Campus Life the first year

When sleep doesn’t come readily

The search for an ideal place to nap on MIT’s campus

Watery eyes. Constant yawning. Nodding off in class. These are common side effects of not getting enough sleep. They are also typical characteristics of MIT students.

For MIT students, sleep lies dead last on the priority list, behind psets, UROPs, and papers. Losing sleep is quite common. It’s no shocker that the new mental health campaign was named “Sleep is for the Strong.” I thought that when I came here, I would get more sleep since my MIT classes start at 9 in the morning, as opposed to 7:30 as in high school. On good nights, I get the same amount of sleep as I used to — which is to say, not very much.

Falling asleep from pure tiredness was not working out for me, so I thought I’d give the whole normal sleep routine a try. But every attempt ended the same way: I could never fall asleep. Possibly because my room broke all of the typical sleep rules like turning all the lights off and removing distractions such as cell phones. Regardless of whatever caused my sleepless nights, I had to find another way to catch up on sleep: napping.

The first step of napping, as any pro-napper would know, is to find a comfortable spot. Ideally, that would be my bed. However, I live in Next House, and if I wanted to maximize the amount of shut-eye I get, I had to find closer napping quarters.

My first napping place was the Dollar Lounge off the Infinite. The room appeared cozy enough and was pretty close to my next class, so I thought I’d give it a try. With a surprisingly comfortable floor and calming atmosphere, the place has its merits. However, the noise bumped my rating of the place down to a three out of five for napping.

First off, you hear all of the noise that comes from people moving through the Infinite. The sound of feet shufflings makes up most of the noise. But then the tour groups come. We’ve all seen this: a large procession of people follows one MIT student, conveniently screaming at the top of their voice about the Infinite — and more specifically, how the Dollar Lounge is where students “take a break” or “nap,” which always elicits awkward chuckling.

Not only can you hear everything in the Dollar Lounge, it is also a popular destination for the paparazzi, also known as the tourists with cameras. More specifically, the ones that decide it is OK to take a picture of MIT students in their “natural habitat.” As far as I know, there are no pictures of me sleeping in the Dollar Lounge on the Internet, but to minimize that risk, I checked out some other napping places.

Coming off the Dollar Lounge, my objective for the next napping place was to minimize noise. What could be better than the room where it is absolutely silent 24 hours a day: the reading room in Barker.

In many ways, Barker is the unofficial room of the unofficial napping club of MIT. At any given moment, at least five people will be snoozing on the comfy green chairs. Occasionally, some nappers will even be decked out in their eye shades. If your ideal sleeping place is so quiet you can hear a pin drop, or someone breathe, then you should nap in the reading room. Movable green booths lie in front of all the chairs, perfect for stretching out while nicely arranging yourself to fit in the green square. After my first 90 minute nap at Barker, I thought my napping search was over.

Then one unlucky afternoon, I darted over to Barker, all ready to pass out, and saw my worst nightmare: all the green seats were taken. My jaw dropped. Was I going to have to go all the way back to Next? Would I have to settle for the Dollar Lounge? Begrudgingly, I started to walk towards the exit. As I passed the library elevators, it hit me: what about the eighth floor of Barker? The rumor was that it was a nice place, and since there was not much to lose at that point, I ventured to my third napping spot.

Thank god I did.

The eighth floor of the library has amazing group work spaces, whiteboards included. More importantly, they have large, comfy red chairs. While not as soft as their green companions in the reading room, they are much larger. Specifically, they have large enough armrests for me to put my head on. And enough space for me to curl up into a ball. I was willing to sacrifice a little more noise for this beautiful chair.

I loved napping long before I ever set foot on MIT’s campus. Now, it is even more enjoyable because of the MIT napping culture.

No one judges you for napping in the middle of Barker. Everyone knows that we are MIT students and that sleeping the right amount is pretty hard here. When I nap next to a fellow student, whether it’s my big or a stranger, I feel a special connection. Together, we are reenergizing our bodies for the next round of battle (aka MIT). Napping lets me stay awake during class. And more importantly, it has given me another reason to say IHTFP.

Michal Shlapentokh-Rothman is a member of the Class of 2019.