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Harvard student hopes to open campus nap room

Who said nap time was only for preschoolers?

At Harvard College, one student has set out to establish a designated nap room where students can catch a few winks and recharge their mental batteries between classes.

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“Most students operate daily on a sleep deficit, to the detriment of their health and productivity,” said Yuqi Hou, a 19-year-old sophomore. “For those getting insufficient sleep at night, naps can provide alertness and help students take a break from their hectic schedules.”

Hou started a online petition through the Harvard Undergraduate Council’s “We the Crimson” initiative, which is meant to foster direct dialogue between students and school administrators. Each month, the three petitions with the most favorable votes, or “likes,” are sent to Dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds for review.

Hou’s petition for the establishment of a nap room, which garnered 191 yes votes, was one of the three to make its way to Hammonds’ desk last month.

Under Hou’s proposal, which she has presented to Harvard administrators, the nap room would be dimly lit and would be divided by curtains to allow a modicum of privacy. Students would nap on a single cushion laid out on the floor within each space, she said.

Hou, who majors in applied math, said there is a need for a centrally located nap space because “going back to the dorm to nap is not time-effective” and because the spaces students use to nap now are not comfortable.

Other institutions have recently promoted napping on campus, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, which in 2009 established a “siesta room,” Hou said.

“Harvard has the chance to be a leader in health and wellness by instituting a university recognized nap space in a central location,” she wrote in her proposal.

Hou said she has run into bureaucratic red tape in trying to secure a location for the nap room and expects that she will have to answer to critics who “say that this is a way for people to be lazy” or might think her plan “is a bit silly.”

Until she is able to find a location to launch a pilot program, Hou said, she plans on creating a “nap map” that will help tired students find a place to catch a few Zs.

“A lot of students here work themselves to such a degree that you might forget to take care of yourself mentally and physically,” she said. “I think issues that relate to well-being are really important, especially on an ultra competitive campus like this one.”

As for Hou herself, she said she lately has not had the time or the place to take a daily nap.

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.
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