William Thorpe, a promoter for UNC Walk for Health, intends to sleep for one week next to the Old Well in order to raise awareness for sleep deprivation, which is linked to the leading causes of death in the United States.
“Originally, the idea was to sleep for seven days on McCorkle Place — you know, the whole quad there — and it would be symbolic because that’s the most hallowed ground,” Thorpe said. “I wanted to put it right there so all the attention of the University would be on it. All of this is part of an overall health and wellness program we put together.”
With no promise of personal safety and the persistence of rainy weather, UNC's administration prevented Thorpe from setting up his tent and sleeping bag on McCorkle Place.
“The thing was, (the University) couldn’t guarantee my safety. It would present some issues,” he said.
Thorpe said the possible safety concerns inherent in sleeping alone on McCorkle Place, along with the possibility of becoming sick after sleeping in the rain, would detract from the program’s mission.
Thorpe said the focus of Sleep Week, a component of the annual UNC Walk for Health, is to raise awareness for a chronic health condition — while following University rules and regulations. The goal of the program is to help students understand the dangers of sleep deprivation in an effective and safe manner.
“The whole idea is that lack of sleep makes us fat, makes us sick, and makes us stupid; it affects our memory, our reaction time and our coordination,” he said. “We want to raise awareness of that issue for the entire UNC community.”
After administration denied access to McCorkle Place, Thorpe opted to move the event to the Eddie Smith Field House — the site of last year’s Walk for Health.
Assistant Athletic Director for Facility Planning and Management Mike Bunting said using the field house as the location for Sleep Week also presented issues.
“We had concerns about the potential liability of having someone sleeping in our building,” Bunting said. “We think it’s a great cause, and we’d like to be able to help, but this was not a good fit for us.”
With McCorkle Place ruled out and the field house no longer an option, William Thorpe said he intends to sleep from noon to 12:30 p.m. next to the Old Well each weekday for the next seven days.
“What we want to do is have something that could make people think, 'Hey, I need to get more sleep,'” he said.
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Campus Health Allen O’Barr recognized the issue of sleep deprivation.
“I would agree it’s a national health problem,” O’Barr said. “We all have a weak link in the chain somewhere. When we get physically or psychology exhausted or sleep deprived, the chance that the weakest link in the chain will break is greater.”
O'Barr said students struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and self-esteem issues experience difficulty when they continually fall short of the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. Students can evaluate their schedules, he said, to plan out a proper sleeping schedule.
“Should people do an assessment of their time if they feel overloaded and really look at what they can drop away? Absolutely,” he said. “I’m fully in favor of everyone doing an assessment of whether they can drop away something.”
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