Sleepless in Williamstown: Students search for the perfect nap

With crammed schedules of academics, sports and more, students often find themselves napping in the most unusual places. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor.
With crammed schedules of academics, sports and more, students often find themselves napping in the most unusual places. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor.

Love it or hate it, sleep makes the College go round. Professors, administrators, staff and students all need it, but too few get enough rest. Instead, many try to fill the void with napping. Power naps, cat naps, siestas or snoozes may seem to replace the sleep lost to endless problem sets and dense course packets, but they may not always be attainable. With the increase in stress and sleeplessness that accompanies the new semester, it is important for College students to develop an understanding of napping and their personal sleep schedules.

While naps are often revered as the pinnacle of daytime drowsiness solutions, some say that their role in improving a student’s awareness is  subtler than it may seem. Maureen Strype, Resident Nurse at the Thompson Health Center, has advice for sleepy students who find themselves with too little rest to get through the day. “One of the biggest culprits,” she said, “is that we encourage them to consume caffeine.” While it provides an often much-needed pick-me-up, using caffeine to replace sleep is unhealthy, decreasing awareness and restfulness in the long term.

Coffee is not the only problem. “People don’t understand what is caffeine and what isn’t,” Strype said. She notes that regular soda and candy consumption is just as unhealthy, if not more so, than regularly drinking coffee, because they contain not only caffeine, but also more fats and sugars. She also recommends avoiding Snack Bar if your belly is aching late at night: “If you eat a large meal before bed, you’re going to have trouble getting back to sleep,” Strype said. Despite these concerns, she does not believe that naps are the enemy. She admits that sleeping can promote clearer thinking and better memory, only warning that napping is not an effective substitute for a regular sleeping pattern.

Students at the College who do choose to nap swear by their napping techniques. Some students, like Wendy Wiberg ’17, pursue a more precise pick-me-up. She advised nappers to “drink a cup of coffee or something with caffeine. You set your alarm for exactly 23 minutes, then when you wake up you feel the rush of caffeine and it helps you stay up.” She claimed that her method, when successful, is perfect for boosting alertness, but can backfire if the caffeine kicks in before one falls asleep. On the other end of the spectrum is Max Sopher ’17, who focuses more on his personal ideal nap environment, which is “in my dorm room, with the shade half-drawn and the window cracked open, warm breeze rolling in.” As with all of students’ pursuits, time is still of the essence. “Napping is dangerous,” Sopher said. “Sometimes I set an alarm and just don’t wake up.”

If napping is an art, then how exactly do a nappers hone their skills in the Purple Valley? Jackie Lane ’16, founder of the Williams Napper’s Guild, provides the answer with her Nap Flash Mobs. The concept is simple:  the group announces a public venue for a nap, and interested students or random passersby are encouraged to join in on the festivities. “People on this campus don’t get enough sleep,” Lane said. “People brag about pulling all-nighters.” A budding nap expert, she wants to use the Williams Nappers’ Guild to make sleep deprivation and napping a legitmate topic on campus through her once-a-month nap events. The lack of rest that makes students less alert, worsens their memory, harms their health and saps their joviality is, in her opinion, not taken as seriously as it should be. ※I wanted to make napping exciting. I wanted to raise awareness,” she said.

Who should nap? If you are a college student with boundless energy and an abundance of restful sleep, you may not need, want to, or even exist at all. However, if you are a typical student, one who gets the necessary amount of rest but occasionally needs a break from the toils of class, sports, study and extracurriculars, napping may be for you.

If you are having trouble getting any type of sleep, the College provides services to help students gather that much-needed rest. The Thompson Health Center has sleeping kits for the tired that include information on how to get a restful night and all the resources a sleeper needs to make an environment conducive to sleeping. Psychological Services offers a more personal way to help deal with the stress or anxiety that may be preventing students from achieving their true sleep potentials.

Whether a serial snoozer, an occasional dozer or a never-napper, all can agree that napping is not only an activity, but also a lifestyle choice, and one that has an important impact on your energy and your daily moods. Choosing a sleep schedule is a tough decision, so if you find yourself on the fence, it may be best to sleep on it.