The scene: any class at Dartmouth. The victim: any random student. The crime: a critical lack of sleep. The weapon: the candlestick. Congratulations, you've survived seven weeks of the 1996 Fall term, and if you're like most, you have at least two things to show for it -- a few grades and at least two drooping eyelids.
I may just be channeling my mother, but when I see my friends hauling their tired bodies around, there arises in me a reflex to grab them by the lapels and shout, "Go get some sleep!" Dartmouth may be the land of the health-conscious, but no matter how much one works to maintain a state of everlasting buffness, cells need rest or they're certain to revolt. You can run your daily half marathon, but without sleep, you'll be a kleenex-toting mess in no time.
And despite what you may think, staying up until BlitzMail shuts down each night is not going to boost your grades. Falling asleep in class, or worse yet, spending an entire class feeling the excruciating pain of trying not to fall asleep, will not enhance your uptake of knowledge and certainly won't win bonus points with the professor. If the world's most important assignment is due the next day and you're staring at a blank monitor at four in the morning, which for some reason your eyes just can't focus on, odds are you're not going to write the paper of your life.
In addition, being a walking zombie does nothing for one's social life. Even if your good looks and magnetic charm alone can attract Mr. or Ms. Right, conversational wizardry will not happen if you're neurons are too tired to fire correctly.
While all that is undeniably true, in this crazy college world, it's acceptable, if not expected, that you'll be perpetually under-slept. I feel quasi-embarrassed to admit that I have never pulled an all-nighter and I average a full eight hours of sleep per night. It's almost tantamount to admitting that I'm some sort of righteous girl scout because I don't procrastinate and spend every night at a raging party.
Though as much as I firmly believe in the importance of sleep, I'll admit that issues of sleep, and lack thereof, make up an indelible part of our student culture. If we weren't tired all the time, what would we have to talk about? Short of telling the truth when someone says, "How are you?" there are but two acceptable answers: fine and tired. Think of all the times you see that person who you almost sort-of knew in bio lab last year and you realize with dread that you have a salad bowl in your hand and they're right next to the lettuce-- a confrontation is inevitable. Your mind races as you feverishly think of something that you could possibly say to this person who is standing there smiling at you.
You flinch as, "How have you been?" flies at you. It's an amazing phenomenon that the amount of sleep you had the night before is such a viable conversation piece, but it gets you off the hook every time.
"Man alive, I'm so tired I can hardly see straight." You exchange knowing nods and move to the salad dressing. Mission accomplished.
And dare I fail to mention the humor value of watching classmates wilt into slumber like cotton candy melting in the rain. I've endured many a boring class purely fueled by the enjoyment of watching other people's heads bob whilst others are unabashedly and fully out cold on their desks, ever-appealing puddles of drool oozing from the sides of their mouths. I suppose in a small way, I owe a debt of gratitude to those self-created insomniacs for their entertainment value. I might never have stayed awake without them.
I will acknowledge that given the numbers of Dartmouth students who use coffee as the elixir o' life, my wagging a finger at their sleep habits is not going to do bloody much. But here is some food for thought -- Dartmouth annually gives away hundreds of degrees in English, Sociology, and the like, but more important than a B.A., Dartmouth is teaching us how to think. If you're in a perpetual state of falling asleep, and three hours of sleep daily certainly precludes anything else, you're missing the boat on what college is about. If you stumble into an exam and you're ready to keel over before you open the blue book, you've just nullified all the work you stayed up to do, because you can't think. I know it's a difficult change to make, but if you want to get the most out of college, go to sleep!