SEPT. 29, 1894
The British Medical Journal - Sleeplessness
Page 719
BMJ 1894
The subject of sleeplessness is once more under public discussion. The hurry and excitement of modern life is quite correctly held to be responsible for much of the insomnia of which we hear: and most of the articles and letters are full of good advice to live more quietly and of platitudes concerning the harmfulness of rush and worry. The pity of it is that so many people are unable to follow this good advice and are obliged to lead a life of anxiety and high tension. Hence the search for some sovereign panacea that will cure the evil. Many are the remedies suggested: hot baths, cold baths. hot drinks, cold drinks, long walks (some say on bare foot) before retiring to rest, and so forth. Some recommend the well-known plan of steady and monotonous counting, while others advise the more difficult feat of thinking about nothing. There can, however, be no doubt that different remedies suit different cases. Where a holiday and complete change of employment and surroundings is impossible, we would advise what the sufferer finds to be most soothing to his temperament. Some will find this in a long walk, while others will only be excited by the undue exercise; some may find a hot bath, others a cold bath beneficial; some are lulled by tobacco, others by novel reading; others still by a glass of grog. To be read off to sleep by a gentle voice is, perhaps, the pleasantest way of all. We know some who are lulled by very simple measures, such as brushing the hair, or the application of a cooling lotion to the temples. Others have apparently to adopt more heroic measures if we may judge from their letters. We give a quotation from one of these, culled from the Glasgow Herald:

Soap your head with the ordinary yellow soap; rub it into the roots of the hair until your head is just lather all over, tie it up in a napkin, go to bed, and wash it out in the morning. Do this for a fortnight. Take no tea after 6 P.M
. I did this, and have never been troubled with sleeplessness since. I have lost sleep on an occasion since, but one or two nights of the soap cure put it all right. I have conversed with medical men, hut I have had no explanation from any of them All that I am careful about is that it cured me.

We cannot help thinking that some of our sleepless readers would prefer the disease to the cure. But if any should like to try it, may we advise that they should first, at any rate, follow that part of the advice which relates to the tea, and leave the soap part as a last resource.


Editor BMJ, 1894.


Annotations by the site administrator.
sovereign panaceareferring to sleeping pills and hypnotics.  Various improvements have occurred throughout the century.  It is now more difficult to overdose, although dependence has become an issue.
hot bath possibly relaxing, but may cause reflex decrease in body temperature.  Most people fall asleep when body temperature is going down.  People most sleepy at body temperature minimum.   Deep sleep is the gateway to hibernation.
cold baths why bother with the reflex ? (see above, hot baths)
hot drinks particularly milky drinks are claimed to improve sleep.  Research tends to show that if part of ritual and habit, then they may help.
cold drinks - depends what else goes with the ice!
long walks exercise is good for your sleep but not in immediately before.
steady and monotonous counting - sometimes useful for some insomnias
thinking about nothing - hmm, that's almost sleep, well Victorians with moral fibre could do it?
tobaccono longer recommended.
novel reading not Stephen King's Insomnia
a glass of grog- alcohol, no longer recommended.  Costs millions to economies because of the development of alcoholism.
To be read off to sleep by a gentle voice - this is the opening for radios, WEB radios, etc.  Don't watch the TV if you have problems sleeping.
brushing the hair - this is for carers.
the application of a cooling lotion to the temples  dreamLine REM
tea - still not recommended unless it is decaffeinated

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