Study on the desks, re-energize in the cafe and research in the stacks.
When Harvard College students enter their 24-hour Lamont Library, sleep is often the last priority. But sophomore Yuqi Hou hopes creating a nap room in the building’s basement will alter that approach.
“College life shouldn’t be full of late-night study sessions and last-minute all-nighters, but oftentimes it is,” Hou said. “The least we can do is accommodate for something that is already going on.”
Among her peers who sleep well under the recommended seven to nine hours, Hou pitched the nap room concept to administrators on Harvard’s online petition tool, We the Crimson, in January. Likely to begin next year, the dimly lit space will have a cushion in each curtain-partitioned section.
Often without time to walk home between classes, a centralized nap room location — or nap pods in various campus areas — would create convenient space for this sleep-deprived demographic to catch up on their zzz’s, said Harvard sophomore Sietse Goffard, Undergraduate Council Student Life Committee member.
“Knowing how busy and overwhelmed a lot of Harvard students are, a nap space is really helpful,” Goffard said. “I know more sleeping would greatly enhance my learning experience.”
Accessible with a Harvard ID, students will be able to pick up a blanket and pillow upon signing in with the room moderator. There they’ll write their nap duration and leave belongings in a locker, according to the nap-space proposal Hou created with Harvard’s Happiness Project.
“It’s very stigmatized right to sleep in these public places,” Hou said. “Napping in the nap room wouldn’t be embarrassing, it’d be the norm.”
With 191 students’ support, the nap room idea reached Dean of Harvard College Evelynn Hammonds. Each month she reviews the top three We the Crimson proposals, which facilitates direct communication between students and administrators, Goffard said.
Logistical details pose one of the only problems Hou has had with her proposal. From finding a location to determining the system, Hou is working with both peers and administrators to implement the nap room.
A daylong “nap-in,” where students and staff will nap and discuss sleep research, will occur in the next two months. Serving as a pilot program, this event should help ease concerns about systematic issues with the nap room, like privacy and nap equipment sanitation, said Harvard sophomore Cindy Shih, Happiness Project co-director.
There Hou plans to distribute a nap map with existing doze-conducive areas at Harvard.
University of Texas at Austin created its own similar nap map last semester. The Google Map-based feature has 17 plotted points with a description and picture of the space.
Healthyhorns Nap Map places are based on 100 students’ input about their favorite nap spots, which are distributed throughout the school, said Jessica Wagner, manager for the Health Promotion Resource Center. Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and the University of California – Davis also have nap maps.
Though naps can supplement sleep, students shouldn’t rely on these abbreviated dozes to stay well-rested. Only limited use of the nap room — particularly for those under an hour — is encouraged, Shih said.
As Harvard students continue conversations about the nap room, Happiness Project co-director Emily Lowe said she hopes the idea will change the national collegiate attitude toward sleep.
“I think nap rooms expanding to other colleges really depends on how it works for us,” Lowe said. “People do look at Harvard, and Harvard can take that position to lead as an example.”
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