Today I Learned...That College Kids are Sleeping in Pods

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If you haven’t been on a college campus lately, there’s a new trend out there will probably make you feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of a Stanley Kubrick film. Or at least that’s how I feel when I see people snoozing in little futuristic-looking sleep bubbles like they’re resting up for their arrival on Jupiter.

But the New York Times says campuses like the University of Miami, Savannah College of Art and Design, Washington State University and Wesleyan have created designated sleep pod lounges. No interplanetary travel required.

According to the Times, napping is the newest trend on college campuses. And it makes sense. A 2014 study in the Nature and Science of Sleep found that half of students reported daytime sleepiness, and seventy percent said they were getting insufficient sleep.

Pod People

So are pods the answer? Actually, let me ask that a different way. Are $9,000-apiece pods the answer? I mean, they are pretty cool. Your top-of-the-line sleep pod comes with soothing music, a timer, and a concealing design that prevents passersby from seeing how much you drool while unconscious. From the outside, it just looks like Pac-Man is swallowing your face.

Naturally, the enormously expensive sleep pod isn’t the only way to go. Wake Forest has a room decked out with luxurious recliners and James Madison University’s Nap Nook is furnished with oversized bean bag chairs. They don’t look futuristic but they do look super comfy. That’s probably why they’re in near-constant use, according to the Times.

Amenities Run Amok?

If you went to the school back in the day, when the only real student amenity was that lecture hall bathroom from which you stole toilet paper, you’re probably thinking this generation of students is a bunch of pampered, entitled snowflakes. “Sleep pods!” you say? “In my day, we napped while operating heavy machinery on the graveyard shift. Toughen up, buttercup!”

Well get off your high horse, baby boomer. You spent, like, three hundred percent less money for the same college education. Besides, you’re probably just cranky from the sleep deprivation.

Here’s the thing. Sleep lounges aren’t some new and creative way to indulge and spoil our kids. This is a response to a real and impactful public health issue. Students do not get the sleep they need, neither to function to the best of their abilities nor even to achieve an acceptable standard of healthy living.

And depending on your major, you’re not just encouraged but expected and pressured to operate without sleep. Advanced engineering programs, law schools, and medical residencies are notoriously competitive and notoriously sleepless. Students literally can’t afford to sleep, lest they fall behind classmates with superior circadian fortitude.

While this may be de rigueur for certain disciplines, it’s not healthy, nor is it necessarily all that productive. According to the Nature and Science study, daytime sleepiness and sleep deprivation are particularly detrimental for college students. These conditions can “result in lower grade-point averages, increased risk of academic failure, compromised learning, impaired mood, and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.”

As for the first two symptoms, well that defeats the whole point of all that studying and homework, doesn’t it? As for the second two symptoms…nobody likes a cranky jerk who drives like a maniac.

So yeah, sleep is important. I’m exhausted just writing about it. I wish I had a pod.

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