The most important thing I learned in college was how to sleep. I'm not even sure what my major was, but the sleeping skills I learned living in the dorms will stay with me forever.
Decibel for decibel, typical college dorms can give Beirut a run for its money, what with your neighbor's stereo blasting "My Shit is Bananas" or whateverthecrap 24/5 (he goes home on weekends), or that fartface on the floor above you who's relentlessly trying to learn "Don'tcha" on the trumpet, or the guy with the IMAX quality surround-sound who can't stop watching "You Got Served" needless to say, it can be hard to get some sleep in the dorms.
People like to act like they're crazy and don't need sleep; I am not one of these people. If I don't sleep at least, like, ten hours, I'm likely to bury a laptop in someone's head. I wish someone had shared the following infinite wisdom with me before MY freshman year so many heads/laptops could have been saved. This, my friends, is how to sleep in college.
I'm a huge fan of fans. Sure, when you live in a dorm with paper-thin walls, you expect to hear your floormate when he decides to play seven hours of German techno. And at first, everyone tries to "just ignore it" and tell themselves, "it's cool; I'll just pretend I'm vacationing in Schleffinkrytzin." But unless you're a really deep sleeper, you're going to need something better than that. This is where fans come in. The great thing about fans is they make noise and vibration, so if you put one close enough to your head, you can drown out the sound AND the seismic tremors coming from your friend's woofer. Sure, you'll look a little strange with a fan pressed against your head, but some of the best nights sleep I ever got in college were thanks to fans. People say they can cause fires or chop off your digits and sensitive man-areas, but sometimes you need sleep so bad you're willing to risk being charred, fingerless and left with a Ken-doll man-zone. Sleep is that important.
So, if you've got the money, you can go to Brookstone or The Sharper Image for something other than a free 90-minute chair massage and actually buy something: sound machines. Sound machines are the less-manly, safer versions of fans. They, too, make noise to help you sleep, but not with a generic whirring sound, mind you, but with something a little more how to say this fabulous? With sound settings like "Whispering Waterfall," "Unicorn Tea Party" or "Mauled by Bears," these soothing soundscapes are set to gently lull you to babysleep. Personally, I don't find them loud enough, nor am I comfortable suggesting to my roommate that we drift off to sleep together listening to "Swirling Beach Sands" or a "Cricket Symphony." Not to mention, good luck falling asleep to "Soothing Surf" or "Dripping Bucket" without having to pee every six minutes. Sure, when you do fall asleep you may dream you're swimming with dolphins and/or supermodels, but it's not really worth it.
I don't really understand listening to Sarah Mclaughlan unless you're trying to pass out, but if you are, she really does the trick. Fiona Apple, Dar Williams, Norah Jones, same deal. Make a Playlist on your iPod ("LadyLulls") and pray you never accidentally play it mid-treadmill, fall asleep and break your legs.
It's quiet, it's always too warm, and the ventilation system hums such a perfect pitch of white noise you'd think the library would be the LAST place you'd want to study. Thankfully, however, these factors make it one of the best places to catch a powernap. Don't get me wrong no one wants to see you in your PJs rolling out of a sleeping bag in the lower stacks sporting all the "gifts upon waking," but a little two-couches-pushed-together action is usually acceptable.
Sleep in a pillow fort. Pillows absorb sound, plus forts are really cool.
The ultimate way to get an above dorm-quality night's sleep is to get the f out of the dorms. Get into an apartment, live off-campus, whatever. And then, even if your new neighbors keep you up, you can always turn on a few fans, crank up "LadyLulls," crawl into a pillow fort (call it "the Technodrome") and drift off to your sound machine's "Morning Woodlands" setting. Sweet dreams.