PennNaps Recap

Freshman Ben Greenberg with the latest on slumber:

Last weekend, one of the largest collegiate napathons took place in our very own Engineering Quad. For those unclear on the term, a napathon is an event in which sleep enthusiasts, overworked pre-med kids, and devoted fans of Hypnos (the Greek god of sleep) compete in teams to snooze in the most impressive and creative ways. In addition to competing, everyone had the opportunity to participate in napper culture, learning so much about what it means to have a truly great nap.

Though many of the nappers were just looking to relax and catch a few z’s, others took the occasion seriously. Fluffing their ergonomic pillows and rocking out to intensely soporific lullabies, the more hardcore competitors were ready for action. And by action I mean inaction, because that’s all that lay before these sheep-counting, pajama-wearing sleepophiles.

After registering and grabbing their free Snuggies, the crowd of almost two thousand kids was herded into the surprisingly vacuous Irvine Auditorium for the Opening Ceremony. The competition organizer outlined the rules:

  • No pills
  • No tranquilizers
  • No noisemakers
  • No air horns
  • No fireworks
  • No harmonicas

The organizer then offered a lengthy string of thank-yous for at least half an hour. In what some might label ironic, I nearly fell asleep. Not that I was alone – in fact, throughout the audience, teammates nudged their dozing friends in an effort to reserve the languor for later.

This proved unproblematic soon enough; the crowd noticeably perked up when the sponsors took the stage. Representatives from Tempur-Pedic, mypillow.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, and various burgeoning companies from the sleep industry took the stage to discuss the sponsor prizes. By the start of the competition, everyone was gunning for a chance to win a flannel pillowcase, a non-habit-forming sleep aid, or even some Apothecary’s Super Sleep Comfort Foam Ear Plugs.

But to most, the competition was about so much more than just winning. Participants could attend any number of free events, from bedtime readings of Goodnight Moon, to blanket-making workshops, to bedbug seminars.

One of the most valuable opportunities was the chance to engage with fellow napathoners. “I live to nap!” said one seasoned napathoner. “I just debated this guy from CMU about the best sleep mask for the soldier-starfish sleeping position. I’ve always been a fan of the old cotton mask with eye cavities, but I think I’ll try silk with a snakeskin exterior!”

Walking through Towne’s uniformly uninspiring hallways, I got a sense of the level of expertise. Teammates argued over the most effective type of blanket (fleece, cotton, chenille, or wool?), the benefits of inclined rest angles, and even the limits of advanced sleep theory. Yawning, bleary-eyed college students zombie-walked in and out of classrooms; supine slumberers packed the floors, snoring away the weekend.

After a final, desperate push for one last nap, competitors watched the time expire, giving way to the Final Ceremony. The organizer announced the most successful and creative nappers, awarding all sorts of sleep-related materials and dozens of plush stuffed animals. The grand prize winners even took home memory foam mattresses, though they had trouble removing their heavy awards through Levine’s narrow doorway.

In all, PennNaps was a wildly soporific success, bringing together so many talented slumberers under the same roof (or, more accurately, in a weird series of strikingly distinct buildings lacking a common roof). After this welcome respite, Penngineers can return to their standard 5 hours a night with a more thorough appreciation for those elusive z’s.

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