Wake me up when September ends

Dear Katy,

I am very busy this semester, and I have not had time to sleep. How can I catch up on Z’s in alternative ways than a traditional sleep schedule?

—Sleepless in the South 40

Salutations Sleepless,

So many sleepy bears. I’m one of them, you’re one of them—there’s so many of us. Getting sleep at Washington University is one of those rare abilities only the very best of us have. If you look at me and say, “I get 10 hours of sleep every night,” rest assured you’ll find me following you around because you’re my next case study. Your ability needs to recorded, experimented on and reproduced.

People who work closely with the Habif Health and Well Center and Cornerstone would tell you that this study has already happened. There are plenty of ways to plan out schedules in detailed Google calendars and many, many strategies concerning time management that can greatly maximize your productivity so that you have more time to sleep and also make good grades. This is all true. You should look into that if you think that’s the root of the problem. Time management is so important and an understated skill, but sometimes even if you’re the best of the best at planning and scheduling and not procrastinating, you will hit a wall where you find yourself staring at the security guard with tears in your eyes as you walk out of Olin Library at 7 a.m. after having just finished the paper you were working on all night. We are all mere mortals here, despite most of our efforts to convince those around us that we are perfect gods. It’s the Wash. U. standard. We are all just trying not to drown in our responsibilities, but when we show up to the Friday night party, we’re just like any other college kid: Young, wild, fearless and so stress-free we’ll stay out till 3 a.m. to prove it. What a lie, but kudos to those of you who really are Greek gods—keep doing you.

Before I answer your question about alternative sleeping, I’d like to be upfront. Nothing I’m about to suggest compares to a real, uninterrupted, good night’s sleep. It’s all a sham. Closing your eyes while you walk to class because it kind of feels the same? Useless. Putting mint chapstick under your eyes to keep them open? You’re just gonna fall asleep with a minty fresh face and maybe some weird under-eye acne. I’ve tried it all. Nothing compares to spending twelve hours in my Tempur-Pedic mattress with my Victoria’s Secret eye mask strapped to my face. That being said, if you find yourself with a completely whack sleeping schedule because of your late nights, don’t medicate unless you absolutely have to. Those two Benadryl might knock you out, but the quality of sleep you’re going to get will not compare to what you would’ve gotten naturally if you had waited it out and maybe practiced some relaxation techniques.

sleepy bearIllustration by Josh Zucker

Olin B Stacks:

I will swear by this place till the day I die. It is by far my favorite place to sleep on campus. You just push two couches together and bam, you have a bed. They’re the cloth couches too—so, double the comfy. If you can snag a spot under the stairs, the lights are less harsh, providing some very quality sleep. Just take your shoes off, put your bag snuggled up against your feet, lay your coat over your body, drape one sleeve over your eyes, plug your earbuds in, set your alarm and start counting sheep.

Mini-Study Naps:

We’ve all seen our fallen peers before. Close your laptop, lay your head on the desk, or against the arm chair, set an alarm, then let the darkness take you. There’s something to be said about taking study breaks. Changing scenery, changing material, changing topics, taking a walk, getting fluids—I think naps can fulfill most of these things. It’s a change in scenery from library to dreamworld. It’s a change in material from calculus to a stress dream about being chased by your faculty fellow’s dog. This is a dangerous path, though. I’ve found myself typing approximately 20 pages of absolute gibberish after falling asleep on my laptop and waking up three hours later. If it’s unplanned, it will probably lead to disaster, and if the boundary of the alarm is not respected, then you’re probably not going to get everything that you wanted accomplished.

Sleep in Class:

OK, this is last resort stuff. If it’s a class that’s recorded, you might as well just not go and watch it online, but if it’s a class that’s not recorded and attendance is taken, and you are past the point of caring, here’s what you do. You have to pretty exhausted to do this, but sit in the back, keep good posture, hold your pencil, look at the professor, close your eyes and go to sleep. In this scenario, you’ll probably get the little leg twitches that’ll jolt you awake, but I swear there’s nothing sweeter than just allowing yourself to close your eyes in that scenario. But like the cost of one Wash. U. class is laughably high; so, maybe don’t do this. Or, you know, get more sleep so you don’t on accident.

Avoid people:

Okay, this seems super cold, but I swear it’s an actual strategy. If you’re trying to fit in an impromptu nap, being surrounded by friends is not conducive. Either they’re going to be having a discussion that you just can’t bear to miss, or you’ll eat up sleep time explaining why you have to leave a gathering early to go sleep. Cut the middle-man out of it. If you’re going to do it, just do it. You don’t need to tell everyone you’re so tired you have to nap. It’s not a point of pride. Everyone works hard, everyone’s stressed—you don’t have to brag. If you’re trying to reach out for help, that’s a different story. Do that. You need that. Maybe skip the nap to figure that out.

Sleeping is so important. People are just better when they sleep. I cry less, think better, remember more and learn so much more when I sleep. I am so much happier! So many great things can stop people from sleeping, it’s not all bad, but remember that sleep is also a great thing, and getting it usually makes already great things better, and already bad things a little less bad. Please just sleep instead of trying to take a nap while walking. I want to see you happy, Sleepless.
Sweet Dreams.