sun Lee/ Vollebak]

The hood looks black and opaque, but it’s actually made from a breathable mesh fabric that allows the wearer to see out. It contains enough space to fit noise-cancelling headphones underneath, in case you’re in a particularly noisy environment, and the insulation also means it retains warmth when the temperature drops.

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All of these design elements make it perfect for long, overnight flights—even here on Earth. The whole thing is designed to allow you to create the same kind of routine, warmth, and comfort that facilitate sleep but without the usual equipment, like a bed or a sleeping bag. “We wanted zipping the Deep Sleep Cocoon up on a plane flight to be like hanging up a Do Not Disturb sign. Bright lights disappear. Everything gets quieter. And people leave you alone,” explains Vollebak cofounder, Steve Tidball.

As I’ve written in the past, there’s a booming $70 billion industry around products that help people achieve a better nap or a night’s sleep. If you’re in the market for a device that will allow you to sleep better on a flight, for instance, there are many cheaper alternatives to this jacket: For instance, you can pick up the $99 Ostrichpillow, which blocks out light much like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, or there’s always the $24.95 Hoodie Pillow. But if you’re looking for a sleep accessory that combines the same functionality with fashion cred, the Deep Sleep Cocoon may be just the thing you’ve been looking for.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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