Sleepy at Swarthmore: A Story of Sedation, Slumber, and Shuteye

23 mins read

I ’ve changed a lot during my time at Swarthmore, no doubt. I matriculated this college as a bright-eyed seventeen-year-old bursting with idealism, and I am graduating as, well, not that. One aspect of my personality that I’ve come to accept will never change, however, is that I’m a sleepy guy. I love sleeping. I do it for ten hours a day. Devoted readers will recall my reflection last week, wherein I posited that everyone at this school needs to sleep more.

Any student at Swarthmore will know that it isn’t always easy to get enough sleep. In dire times, it can become crucial to “cast down your bucket,” so to speak, and find the nearest place to crash for a few minutes or hours. During my time at Swarthmore, I have become somewhat of an expert in locating good nap spots. This is an article that I’ve wanted to write since freshman fall but haven’t, petrified that one day I would approach my favorite napping spot only to find that someone has staked their claim on my sleepytime turf. I’m graduating in a few weeks, however, so I would be remiss not to share my compendium of Swarthmore nap spots. Without further ado, here is a list of (nearly) every place I’ve napped on campus. They are not arranged in a definitive order from best to worst, but broadly the gradient does shift from “excellent, chef’s kiss” to “I would rather sleep face-down in a roadside ditch blasted on Everclear than here.”

1.        Kohlberg Benches

The long benches that line the hallways on the second and third floors of Kohlberg are wonderful places to take power naps in between classes. An aspect of these benches that make them particularly attractive for afternoon naps is that the sun shines directly through them in the afternoons, and you can curl up in a sunspot that will keep you warm and toasty for the duration of your nap.

2.       Kohlberg comfy chairs at the end of the hallway.

A close second to the hallway benches in Kohlberg is the comfy chairs at the ends of the hallways on the second and third floors. On these chairs, you can nap uninterrupted for long periods of time, and the wideness and softness of the chairs really make them ideal for napping. As opposed to the benches, the chairs are at the ends of the hallways, which tucks them away in the quieter corners of the building.

3.       Old IC Big Room

Without a doubt, the Old IC’s Big Room reigns as one of the coziest spots on campus. The sofas are just wide enough to lie down on them comfortably, and despite the questionable cleanliness of the pillows, they also add an extra layer of comfort. The Big Room has the tendency to become frigid in the wintertime, but in the warmer months, its coolness and quietness make it a prime napping location.

4.       New IC

I am lucky in that, during my six semesters at Swarthmore, I accomplished nearly all of my goals. (Except being a tour guide … maybe in grad school?) My outstanding regrets are few and far between, but one of them is that I didn’t nap in the New IC more. Please avenge me and nap in the New IC.  

5.       The Women’s Resource Center

There have been times when I have felt uncomfortable entering the Women’s Resource Center as a man. I go anyway because, on the other hand, the couches on the ground floor are comfortable as hell.

6.       Your friend’s room

Napping in your friend’s bed is always a feast for the senses. You learn a lot about someone from how many blankets they use every night, whether they prefer firm or soft pillows, and if they use a plush mattress topper, make do with a mattress pad, or just raw it. Napping in friends’ rooms is great because they usually care to see that your experience is comfortable (shoutout to Powell Sheagren ’22, whose dingle became such a common vacation spot that we started calling it the Hotel California!), and you don’t end up napping the whole day away because there’s always the lurking fear of overstaying your welcome.

7.       Lang Center common area

The Lang Center is one of the coziest buildings on campus, consisting of two houses that they decided to connect with a hallway. That hallway tends to be quiet, and the blood-orange chairs have withstood the test of time as a great place to nap where no one will ever bother you. Geographically, trekking to the Lang Center just for a snooze may prove inconvenient (plus, your elevated heartbeat from climbing the hill may mitigate your sleepiness). But if you’re already there, look no further.

8.       McCabe third-floor viewing room

Movie theaters are basically loud bedrooms. Though the McCabe third-floor viewing room isn’t really a theater, the same principle applies. Plus, it’s empty most of the time. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is because the heating in McCabe is jank, so you need to bring a blanket (or a big scarf or bedsheet you carry around solely for optimal public napping).

9.       Parrish Parlors

Parrish Parlors (or as I like to call them, pp) are snooze central. They’re usually pretty empty, and centrally located so they’re never too far away if you just need to catch some zs. The furniture used to be absolutely threadbare, which was kind of astonishing because pp is the very first place most campus visitors see; nevertheless, this was an indication that the furniture was certified extremely comfortable. I’ll admit I haven’t napped nearly as much on the new furniture, but I’m sure it’s just as welcoming.

10.   Your room

Your room is probably a really comfortable place to nap, and that works to its detriment. Every time I take a “twenty minute” nap in my room, it turns into a four-hour affair that may cause me to miss prior engagements because it’s so comfortable. In the wintertime, I have adopted an approach to sleeping that I call the “two thin blankets method.” This is where I only sleep with two thin blankets, because they’re warm enough to keep me from freezing if I really swaddle myself, but not really comfortable enough to incentivize me to stay in bed for hours and hours.

11.   Hicks Hall second floor lounge (RIP)

I don’t remember much about napping on the second floor of Hicks Hall other than I did it once, and despite the initial discomfort of being surrounded by engin majors, it was pretty comfortable. The closest you can get these days is sleeping on the ground outside of the BEP, which I would honestly do if desperate enough.

12.   The Small Craft Warnings office

I have never been on the editorial board of Small Craft Warnings, but as a longtime member of The Phoenix’s EdBoard, I’ve pretty much always had access. It’s comfortable as hell if you can hurdle yourself over the mental barrier that people have sex in there (and also finagle your way into OneCard access).

13.   Sci Center basement couches

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend sleeping on the couches in Sci basement near some physics professors’ offices. However, I did this during DPA orientation (RIP) before my sophomore year when I just got so sleepy that I needed to physically leave the room and take short naps. I felt safe, because I knew no one would ever look for me there.

14.   The corner of Sci Center between the CS department and the labs

I haven’t been in Sci Center for a while so I don’t know if these chairs are actually still there, but Oh. My. God. They were so comfortable, and in a quieter meander of the labyrinthine building where few S.T.E.M. majors (and people like me, who were just trying to get the NSEP requirements out of the way by flubbing their ways through CS 21) dared tread. I spent many hours in this quiet corner of Sci Center during my first two years at Swarthmore, and I regret nothing.

15.   McCabe table or desk

“McCabe table or desk” ranks near the center of this list because it’s neither good nor bad. It’s comfortable enough to sneak in a casual fifteen or twenty minutes or shuteye, but not enough for a full-on snoozefest. Sometimes, traditions stick around because they’re just good and practical.

16.   Friends Historical Library

I worked at FHL during the summer between my first and sophomore years at Swarthmore. I loved that job because I spent ten weeks exploring two of my foremost passions: history and snooping around in other people’s stuff. Because of who I am as a person, however, I may have fallen asleep a couple of times in the midst of cataloging letters and photographs. FHL is the crown jewel on the diadem of hidden treasures at Swarthmore, and has an interior that is cozy like you would not believe. If you’re a graduating senior like me and you have not set foot in FHL, please pay the library a visit before you depart this campus.

17.   Cornell first floor

I have crashed in the blue and green chairs near the staircase on Cornell first on many a Friday afternoon after getting out of an econ lecture in Sci 101. They are not really comfortable, but I napped in them for the same reason that Sir Edmund Hillary became the first to summit Mount Everest: “Because [they] were there.”

18.   Outside on an Adirondack chair

This one really depends on the season. During late fall going into winter, when the Adirondack chairs are still outside but are wont to disappear any week, it’s probably not the best idea to nap outside. During late spring, however, it’s a great way to get some vitamin D and enjoy the weather while also getting in a quick snooze. Normally I’m against multitasking, but this instance is an absolute win.

19.   LPAC sofa

If you travel all the way into the bowels of LPAC, you will find a sofa near a vending machine in the dance program hallway. It’s secluded and comfortable, but dance majors may give you suspicious looks. You can settle your nerves by reminding yourself that they’re dance majors at Swarthmore College, so perhaps they are just projecting their deep-rooted insecurities onto you.

20.   Kohlberg coffee bar armchair

These chairs are NOT as comfortable as they look. Do NOT fall for their lies. Do NOT allow them to bamboozle you. The armrests are so cold and hard that I was forced to curl into a little ball like a baby deer and pretend everything was alright. Mileage may vary for those who, unlike me, are not short of both arm and leg.

21.   Shane Lounge

In the fifth season of “Community,” Abed drives himself insane trying to determine whether Nicolas Cage is “good” or “bad.” This is kind of how I feel about Shane Lounge; it’s good, but it’s also bad. If you can get the large napping throne in the corner by the printers, bully for you. Otherwise, tough luck.

22.   Willets third floor lounge

I don’t even know why I took a nap on the Willets third-floor lounge couch. At the time, I literally lived in Willets, and my sleepytime oasis was a mere two flights of stairs away. I rested my head on the couch’s armrest because I didn’t want to expose my facial orifices to the furniture’s distant memories of vomit and probably other bodily fluids. I’ve napped in a lot of public areas on campus, and still, this is the place I felt the most vulnerable and exposed.

23.   Sharples

Let me take you through a trip down memory lane. It’s the last day of finals week in Fall 2018. It’s kind of snowing, but the wet kind of snow that doesn’t really stick to the ground. You are me. You have just failed the fuck out of your Math 26 final, and you decide to drown your sorrows. You don’t remember much about that afternoon and evening other than grotesque flashes of a staircase in Mertz and standing at the top of Hillets looking down at the evergreen by the south entrance. All you do remember is that they have eggplant parmesan that day at Sharples, and you inhale two plates of it while staring at the Crumb Café refrigerator. You fall asleep sitting upright at A1. It’s not your finest moment, but it’s definitely not your worst, either.

24.   During a normal class

There are stages to falling asleep in class. There’s the initial moment of sleepiness when, in hubris, you believe that you can stave off the zs until the end of class. You might take a short walk to the water fountain and drink a little, hoping that it wakes you up enough. But like rabies, the moment you start showing symptoms is the moment you’ve been thrust into a void past the point of no return. And then there’s the moment when you know that everything’s over — you decide to “rest your eyes for a second,” knowing somewhere deep within you that you will be resting your eyes for much longer than a second. You know it would be so much more comfortable if you admitted defeat from the get-go, but it’s a matter of pride. Sleeping in class is never refreshing. You always wake up ten minutes later in a daze and then stumble off to the nearest couch after class to finish what you were forced to start.

25.   During a talk from a faculty member, a staff member, or a visiting guest

You only fall asleep dead center in front of Masha Gessen once before realizing you have a problem.

26.   Tri-Co shuttle

Sleeping on the Tri-Co shuttle kind of has a nostalgic factor, in that it reminds me a lot of riding the bus to high school speech meets at 5 a.m. in the morning on Saturdays. That is to say, it’s extremely uncomfortable. Unless you enjoy the sensation of windows rattling against your skull, in which case it might just be the nap spot for you.

27.   Big Chair

I’ll admit that my experience napping on the Big Chair is inauthentic. I did it for the lamest reason, which was just to say that I did it. And it sucked. It’s really hard and kind of dirty. I don’t even know whether I actually fell asleep on it or just into a sleep-like trance after trying so hard.

28.   During a ten-person seminar

There is nowhere to hide. Especially if you’re sitting three feet away from your professor.

29.   SEPTA Regional Rail

If you’re like me, it’s hit the hay all day the moment you set foot into a form of transportation. Napping on SEPTA is pretty comfortable, but it’s also risky because of the constant fear that you will miss your stop. Plus, the regional rail doesn’t run too frequently, so if you mess this up, good luck getting to your thing on time.

30.   Psych study lab during a psych study

I may … or may not … have contributed some faulty data to some rising seniors’ psych theses in 2019. There is no way to prove this.

31.   Outside of former Phi Psi Lodge

The Phi Psi lodge was torn down a year or two ago to make way for New Sharples, but worry not! The ground is still there. I slept here during the Great Sit-In of 2019, when it was assumed that protestors who slept inside the building would be arrested in the morning. They were not arrested, but I did endure what remains in a toss-up as one of the two worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had. And the other was jet lagged in India with a cold, on a hard mattress with two other people, while stray dogs howled their hind quarters off every ten minutes, so … yeah.

My time at Swarthmore is coming to an end. After seven semesters on The Phoenix’s Editorial Board and thousands of words in print and on swarthmorephoenix.com, I end my tenure with these words:

To my fellow POS (people of sleep) out there, seize the day. Go forth. And nap.

Anatole Shukla

Anatole Shukla '22 is an Editor Emeritus of The Phoenix. He is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and studied economics, linguistics, and Russian language while at Swarthmore.

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