Some noises help sleep, as the blowing of the wind, and the trickling of water: they move a gentle attention; and whatsoever moveth attention, without too much labour, stilleth the natural and discursive motion of the spirits . Tones are not so apt to procure sleep as some other sounds; as the wind, the purling of waters, and humming of bees.
Cold calleth the spirits to succour, and therefore they cannot so well close and go together in the head, which is ever requisite to sleep. And for the same cause, pain and noise hinder sleep; and darkness furthereth sleep.
A merchant died that was very far in debt; his goods and household stuff were set forth to sale; a stranger would needs buy a pillow there, saying, This pillow sure is good to sleep on, since he could sleep on it that owed so many debts.
We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life. Tis indeed a part of life that best expresseth death; for every man truly lives, so long as he acts his nature, or some way makes good the faculties of himself . It is that death by which we may be literally said to die daily; a death which Adam died before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death: in fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and in half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God . This is the dormitive I take to bedward; I need no other laudanum than this to make me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the sun, and sleep unto the resurrection.
Every one knows that sleep is a relaxation; and that silence, where nothing keeps the organs of hearing in action, is in general fittest to bring on this relaxation; yet when a sort of murmuring sounds dispose a man to sleep, let these sounds cease suddenly, and the person immediately awakes; that is, the parts are braced up suddenly, and he awakes. This I have often experienced myself, and I have heard the same from observing persons. In like manner, if a person in broad daylight were falling asleep, to introduce a sudden darkness would prevent his sleep for that time; though silence and darkness in themselves, and not suddenly introduced, are very favourable to it. This I knew only by conjecture on the analogy of the senses when I first digested these observations; but I have since experienced it. And I have often experienced, and so have a thousand others, that on the first inclining towards sleep, we have been suddenly awakened with a most violent start; and that this start was generally preceded by a sort of dream of our falling down a precipice: whence does this strange motion arise, but from the too sudden relaxation of the body, which by some mechanism in nature restores itself by as quick and vigorous an exertion of the contracting power of the muscles? The dream itself is caused by this relaxation; and it is of too uniform a nature to be attributed to any other cause. The parts relax too suddenly, which is in the nature of falling; and this accident of the body induces this image in the mind. When we are in a confirmed state of health and vigour, as all changes are then less sudden, and less on the extreme, we can seldom complain of this disagreeable sensation.
Now blessings light on him that first invented sleep! it covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.
There is a kind of sleep which steals upon us sometimes, which, while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it, but enables it to ramble as it pleases. So far as an overpowering heaviness, a prostration of strength, and an utter inability to control our thoughts or power of motion, can be called sleep, this is it; and yet we have a consciousness of all that is going on about us, and even if we dream, words which are really spoken, or sounds which really exist at the moment, accommodate themselves with surprising readiness to our visions, until reality and imagination become so strangely blended that it is afterwards almost a matter of impossibility to separate the two. Nor is this the most striking phenomenon incidental to such a state. It is an ascertained fact, that though our senses of touch and sight be for the time dead, yet our sleeping thoughts and the visionary scenes that pass before us will be influenced by the mere silent presence of some external object, which may not have been near us when we closed our eyes, and of whose vicinity we have no waking consciousness.
The practice of sleeping in places of worship, a practice we believe not prevalent in any other places of public resort, is not only a gross violation of the advice we are giving, but most distressing to ministers, and most disgraceful to those who indulge it. If the apostle indignantly inquires of the Corinthians whether they had not houses to eat and drink in, may we not, with equal propriety, ask those who indulge in this practice whether they have not beds to sleep in, that they convert the house of God into a dormitory?
The breath of peace was fanning her glorious brow; her head was bowed a very little forward, and a tress, escaping from its bonds, fell by the side of her pure white temple, and close to her just opened lips; it hung there motionless! no breath disturbed its repose! She slept as an angel might sleep, having accomplished the mission of her God.
It is a delicious moment, certainly, that of being well nestled in bed, and feeling that you shall drop gently to sleep. The good is to come, not past: the limbs have just been tired enough to render the remaining in one posture delightful; the labour of the day is gone. A gentle failure of the perceptions creeps over you; the spirit of consciousness disengages itself once more, and with slow and hushing degrees, like a mother detaching her hand from that of a sleeping child, the mind seems to have a balmy lid closing over it, like the eye: it is closed, the mysterious spirit has gone to take its airy rounds.
Sleep, deaths beautiful brother,fairest phenomenonpoetical reality,thou sweet collapsing of the weary spirit; thou mystery that every one knows; thou remnant of primeval innocence and bliss: for Adam slept in Paradise. To sleeptheres a drowsy mellifluence in the very word that would almost serve to interpret its meaning,to shut up the senses and hoodwink the soul; to dismiss the world; to escape from ones self; to be in ignorance of our own existence; to stagnate upon the earth, just breathing out the hours, not living themDoing no mischief, only dreaming of it; neither merry nor melancholy, something between both, and better than either. Best friend of frail humanity, and, like all other friends, best estimated in its loss.
Now upon what has been said, the physicians may determine whether sleep be so necessary that our lives depend upon it: for we read that king Perseus of Macedon, being prisoner at Rome, was wakd to death; but Pliny instances such as have livd long without sleep. Herodotus speaks of nations where the men sleep and wake by half years: and they who write the life of the wise Epimenides affirm that he slept seven and fifty years together.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xliv.
It is not without reason that we are taught to consider sleep as a resemblance of death. With how great facility do we pass from waking to sleeping, and with how little concern do we lose the knowledge of light, and of ourselves! Peradventure the faculty of sleeping would seem useless and contrary to nature, being it deprives us of attraction and sense, were it not that by it nature instructs us that she has equally made us to die, as to live, and from life presents us the eternal estate she reserves for us after it, to accustom us to it, and to take from us the fear of it. But such as have by some violent accident fallen into a swoon, and in it have lost all sense, these, methinks, have been very near seeing the true and natural face of death: for as to the moment of the passage it is not to be feard that it brings with it any pain, or displeasure, for as much as we can have no feeling without leisure: our sufferings require time, which in death is so short and precipitous, that it must necessarily be insensible.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lxiii.
We wake sleeping, and sleep waking. I do not see so clearly in my sleep; but as to my being awake, I never found it clear enough, and free from clouds. Moreover, sleep, when it is profound, sometimes rocks even dreams themselves asleep, but our awaking is never so spritely that it does rightly, and as it should, purge and dissipate those ravings and whimsies which are waking dreams, and worse than dreams. Our reason and soul receiving those fancies and opinions that like come in dreams, and authorizing the actions of our dreams with the approbation that they do those of the day, wherefore do we not doubt whether our thought and action is another sort of dreaming, and our waking a certain kind of sleep?
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lxix.
In the morning, when you awake, accustom yourself to think first upon God, or something in order to his service; and at night also, let him close thine eyes: and let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time, beyond the needs and conveniences of nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation which the sun makes when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.
There is no fact more clearly established in the physiology of man than this, that the brain expends its energies and itself during the hours of wakefulness, and that these are recuperated during sleep. If the recuperation does not equal the expenditure, the brain withers: this is insanity. Thus it is that, in early English history, persons who were condemned to death by being prevented from sleeping, always died raving maniacs; thus it is also that those who are starved to death become insane,the brain is not nourished, and they cannot sleep. The practical inferences are three1st. Those who think most, who do most brain-work, require most sleep. 2d. That time saved from necessary sleep is infallibly destructive to mind, body, and estate. 3d. Give yourself, your children, your servants,give all that are under you.the fullest amount of sleep they will take, by compelling them to go to bed at some regular, early hour, and to rise in the morning the moment they awake; and within a fortnight, Nature, with almost the regularity of the rising sun, will unloose the bonds of sleep the moment enough repose has been secured for the wants of the system. This is the only safe and sufficient rule; and as to the question how much sleep any one requires, each must be a rule for himself,great Nature will never fail to write it out for the observer under the regulations just given.