Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2017
One of the most widely used quotes about sleep, and indeed one of my favourites, is from The Guls Horn-Booke by the English dramatist, Thomas Dekker published in 1609 “…..for sleepe is that golden chaine that ties health and our bodies together” This is often given quoted as “For sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together” by people who don’t know any better. However despite the obvious truth of this quote Dekker’s book was actually meant as satirical advice for fools, fops and gallants, particularly in the London Theatre. “Gull” was an Elizabethan slang term meaning fool or one who may easily be made a fool; and a “hornbook” was a kind of elementary teaching device i.e. a child’s primer). An earlier passage recommended the “softest and largest Downe-bed” as the fittest stage upon which to study as an actor and advises that you should sleep until “noone at least” The idea of sleeping till noon is reprised in the following paragraphs with the benefits that “midday slumbers are golden; they make the body fat, the skin faire, the flesh plump, delicate and tender; they set a russet colour on the cheekes of young women, and make lusty courage to rise up in men” and in particular there is the benefit that they “make us thrifty, both in sparing victuals (for breakefasts thereby are savd from the hell-mouth of the belly) and in preserving apparell; for while wee warm us in our beds, our clothes are not worne”. It is interesting to speculate what Dekker really felt about sleep but we get little clue from his other, numerous, works. So are we guilty of misrepresentation? Taking a phrase out of context is usually to be frowned upon but given the inherent truth of the quote is it perhaps allowable in the case? “The fittest stage upon which you (that study to be an Actor there) are first to present your selfe is (in my approved judgment) the softest and largest Downe-bed: from whence (if you will but take sound councell of your pillow) you shall never rise, till you heare it ring noone at least. Sleep, in the name of Morpheus, your bellyfull, or (rather) sleepe till you heare your belly grombles and waxeth empty”. “For doe but consider what an excellent thing sleepe is: It is so inestimable a Jewel, that, if a Tyrant would give his crowne for an houres slumber, it cannot be bought: of so beautifull a shape is it, that though a man lye with an Empresse, his heart cannot be at quiet, till he leaves her embracements to be at rest with the other: yea, so greatly indebted are we to this kinseman of death, that we owe the better tributary, halfe of our life to him : and there good cause why we should do so : for sleepe is that golden chaine that ties health and our bodies together. Who complains of want ? of woundes ? of cares ? of great mens oppressions, of captivity ? whilest he sleepeth ? Beggers in their beds take as much pleasure as Kings: can we therefore surfet on this delicate Ambrosia ? can we drink too much of that whereof to last too little tumbles us into a church-yard, and to use it but indifferently, throwes us into Bedlam ? No, no, looke uppon Endymion, the Moones Minion, who slept threescore and fifteene yeares, and was not a haire the worse for it. Can lying abedde till noone then (being not the threescore and fifteenth thousand part of his nap) be hurtfull ? Besides, by the opinion of all Phylosophers and Physitians, it is not good to trust the aire with our bodies till the Sun with his flame-coloured wings, hath fand away the mistie smoke of the morning, and refind that thicke tobacco-breath which the rheumaticke night throwes abroad of purpose to put out the eye of the Element : which worke questionlesse cannot be perfectly finished, till the sunnes Car-horses stand prancing on the very top of highest noon : so that then (and not till then) is the most healthfull houre to be stirring. Do you require examples to perswade you ? At what time do Lords and Ladies use to rise, but then? your simpring Merchants wives are the fairest lyers in the world: and is not eleven a clocke their common houre? they finde (no doubt) unspeakable sweetnesse in such lying, else they would not day by day put it so in practise. In a word, midday slumbers are golden; they make the body fat, the skin faire, the flesh plump, delicate and tender; they set a russet colour on the cheekes of young women, and make lusty courage to rise up in men ; they make us thrifty, both in sparing victuals (for breakefasts thereby are savd from the hell-mouth of the belly) and in preserving apparell; for while wee warm us in our beds, our clothes are not worne”. https://archive.org/details/gullshornbook00mckegoog