Rest and Sleep.
OUR bodies are like clocks; they ran down and are wound up once every twentyfour hours. Were they obliged to work on uninterruptedly, they would wear out in a few days. It is a merciful provision that periods of repose are allotted to us. Everything has its proper place. Rest is not less a luxury after exercise, than exercise is after rest. They both confer happiness at the same time that they promote our wellbeing.
Sleeping Rooms.The largest part of our rest is taken in sleep. Of course the kind of room in which we sleep is worthy of consideration. Hufeland says: "It must not be forgotten that we spend a considerable portion of our lives in the bedchamber, and consequently that its healthiness or unhealthiness cannot fail to have a very important influence upon our physical wellbeing." It should at least be large. That is of prime importance, because, during the several hours that we are in bed, we need to breathe a great deal of air, and our health is injured when we are obliged to breathe it several times over. We should at least pay as much attention to the size, situation, temperature, and cleanliness of the room we occupy during the hours of repose, as to the parlors, or drawingroom, or any other apartment. And yet how different from this is the general practice of families. The smallest room in the house is commonly set apart for the bed and its nightly occupants.
The sleepingroom should have a good location, so as to be dry. It should be kept clean, and neither be too hot nor too cold. And, more important still, it should be well ventilated.
One bed, occupied by two persons, is as much as should ever be allowed in a single room; though, of course, two beds in a large room are no more than one in a small one. Both are objectionable.
Fire in Sleeping Rooms.As to having fire in a sleeping room, that is a matter to be determined by the health of the occupant. Persons who have poor circulation, and are feeble, had better have a little fire in the bedchamber in cold weather. For those in good health a cold room is preferable.
Open Windows in Sleeping Rooms.In the hot weather of summer, it is better to keep the windows open to some extent, through the night, but not on opposite sides of the room so as to make a draft across the bed.
There is a difference of opinion as to the safety of this practice, but the experience of those who have used it prudently and perseveringly has generally sanctioned its employment. It is presumed that nightair is made to be breathed; and if we breathe it habitually, there is no good reason why it should be considered hurtful. At all events we have got to do one of three things,either breathe it, or be poisoned by air which is breathed several times over, or use very large sleeping rooms, and then lay in a stock to last over night.
An Open Fireplace in a bedchamber will do much towards its purification. It carries off foul air. But many persons board up this outlet as if bad air were a friend with whom they could not think of parting. At the same time they will carefully close a window and doors, as if fresh air were an enemy not to be let in.
Beds. It is a pleasant thought that while so many things which injure health axe coming into fashion, some which have a like effect are going out. Among the injurious things which are silently withdrawing are featherbeds.
In earlier times, a bed made of eiderdown was thought to be a great luxury, to be carefully preserved, and handed down from mother to daughter. Beds made of hen's feathers, and other coarser kinds, were thought to be only fit for children. With due deference to these earlier judgments, it must be said that feather beds, whether downy or coarse, are not even fit for children. They are composed of animal matter, and by a slow process of decay, are always, when stirred, sending up an exhalation which it is not healthful to breathe.
By their softness, too, they increase the general tendency to effeminacy. In warm weather they are too beating. To sink down into them, and lie nearly buried all night, is to insure a feeling of lassitude and debility in the morning. Only the strongest persons can endure it without being made conscious of the evil effects.
Beds must not be too Hard. On the other hand, it is almost equally unwise to choose a bed of absolutely unyielding hardness. When very tired, we may rest even upon a board; but sleep will generally be more sound as well as refreshing, if the bed be somewhat yielding. The hair mattress is the very best bed yet used. It is healthful and easy. No person once accustomed to it will ever return to feathers In summer, it is a luxury; in winter, it is sufficiently warm, though a little more covering is needed than with feathers.
Bedding. In hot weather, linen sheets are preferable to cotton, and of course will be used by those who have ample means. But cotton ones are good enough, and in winter are decidedly the more desirable of the two. Cotton is best, too, for those who suffer with rheumatic affections. For external covering, comforts are objectionable, because they do not let the insensible perspiration pass off as freely as it should. They are light, however, and so are rose blankets, which have the additional good quality of being porous. We should sleep under as few clothes as possible, consistently with comfort.
NightDress. The flannel, cotton, linen, or silk, worn next the skin through the day, should always be replaced, on retiring, by a suitable nightdress. The undershirt should be of the same material with that which is taken off, but thinner. If we wear flannel through the day, we need it quite as much at night.
Do not Cover the Face. The practice of sleeping with the face entirely covered with the bedclothes is very injurious. It compels one to breathe the air over several times.
Natural Position for Sleep. The most natural position in which to sleep is upon the right side. This affords the easiest play to the internal organs. It is best, however, to learn to sleep in different positions, and to change occasionally from side to side. Upon the back is not so easy a position. To lie in this way obstructs the circulation of the blood, by the pressure of the stomach, bowels, etc., upon the large bloodvessels which pass down and up in front of the backbone. It is very tiresome and injurious to lie with the hands above the head.
Amount of Sleep. The average amount of sleep required by persons in health is from seven to eight hours. Occasionally we find persons who get along very well with six, or even five hours; while some, even in health, require nine. There is no absolute standard for all persons, in the amount of sleep, any more than in that of food. It depends on the temperament, the constitution, the amount of exercise, and the exhausting nature of the mental application.
The object of sleep is to repair the energies, the extent to which they are wasted, and the recuperative power possessed, will measure the amount required.
Late Suppers. These are a bar to all sound and healthful sleep. The last meal should always be taken at least three hours before retiring and should be light. During sleep the stomach should have a chance to rest. It will work the better on the morrow. Some persons boast that they can sleep perfectly well after a heavy supper. Perhaps they can, but, as Franklin has wisely suggested, they may by and by , have a fit of apoplexy, and sleep till doomsday." This will be sleeping too well!
Preparation for Sleep. Dr. Franklin left behind the record of a wise life, as well as many excellent moral and philosophical directions. A good conscience was his prescription for quiet sleep and pleasant dreams, a most excellent direction. Sleep is promoted, too, by withdrawing the mind, a short time before retiring, from all hard study and exciting themes of conversation. and turning it to calmer subjects of reflection, such as the moral attributes of God, and particularly his love and paternal character.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071