Since 1977, a woman named Maureen Weston from England has held the Guinness World Record for managing to stay awake for 449 hours (18 days and 17 hours). Randy Gardner holds the scientifically documented record for the longest stint of sleeplessness, with a total of 264 hours (around 11 days) in 1964. Yet for those without this superhuman ability, sleep deprivation can lead to serious health risks. For this purpose, National Public Sleeping Day takes place on February 28 annually, inviting people of all ages to doze off anytime throughout the day.
In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh textile mill owner and social reformer, spearheaded one of the earliest campaigns for an eight-hour workday to promote more hours of sleep. With the advancement of technology, the University of Chicago opened the world’s first sleep lab in 1925, where researchers documented their discovery of REM sleep as they observed rapid eye movements, faster heartbeats, and quicker breathing. National Public Sleeping Day was founded to ensure people get enough sleep. Although the specific origins of this holiday are unclear, the concept of sleeping in public spaces has been well-established throughout the world. For example, Japan allows workers to rest at work for 30 minutes in an employee-only room or directly at the office to prevent fatigue and inefficiency. Many schools also have times for napping built into the class schedule, prioritizing students’ mental health and overall well-being.
It goes without saying that the benefits of sleeping include lowered health risks, improved moods, and healthy brain functions. Yet according to a study conducted by Stanford University, more than 87 percent of U.S. high school students get far less than the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep. At Concord Academy, Kelly Kong ’24 has adapted to a new sleeping schedule as she transitioned to the demanding schedule of her junior year. “I wasn’t someone who got a lot of sleep, partly because I objectively function better at night, [where] I function out of spurts of energy…usually as a pattern,” she explained, “Sleep is not a miracle. The idea is that you went from really to relatively normal, and relatively normal doesn’t always feel good.” Although Kelly is usually averse to the mere notion of sleeping in public, she does not want to walk about the day like a flabbergasted corpse. “If you just give me a comfy sofa at 11 am, I will lie on it,” she noted. Perhaps the holiday will offer an opportunity for teenagers to reflect upon and change bad sleeping habits, fueling both the body and brain.
Celebrating National Public Sleeping Day comes with a variety of opportunities to enjoy the whole purpose of the day. Whether on the train or during break, a power nap of twenty minutes will not leave you feeling drowsy and will also allow you to fall asleep at a decent time at night. In the past, people have also organized group naps, which also encourage people to commune with nature by sleeping outdoors in public, weather permitting. While not everyone has the luxury of sleeping in, the holiday certainly offers those with busy schedules a free pass to get some sleep.