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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The zen of the power nap

Published: November 11, 2011
Section: Opinions

Remember when you were in pre-k and there was nap time? Back then, you didn’t want to go to sleep, did you? No, all you wanted to do was play with your blocks and eat Jell-O. A lot has changed since then and now—in your late teens—you look back and see only a squandered opportunity. For one all too brief moment in your life, you had scheduled, mandated nap-time and you failed to appreciate it.

Now, you are forced to tirelessly wander the diurnal world waiting until the sun sets before it becomes socially acceptable to rest your weary head. The key to success in the modern, fast-paced world of higher education is balancing the need for efficiency with the human need for sleep, thus the power nap. Like the power lunch or the power suit, the power nap is all about asserting control and maximizing limited resources.

In light of this fact, we have compiled some tips for catching some much needed z’s around campus, your bed away from bed.

Please use them wisely.


When was the last time anyone actually felt rested after a snooze in an airplane? Never! Clearly, where you sleep matters. Your body needs to be able to spread out but also feel cushioned. Once you start looking, you will realize that couches and comfy chairs, hereafter referred to as “bed substitutes,” are everywhere. Some of our favorite bed substitutes include but are not limited to the following.

1. The couch in IBS. You might receive a weird look or two but let’s be real, it will be from a grad student who doesn’t speak English anyway.

2. The chairs on the first floor of Gosman. Does anyone even go to the gym for any reason other than to sleep on those cushions of clouds?

3. The chair directly in front of the printer in the library. It’s not like you’re blocking a usable computer or anything.

4. The couch in Peace Room. Just make sure you’re alone and fully clothed.

5. The bathroom in the SCC. Let’s face it, it’s far more spacious than your dorm room.

6. The benches in the chapels where you can dream about atoning for your sins and catch up on sleep at the same time.

7. The Admissions office. You can get cookies and attract prospective nappers like yourself.


The power nap is inherently short, no more than 30 minutes. It’s enough time to reap the benefits of sleep cycles I and II before entering into deep, dream-like sleep. A full sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes and who has time for that? If your deep sleep is interrupted, you will wake up groggy, disoriented and even sleepier than before. In these unfortunate cases, it would have been preferable to have not napped at all. Instead, it’s best to get in and get out (that’s what she said). This light-sleeping strategy is also good protection against would be “Inception” attempts by Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Have no shame

Don’t worry about people judging you for sleeping in a public place. They may give you puzzled, bemused looks—hey, they make even take a snap shot—but really they’re just jealous. Besides, if you can’t see them, they can’t see you. That’s basic object permanence theory.

Listen to your body and take care of yourself

No amount of power napping can make up for a good night’s sleep. If you get too few hours of sleep per night, your body starts to accrue a sleep debt, the aggregate buildup of all your lost REM sleep that you will have to make up at some point. That is why God invented Sundays. Yes, we are all over-committed but it’s also important to commit to ourselves (in bed).