Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK John Trusler, An Easy Way to Prolong Life, By a Little Attention to Our Manner of Living  (London, 1775), 11 here REST. Rest is as necessary to preserve health, and continue us in strength and vigour, as exercise. When the body is fatigued, rest is refreshing, and renews its strength; but when satiated with rest it thirsts again for motion and agreeable exercise. Rest is a burden, if forced upon nature longer than it requires. Interdum quies, inquieta est, says Seneca, even rest sometimes is irksome. For if exercise is necessary for the preservation of health, too much inactivity must be prejudicial. Ignavia corpus hebetat, labor firmat. Sluggishness makes the mind and body dull and heavy, whereas frequent motion strengthens and invigorates them. The life of man, conversant in change, spends its whole course in sleep and watching; the one appointed for rest and ease, the other for action and labour. If he was constant in the first, his life would be only the shadow of death; if in the last, he would soon be exhausted. Nature therefore hath wisely contrived, that man should not long continue in either, but wear out his life between the two. Sleep is a placid state of body and mind, giving refreshment and ease to both; for as an exertion of the faculties either of mind or body exhausts our powers, rest will restore those powers. The powers of the mind are like a small current, which is sufficient to keep up a continual motion. If we want to give this wa∣ter greater power, we dam it up, and when the water is run from the dam, if we wish to produce a fresh power, equal to the first, we shut the sluices, and collect the water again: so it is with the mind, in sleep. In perfect sleep, both the body and mind are at rest, excepting in those particulars, where an exertion is necessary to life; and in sleep, it is that the body receives a greater degree of nutrition; it is then digestion takes place in an extraordinary degree, and recruits those spirits that were exhausted in the course of the preceding day. Now that sleep may prove advantageous, answering the intentions and designs of nature; let us consider four things concerning it. The time when it should be taken; the necessary limits, or quantity of sleep required; the salubrity of the place, and the position of the body. The time most proper for sleep, is, according to the appointment of nature, the night, when creation, in general, take its rest. At the shutting up of the day, when the sun gets below the horizon; the spirits are not so active and lively, but incline to a cessation. Tis then they return to the centre of the body and apply themselves to what is called concoction; that is they return to perform their vital operations, to nourish and refresh the system. For during the heat of the day, they are dilated and extended to the external or circumferent parts. Hence, we find, that, towards midnight, unless we are in exercise, put on another garment, or encrease the heat of the room, we always find ourselves chilly. In the morning again, at the rising of the sun, our spirits are naturally fresh, brisk and active. If we therefore, prevert the order of nature, turn day into night, by keeping late hours, and laying in bed, all the morning, we do that which is greatly destructive to our constitution. For as sleep naturally draws the animal heat inwards, and the heat of the sun counteracts this power, by drawing it outwards; sleeping in the day is a resisting of nature, which must be prejudicial to the health of the body. Sleeping in the day, therefore, is a bad custom, particularly for fat, corpulent people; but if the spirits be fatigued with care or business, or by reason of old age, weakness of nature, extreme hot weather, labour, or the like; then moderate day-sleep is a good refreshment, but take it rather sitting than lying down, because the head will be less offended with the rising vapours. Neither should it be taken immediately after dinner, but an hour or half an hour after, at least; and between dinner and our nap, it would be prudent to walk a little. Thus will our food descend better into the stomach and be less liable to affect the head. Neither should this afternoon's nap be longer than half an hour, or an hour at most, lest the animal heat should be so collected from the outward parts, as to cause a heaviness in the head: neither should it be taken in a hot place, but in one cool rather, especially in summer time, as shall hereafter be shewn. Sitting up late is one of the great destroyers of the constitution; it tires and wastes the animal spirits, by keeping them too long upon duty; weakens nature, hastens on the effects of old age, changes a fresh, florid countenance into a sallow one; heats and dries the body, breeds rheums and bad humours and is particularly injurious to thin people. By going early to asleep and early from it, we rise refreshed, lively and active. Sleeping late in the morning, keeps that excrementitious matter in the intestines which ought to be evacuated and thus occasions obstructions and noisome vapours, which greatly offend the head, dull the senses and are very pernicious to the whole body. If our necessities indeed oblige us to sit up late, our supper should be little, and we may make amends for it by laying an hour or two longer in the morning; but let what will happen, we should always be up by nine o'clock. In order that sleep may be peaceable and refreshing, we should be careful to go to bed with a free and quiet mind, and banish the thoughts of all manner of care and business. How often has a train of thinking disturbed a man's rest, and kept him awake the whole night! The body and the mind is recruited in proportion to the soundness also of sleep. The more we dream the less are we refreshed. Although rest is not complete at the beginning, it has a tendency to become so, during this state of the body; that is to a quiet mind, sleep becomes sounder and sounder. When a man first falls a-sleep, he dreams, tosses and tumbles about; gradually he becomes more quiet, and were we awake him, he would not recollect that he had been dreaming at all, or he would tell us, he dreamed, but in a small degree. During sleep the original power appears to be so much accumulated, as to give a disposition to action, both to the mind and body, from the slightest cause; sleep then leaves us and we awake: that is, when the powers are recruited, the organs begin to be affected, and the man dreams afresh; at last, outward objects sensibly affect him and he awakes. 'Tis then the mind is fittest for action; the judgment is then stronger, the imagination more lively and as the evening comes on, these powers are gradually diminished, and require fresh sleep to recruit them. The next thing that falls under our consideration, is the quantity of sleep we take. This has been in some measure noticed; but it may not be unnecessary to be a little more particular. It cannot indeed be determined how long we may sleep; as in all other things, a mediocrity is best. Our sleep should be proportioned to our health, our age, the complexion and emptiness or fulness of the stomach. As the nutrition of the body is particularly assisted by sleep, we should sleep, in general, till the food we take has performed its office; that is, till what physicians call concoction is completed. This may be discerned on our awaking by the sensible lightness of the body, especially the head; the emptiness of the stomach, and a certain desire of evacuation, provided it is not unnaturally occasioned. Heaviness of the head and eyes, or a taste of our last meal, signify that we have not slept a sufficient length of time. In short, six, seven or eight hours is long enough for young persons in health, but such as are sickly and weak require longer rest, nine, ten or eleven hours. Children and old men require more sleep, in general, than young or middle-aged persons; children, that their growth may the better be promoted, and old men, because it lessens the dryness of their constitution. The same reason holds good with lean people, to whom more sleep is neces∣sary than to such as are fat; for sleep moistens and refreshes the whole system. In a word, as immoderate sleep, or sleep taken at improper times weakens the natural heat, loads the head with vapours, detains the excrements longer than is wholesome, makes men sluggish and heavyheaded, destroys the memory and subjects them to the palsy, lethargy, &c. so too little sleep dries up the constitution, dims the sight, wastes the spirits and destroys all the powers and faculties both of mind and body. It must be observed, that we should not go to bed upon a full stomach; that is, not go to rest too soon after supper; but continue up an hour or two, till our food be half digested; if we are obliged to sup late, we should eat the less: for, on account of the natural heat of the body retiring inwards during the time of sleep, a full stomach will occasion a superfluity of vapours, and greatly offend the head. Besides, great suppers are very apt to occasion heart-burn, which will of course deprive us of our rest. A matter occurs here; whether it be beneficial or not to have our bed warmed? Persons in years, such as are weak and those who lead a tender and delicate course of life, do right to warm their beds, in cold and moist seasons of the year; and that for two reasons; that the body, on putting off our cloaths, may not be suddenly affected with the external cold; and as the inward heat of the body is much assisted by the warmth of the bed, concoction will be forwarded and the superfluous moisture of the body be the better consumed. But this custom is unwholesome to those persons who are healthful and strong, because it will very much weaken them. When we arise in the morning we should find it amply compensate for our trouble, were we gently to rub our breasts and sides downward with our hands, and the rest of our body more strongly with flannel or a hot linnen cloth, particularly our joints. Doing this will quicken the blood, strengthen the parts and excite the natural heat. When risen, we should stretch ourselves out, that the animal spirits may be dilated to the exterior parts of the body, walk a little up and down, that the remaining contents of the stomach may more speedily descend; this done, we should pro∣ceed to cleanse our nose, by blowing it; to clear our breast, by expectoration, and to make every other necessary evacuation. We should wash and and plunge our eyes in cold water, for this not only clears away the filth, but strengthens and preserves the sight. The mouth should be well cleansed with the same, and the teeth rubbed with a dry coarse cloth, after first scouring them with a sage leaf, dipped in vinegar. This will purify the breath, and preserve the teeth from foulness and decay: and last of all the head should be combed, that the pores may be opened to expel such vapours, as were not consumed by sleep. The next thing to be mentioned is the salubriety of the place we sleep in. A high room, dry, sweet and well- aired, free from smoke and remote from noise, is the most wholesome: neither should our chamber be hot, for the spirits and natural heat of the body, which is drawn inwardly by sleep, as before-mentioned, will be counteracted by any extraordinary heat in the room; but it should be moderately warm, and free from damps, either natural or artificial, arising from new plaistered walls, washing the floor or otherwise. It may not be amiss here to mention the danger of sleeping in the open air or on the ground, as many in the summer season do. Those whose stations in life oblige them to it, as soldiers, though for the present they escape the mischief, are frequently afterwards made sensible of the injury, by aches, stiffness or weakness of limbs, and many other infirmities that proceed from it. Our beds may be soft, but should not sink in, as that will suck from the body, exhaust and im∣pair our strength. A mattrass upon a feather-bed is both easy and wholesome. As bedding receives the vapours, and sweaty moisture of the body, we should be careful that it is always clean, sweet and well-aired; for if it is not purified by air or fire, it will contract an ill scent and become unwholesome. If every one ought to be thus careful of the beds they constantly lie in themselves, we may see how necessary it is that travellers should be cautious how and where they sleep. No bed-chamber should be washed in cold, wet or foggy weather; sweeping and brushing is sufficient to keep it decent, and airing it in clear, dry days, by opening the windows, will prevent its becoming offensive. As to the nature of our covering at night, it should be according to the season of the year. The head should be covered sufficiently to prevent its taking cold, but not too warm, lest it weaken it and hasten grey hairs; for if the vapours issuing from the brain are impeded in their passage, it will cause the hair to turn grey, much sooner than it otherwise would. With respect to our manner of laying; we may in a great measure consult our own ease. The head should be higher than any other part of the body; the bed from head to feet, should be smooth and even, without any fall below the pillow, or hollow under the shoulders. Sleeping generally on the back is unwholesome, as the humours of the head naturally fall by this means into the hinder part of the brain and may disorder it, and the loins are thus more heated than they would otherwise be, and of course the urinary passages more subject to obstructions. Persons afflicted with the stone should by no means sleep on their backs. Sleeping with the back upwards may be occasionally good for such persons as are troubled with wind and have a weak digestion, the bowels being thus kept so much the warmer; but to those who have weak eyes it is pernicious, as a defluxion of humours may thus fall into them. The most wholesome method of sleeping, is on the side, first on the left side, especially to those who go to bed before they have digested their supper, as the food will in this case better descend to the bottom of the stomach; and then on the right, that the motion of the heart may be freest from pressure. But the principal thing to render sleep comfortable, is, as was hinted before, to compose the mind. If we lie down with roving, troubled thoughts, they will commonly calls us up, before it is fit to rise, and our sleep will not be piacid or refreshing. When we lay by our cloaths, therefore, let us not lay aside our business, care and thoughts, and let not a wandering fancy break our rest. It has been often doubted, whether it be good to sleep with the mouth a little open. Some there are, that altogether deny it; but to sleep with the mouth open is certainly beneficial, and that, for these three reasons: because the breath passes more freely and the fuliginous fumes are better sent forth than discussed. Hence it is that such as sleep with the mouth open, have a sweet breath, whereas those that sleep with it shut, have generally an offensive breath and foul teeth. The second is, because some bad moisture may in sleep pass forth at the mouth, which if shut, would fall upon the lungs and be prejudicial. The third rea∣son is, because owing to the descent of rheumes from the head, the free passage of the breath through the nose may be impeded, and snorings, and offensive routings ensue, that may disturb us of our rest, and awaken us. But because the tongue, palate and gums of such as sleep with their mouth open, are com∣monly afterwards very dry and covered with slimy matter, though in fact, those who sleep with their mouth shut are most subject to it, all persons in the morning, should wash their mouths and teeth well and gargle their throats, and then every inconvenience is removed. The only thing further to be enquired into, upon this subject, is whether sweating at night be destructive to the constitution or not. Great sweats are undoubtedly weakening, but light sweats are a great benefit, for gross humours are thereby dissolved, wind is discussed, the blood is purified, the spirits are refreshed, the cramp, palsy, gout, swelling of the joints and other parts, achs, numbness and heaviness of the limbs are prevented, and consequently the whole body better preserved, lively, and in health. But, this caution must be observed, and the body be not suddenly after it exposed to the cold air. Morris Palmer Tilley, A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1950; rpt. edn., Ann Arbor, Mich., 1966), 36. here  Go to BED with the lamb and rise with the lark 1580 LYLY Euph. andHis Eng, p. 16. 1590 GREENE Never Too Late, p. 124: I see you keepe the prouerbe for a principle, to bed with the Bee and vp with the Larke. 1606 T. HEYWOOD 2 If You Know Not Me, p. 304: Though I be stirring earlier than the larke, And at my labour later than the lambe. 1607 DEKKER AND WEBSTER North. Ho II, s. C2: Such a watch as this, would make me go downe with the Lamb, and be vp with the Larke. 1616 WITHALS, p. 571: He goeth to bed with the Larke, and riseth with the Lambe. 1618 BRETON Court. and Countrym.: Wks., II 6: We rise with the Larke and goe to bed with the Lambe. 1639 CL., s.v. Somnolentia, p. 292. 1640JONSON Tale Tub I vi 7: Madam, if he had couched with the Lambe, He had no doubt beene stirring with the Larke. 1666 TOR. Prov. Phr., s.v. Verona, p. 229: TO go soon to roost, and soon up; the English say, To lye down with the Lamb, and rise with the Lark. 1670 RAY, p. 38. 1721 KEL., p. 123: (and rise with the Laverock [lark]). SHAKESPEARE—I599 Hen. V III vii 33: Nay, the man hath no wit that cannot, from the rising of the lark to the lodging of the lamb, vary deserved praise on my palfrey. BACK
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2018