I had not experienced a wellness room until I attended Stanford Medicine X in September.  But it was truly a life-changing experience.  Literally, it saved my life.

I wasn’t feeling well, and if it hadn’t been for the wellness room, I would have had to leave the conference early.  But I went to the wellness room, laid down, and took a nap.  I woke up feeling much better and was able to go back and take part in the conference activities.

My first thought about this was that a wellness room would be great for chronically ill students on college campuses.

This has only been confirmed for me, as I have really needed a place to nap at school several times this semester.  Of course, it wasn’t until my last day of class for the semester, when I had two major papers and two presentations due that I really didn’t feel well and didn’t really have the option of leaving early.

I have never felt more like I was going to pass out in my whole life.  My eyes had trouble focusing.  I was dizzy, nauseous, had a headache, my body temperature kept going out of control.  It really was like the coup de grace of lupus and RA.

So there is a room in the basement of the building where my classes are that has a couch.  I didn’t really have a choice.  Even my classmates were telling me to go rest.  I think it was pretty apparent that I was barely making it.

Thankfully there was no one around, so I took advantage of the space and took a nap.  One of my classmates came and woke me up when it was time for my next class.  I didn’t feel great, but much better than I had before the nap.

The only downside is that the couch is in the room where the copier, refrigerator, microwave, and vending machines are.  But overall, people were respectful.

I’ve also been thinking about things I need with me that would be useful when I don’t feel good, including:

  • Instant cold packs – When I get headaches, an ice pack or cold compress helps, so having a cold pack that can be cold when I need it, would be great
  • A sleep mask – Even at Stanford, while the wellness room was great, the only respect that wasn’t is the fact that there were windows. When I get a bad headache, I need darkness, so a sleep mask is helpful in that I can go anywhere to rest
  • Pain killers – Obvious, but I usually don’t have them when I need them
  • Portable blanket and pillow – It’s really not practical to think that I’m going to carry a blanket and pillow around with me all the time

At the beginning of this school year, University of Michigan, my alma mater, added napping stations in the library.  While this nap area was created for students that end up pulling all-nighters in the library, the concept totally works for chronically ill students, too.  And of course it happened after I left.

Many have applauded this effort, including the Huffington Post, Time, and USA Today.

That’s why I hope that the idea of these types of things catch on.  When the case can be made that this benefits college students, in general, it’s universal design at its best.

Of course, where college students are involved, what happens in the nap room, stays in the nap room.  And hopefully there aren’t any nasty things going on in there, because that would be gross.

However, it would be great if these nap rooms would pop at other universities and in other places on campus, like student health and in other campus buildings, not just the library.

And now that I work at a hospital, it would be great to have a nap room, there, too.  And not a room for residents on call, either.  Like a real nap room.  I know that gets tricky because there is a question of whether napping is a reasonable accommodation?  But being able to take a break for a bit and then returning to work or school seems better than having to leave work or school altogether.

The thing is, the way my body works, I can sleep anywhere.  It doesn’t discriminate.  When my body cries uncle, it doesn’t matter where I am.  I’d sleep in the middle of the floor if that was socially acceptable.  But since it’s not, I try and keeping my napping to, if not designated, than at least socially acceptable, areas.

Speaking of a nap, a nap sounds pretty glorious right now…

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