Once students are on campus, they are busy. They are studying. They are meeting with their professors in office hours. They are participating in extracurricular activities. All of this takes a toll. Twenty-four hour libraries encourage students to work all hours of the night as well. Over 91 percent of UT students said sleep negatively affected their daytime activities in a spring 2017 health survey.
However, getting a quick nap on campus is a risky endeavor. Your bags could get stolen while napping on a couch in the Perry-Castañeda Library or on cushions in the Student Activity Center. UT Police Department’s most recent available crime reports include 371 thefts in 2015 — and that’s likely underreported. And can students even doze off through all the chatter and constant motion around them in busy campus spaces? Perhaps some can. But all students could benefit from dark, comfortable and quiet places to take a quick break from the day. Additionally, many students live far from campus, so returning to their apartments for a quick nap isn’t always an option.
“I’ve looked before, but was unable to find a good spot,” said Matthew Stepter, a graduate landscape architecture student who lives miles away from campus. “I wish I didn’t need to sleep on campus, but sometimes you need a little nap. It was a little annoying trying to find a place and not being able to find one.”
Administrators should know that more sleep is correlated with higher GPAs. While napping isn’t a complete replacement for the benefit of sleep, research from the University of Illinois shows that sleep has a greater impact on academic achievement than factors like exercise, social support, mood, nutrition and age. Research also shows that high-achieving students are more likely to nap than low academic performers. Top football coaches know that sleep improves athletes’ performance on the field. Perhaps administrators should take a note from them and encourage students to nap more by modifying existing spaces on campus.
Existing spaces on campus could be retrofitted at a relatively low cost to create napping zones on campus. In a section of the top floor of the PCL, lights could be switched off, shades placed on the windows and cots could be placed near some of the windows. Some schools, like UC Berkeley, spent thousands of dollars retrofitting entire library floors as rest and quiet zones. Berkeley librarian Jean Ferguson said in an interview that the space is popular with
students and that she has never found it empty. I imagine that UT students would be just as happy sleeping on cots, even in a makeshift space.
UT has considered the issue of napping on campus in the past, but they scrapped it. Travis Willmann, UT libraries’ communications staffer, said the library considered adding nap pods, but dismissed the idea because they didn’t want to actively encourage students to sleep in the PCL overnight. But not everyone can go home during the day to nap — or even at night during really busy times.
UT pushes students to achieve highly, but students need to take a break sometimes. Napping zones can nudge students to take that break without fear of theft or distracting noise. They’ll feel better — and might even get better grades for it.
Wong is a Plan II and government senior from McKinney. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @calebawong.