Sweet Dreams, Dartmouth
Two writers explore Dartmouth’s sleep culture during finals
When our alarms go off in the morning, we drag ourselves out of bed, mentally cursing every extra minute that we stayed up the night before. With late-night homework, the temptation to go out and the ever-earlier wakeup times for class and cramming in the morning, our precious sleep hours are the last priority, the first thing sacrificed to shove something else into our schedule.
The pace of the quarter system, combined with extracurriculars and social life, makes it difficult to find time to sleep during the term. So, as we enter finals season — a time notorious for extreme amounts of caffeine and very little sleep — we took a stroll around the library and asked studying students about their struggles with sleep.
Surprisingly, although we talked to four different students, they all had very similar sleep schedules, going to bed around midnight and waking up between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on a regular day. When we asked them whether they were willing to miss class or morning activities to get more sleep, all of them unhesitatingly said yes, especially if the class isn’t discussion-based.
“I’d be willing to skip a class for longer sleep especially if I had to stay up late the night before,” Ava Carlson ’26 said. “It happens a lot if I feel like I’m getting sick or I’m feeling drained.”
With strict attendance rules and parental pressures, the ability to skip class to sleep more was much more difficult in high school. Lena Kufferman ’25 expressed their confusion, in retrospect, over a sleep schedule that seemed normal in high school.
“I cannot wake up before 8 a.m. now,” Kufferman said. “I don’t understand how I got up so early in high school.”
Maddie Shaw ’25 noted that, although she wakes up later than she did during high school, her busy schedule at Dartmouth often makes her feel exhausted.
“I usually run to two or three classes and one or two meetings every day, and I also have [figure skating] practice in the afternoons,” Shaw said. “There’s a lot of running back and forth and physical activity, so I’m constantly exhausted.”
Shaw also noted that her busy summer — which she spent taking fast-paced language classes at Indiana University — may have contributed to her exhaustion this term.
“I think the longer you do school, the more burnt out you get and the harder it gets to stay on a consistent sleep schedule,” Shaw said.
Kledian Marinaj ’26 pointed out another reason that it can be hard to get enough sleep at Dartmouth — the desire to socialize during freshman fall.
“Sometimes FOMO [decreases the amount of sleep I get], because other people are talking and you want to join in their conversation, especially if it’s your friends talking,” Marinaj said.
Kufferman agreed, and said that their sleep schedule freshman fall was less than ideal.
“Because there was such a rush to socialize, I would go to sleep at 4 a.m. and not wake up until right before my 12:50 p.m. class,” they said
Carlson, who uses an activity tracker to monitor her sleep, said that she has also found herself prioritizing socialization over sleep. Her activity tracker gives her a rating between 0 and 100 percent based on sleep quality and "recovery" provided by the night's slumber.
“Last Wednesday, which was an on night, I got 1% recovery,” she said. “On weekends, [the percentage] is usually in the 40s to 60s.”
Language classes and drill can also be particularly detrimental to sleep time, and we’re no stranger to this — getting up at the crack of dawn for drill leaves many students clutching their Novack coffees for dear life.
“Last year I took German as a 9L and missed at least one class a week to get more sleep,” Kufferman said. They added that they “have a friend that lives in Summit on Juniper, and she needs to wake up at like 6 a.m. [for drill].”
The academic drag isn’t the only issue, either — Shaw added that stress over upcoming events like skating competitions can also affect her sleep.
With all of these problems draining away our few precious hours of sleep, some students turn to daytime naps for some much needed shut-eye.
“I love naps,” Carlson said. “Three to four times [a week] I’ll lay in bed in the middle of the day for as long as I can make it. If I could nap for two hours I’d probably do that.”
With what little time we have, though, it can be hard to fit a nap into our busy schedules, especially when a 20 minute cat nap turns into a couple of hours.
“I don’t support naps. When I try to take a nap I just pass out for five hours. Usually I just end up wasting time on TikTok or YouTube,” Shaw said.
For us, naps are a much-needed reprieve, grasping at the lost hours we couldn’t get at night. Nothing beats crashing in a dark bedroom after class or taking a quick rest before going out. Especially now that the sun sets at such a ridiculous hour, it can be far too easy to pass out mid-afternoon. Regardless, with only one week left in the term, we as writers are thrilled to go home for winterim. We know exactly what we’ll be doing.