What Is A Cold Dorm? Why This Outdated Sleeping Practice Is Making A Comeback

If you are considering rushing a sorority, it’s probably for the lasting friendships, thriving community, and fun social activities — but what if it could also mean the best sleep of your life? Across the East Coast many sisters swear by a unique sleeping practice, but exactly what is a cold dorm? A cold dorm or cold-air dorm (CAD) is a large single room with rows of bunk beds (and little other furniture or personal items) where the windows are left open year-round. That's right. Even in the winter. This room is used solely for sleeping, fitting upwards of 20 or more sisters.

Keeping the windows perpetually open was once common practice in cooperative living situations. It was thought that circulation and cold fresh air curbed the spread of germs and disease. (If only this worked for mono.) You will find this odd sleeping arrangement in sorority and fraternity houses stretching from Indiana University up to Pennsylvania and northern New York. So why should you choose a cold dorm, as opposed to a regular dorm room with all the mod cons (heat and A/C) or a single room? According to some students, the cold dorm tradition may be the secret to a good night's rest.

Julie Rogers, a senior at St. Lawrence College in Upstate New York, found that her cold dorm (located in the sorority house's back porch) calmed her occasional sleep disorders. "Sleeping in the cold dorm is, hands down, the greatest sleep I’ve ever gotten in my life, post-womb," Julie wrote in an essay for Refinery29. "As someone who has struggled with serious sleepwalking, nightmares, and a brief stint of insomnia, the fact that I can sleep all the way through the night there is huge. I even like it better than my childhood bedroom (sorry Mom)."

Julie enjoys the coziness of sleeping sandwiched between an electric blanket and heated sleeping pad. It's true that there is nothing as cozy as cuddling under piles of blankets on a chilly night, but a bedroom temp of 26 degrees might not be for everyone.

Cold dorms provide more peace for residents since sleeping is isolated from the hustle and bustle of the household activities. Residents have personal rooms where they study, change, and socialize, which helps those who need shut eye rest undisturbed in the cold dorm. "It’s cold, dark, and always quiet. I can go to bed whenever I want, and can take a nap anytime during the day," Julie writes. "When girls wake up, they head to their rooms to get ready, so there’s no turning on lights and rummaging around to get dressed."

Many speak of the tradition of the cold dorm with reverence, despite freezing glasses of water near their bed. As Julie points out, "When else in life do you get to live in a house with 22 of your closest friends?"

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