« AnteriorContinuar »
Night is the best time for sleep. It is more quiet than the day; and it is then better for us to be in bed than up, because the warmth of the bed protects us from the cold and damps of night. It is also advisable to retire to rest before midnight. It is proverbially said, and with truth, that the soundest and most wholesome sleep is that which we obtain before twelve o'clock. If we remain up too long, we waste too much of our strength; hence result certain movements in the blood, which are a kind of consuming fever. The least degree of fever in the blood is well known to occasion restless sleep; and therefore it is never advisable to defer it till after midnight. It should farther be observed, that the occupations which we follow late at night are seldom conducive to health. We sit down either to read or write, and for so unhealthy a posture as sitting, the day is quite long enough, without our devoting to it part of the night also; or to study, and thus waste still more the animal powers which sleep ought to recruit and renew; or to feasting, by which we pamper a part at the expense of the whole, forgetting that sleep is the best feast of the animal nature. For the same reason I cannot approve of dancing at night, though it has this advantage over other nocturnal amusements, that it keeps up the transpiration which the cold of night is otherwise liable to check. As we ought daily to comply with the instinct which impels us to eat and drink for our nourishment, so we ought also to feed and to refresh the animal nature with sleep, and not suffer it to fast beyond the proper time,
Great heat, severe exertion either of body or mind, and hearty meals, sometimes dispose us to sleep in the day. It has been a subject of frequent discussion, whether sleep after dinner be wholesome or not. There can be no doubt that it is, when we feel heavy and disposed to sleep. Boerhaave was once of opinion that sleep after dinner is pernicious, and that the school of Salerno was in the right to proscribe it, and on the contrary to recommend bodily exercise after meals; but when he considered that all the animals, after appeasing the cravings of appetite, give themselves up to repose, and that the due digestion of food requires not only a large proportion of vital spirits, but also the easy and unrestrained movement of the abdomen, to neither of which bodily exercise conduces; he changed his opinion, and with Hippocrates, Galen, and other eminent physicians, recommended bodily exercise before dinner, and a nap after it with Felix Plater. The latter celebrated physician once attended a meeting of his colleagues, at which this question was debated. Every one condemned the practice, when Plater rose : “ I am now seventy years of age,” said he ; “ I have always taken my nap after dinner, and have never been ill in my life.” Who could advance any thing against such an argument ?
It is an important question, how long a person ought to sleep. Too long sleep overloads, too short stints the animal nature. The best sleep should continue no longer than till we are satiated with it. This satiety depends on a hundred different circumstances. A lively disposition does not require so much sleep as a phlegmatic temperament. We often hear people complain that they cannot sleep at night, who nevertheless are hearty and lively during the day, and who merely err in going to bed too early and lying too long. They retire to rest, perhaps, at ten o'clock, and awake at three or four. Conceiving that to sleep well they ought to sleep the whole night through, they call that restlessness which is but the effect of vivacity. They do not require longer sleep. Their force is recruited in a few hours; after which they ought to rise, anticipate the sun, and pursue their occupations. The same is the case with the indolent, whose head and hands are alike unemployed. For them it were better that the day were twice as Jong, or that they made no difference between day and night. They should only lie down when they are sleepy, and rise as soon as they awake, and fall to some kind of work or other. I know a person who has by this method relieved himself from sleepless nights. He rose as soon as he awoke, be the hour what it would; employed himself for an hour, or till he grew sleepy, then lay down again, and slept till morning. In a short time he could sleep the whole night through, especially after taking bodily exercise in the day. Sanctorius observed, that a person who sleeps from eight to ten hours transpires but little in the first five. In the three following the transpiration increases, and he becomes lighter in weight as well as in feeling. In a longer continuance of sleep the transpiration again diminishes. The blood gradually circulates more slowly. He feels chilly, and the limbs become beavy. Instead of acquiring new strength, he is oppressed with a lassitude which makes him more and more sleepy, and against which Sanctorius recommends bodily exercise and strong excitement of the passions. Unless recourse be had to these aids, such a person is in danger of the fate which befel a doctor of physic, of whom Boerhaave makes mention. Having conceived a notion that it was conducive to health to sleep a great deal, he went to bed in a dark and quiet place, and slept several days. When he was awakened, he was much more ignorant than he had been before. He again resigned himself to sleep; and on again awaking, he was a perfect idiot. Hence it is necessary to beware of sleeping too long. Nature herself in general prevents us from falling into the contrary extreme. These impulses must not be obstinately resisted, or we incur the risk of insanity. In this manner the fowler stupifies the falcon that he is about to train. He prevents it from sleeping for a certain time, and this breaks the spirit of the bird to such a degree, that its instructor can make it do whatever he pleases.
The position of the body in sleep is likewise a point of some consequence. The head ought not to be too low, and there should be nothing to obstruct the free movement of the chest and abdomen. For this reason all night clothes ought to be loose. The body ought to be equally covered, and none of the limbs should be in such a posture as to keep the muscles in action. If you fall asleep with your hands clasped, you find on awaking that your fingers are dead and have no feeling. If you lie with crossed legs, they either contract that sensation which is called being asleep, or you get the cramp in them. It is hurtful to sleep much sitting on a chair; for if the legs hang down they are apt to be swollen in the morning, and if they are laid upon another chair, this position compresses the abdomen. Some maintain that it is best to lie on the right side, that the heart may move with greater freedom. The most rational course in this particular is for each individual to be guided by his own feelings, and to change his posture accordingly. Neither the light of day, nor even moonlight, should be permitted to fall upon the eyes during sleep; otherwise they are liable to a dry burning heat in the day-time, and frequently to inflammation.
Every one would be glad to know by what means sleep may be promoted; for nothing is more unpleasant than to be weary and yet have to wait for sleep. The best method is fatigue, either by bodily or mental labour, and this is not the lot of the great, ut of the humble and the slave. Who but recollects the soliloquy to this effect, which Shakspeare has put into the lips of Henry IV.? That of his valiant successor, though less poetical perhaps, for which reason it has not been so often quoted, is equally to the point :
“ I know 'tis not the sceptre and the bali,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
who, from the rise to set,
HENRY V. act iv. scene I. There are other means of promoting sleep, most of which, however, ought only to be known in order to be avoided. Corpulent persons are, almost without exception, disposed to profound sleep, which may more justly be regarded as the forerunner of apoplexy than the invigorator of animal life. Dionysius, the corpulent tyrant of Heraclea, slept so soundly, that to awake him it was necessary to thrust pins through the fat into his flesh. Apoplexy at length carries off such drowsy persons, and as their sleep was an image of death, so death in them exactly resembles sleep. Too long watching also tends to promote an unnatural drowsiness. Soldiers, after passing several nights without sleep during sieges, have been known to be so overpowered as to fall asleep on the batteries amid the thunder of bombs and cannon. Persons who have been cruelly prevented from sleeping for several weeks, have, after the seventh week, become so insensible, as not to be roused from their stupor when beaten ever so severely. The wellknown soporific medicines, it is true, occasion sleep; but it is so restless and unnatural, that it ought rather to be termed a disease than wholesome rest. This effect is produced not only by opium and preparations from it, but by various plants; for instance, the different species of henbane, nightshade, &c., the use of which should of course be avoided. In Italy there is a kind of lettuce, which, if eaten, occasions a mortal sleep. In India there is a herb, called there dutroa, but in the Maldive Islands moetol, bearing a round green-spotted pod, full of small seeds. Wild sage, herminum, makes people drowsy who remain long on a spot where it grows in abundance; and it is well known that a stupor seizes those who sleep where beans are in blossom, or in a room where lilies are placed. Upon the whole, it is pernicious to sleep in an atmosphere impregnated with strong odours. They confuse the head, injure the olfactory nerves, and cause headach and dizziness.
On this occasion it may not be amiss to warn the reader against the introduction of the vapour of coal or charcoal into bed-chambers. It produces restless and unrefreshing sleep, heaviness, stupor, nay, even death itself, according to the degree of its strength. For this reason I cannot approve the practice of warming beds with burning coals; for which purpose bottles of hot water are to be preferred. Care should also be taken to keep bed-rooms well ventilated and free from damp or humidity. Hence they should face the sun, and not be on the ground floor of the house. Cold in the head, and loss of hearing, are frequent complaints with persons who sleep in damp, close rooms.
Among the surest and most innocent means of promoting sleep, I can recommend wine and tobacco; but both must be used with moderation. A slight degree of exhilaration is soon succeeded by drowsiness. These means and employment are sufficient to produce wholesome sleep; but at the same time we must avoid whatever is liable to disturb it, and among other things too profuse suppers, by which the stomach is overloaded. I should nevertheless not dissuade healthy persons, who are accustomed to the practice, from eating moderate suppers; for fasting also is found to prevent sleep. It is a bad habit to drink tea, coffee, or a great quantity of any thin beverage before retiring to rest: these things only defeat the object of those who are obliged to invite slumber. They will be much more likely to attain their end by drinking a glass or two of wine, smoking a pipe, and reading a few pages of some dull poet.
Along thy wooded banks, dear native Stream,
Again I rove, and on thy winding shore
Behold thy dashing waves and torrent hoar;
As hurrying to the ocean deep they roar
With trackless billows, and are seen no more.
On rapid wings my fruitless years have fled,
And ever, as I lift my weeping head,
THE ONE-HANDED FLUTE-PLAYER,
gave to his
Of Arques, in Normandy. “PENDS-toi, brave Crillon! nous avons combattu à Arques, et tu n'y étois pas,” was the laconic announcement which Henry IV. friend, of his most brilliant and almost miraculous victory. This memorable place is not more remarkable from its historical interest than it is rich in natural beauties. It has every charm that may retain its inhabitants on their native spot, or seduce a stranger to it. Pleasure in its possession, and pride in its recollections, must be sufficient to fill the mind of its villagers with all that can endear home; and its union of actual loveliness with associations of the past, forms a magical attraction to the idle traveller in its neighbourhood.
From Dieppe to Arques is about a league in distance, and an hour's walk-to the common pedestrian of the world ; but for him who pauses and ponders on his road, who picks up mental aliment at every step, who finds a moral in a ruin, or a lesson in the rustling of a tree, who reads nature that he may know men—for such a one, from noon to sunset may be scarcely sufficient for the lounge.
Having strolled through the greater part of Normandy, eaten my fill of apples in the orchards which skirt its level highways, and drunk cider to my heart's content at the village inns, I found myself, on a fine evening in October, fast approaching the term of my pilgrimagethe aforesaid village of Arques. I left Dieppe behind me, reposing in the mixture of simple dulness and diminutive bustle of those little amphibious towns, which scarcely belong to sea or land, or which are rather common to both. As I struck into the fields I heard the murmur of the fishermen mixed with the flowing of the tide,-a Brighton packet was nearing the harbour, with its cargo of curiosity, and, perhaps, care. Another had just sailed for England, freighted with joyous hopes of home and happiness, and no doubt with many a feeling of travelled triumph and importance. There was a fine breeze which, to these little vessels running so close up to the wind, answered very well for either passage;—so I turned my back upon the sea, quite at ease for each buoyant adventurer.
On clearing the town we come immediately into the valley of Arques, and enter on the scene of the celebrated attle fought in September 1589. If we reach the place prepared for its observance, we recall the description by Sully : “Au bout de la Chaussée d'Arques regne un long côteau tournoyant, couvert de bois taillis. Au-dessous est un espace de terre labourable, au milieu duquel passe le grand chemin qui conduit à Arques, ayant des deux côtés deux haies épaisses. Plus bas encore, à main gauche, au-dessous de ce terrain labouré, est une espèce de grand marais, ou terre fangeuse."* I could not make use of a clearer or better account, for every thing is precisely the same to this day, except that the marsh is changed into a fertile pasture, and, looking to old Sully's detail of the battle-field, we have now the prospect of a grazing herd of cattle, instead of the “escadron de lansquenets,” a flock of sheep in lieu of the “ batallion des Suisses and that the
Mémoires, tom. I. p. 151. London, quarto edition, 1745, YOL, V. NO, XXII.