HOW TO GO TO SLEEP
=Ceasing to Care.= The best way to learn to sleep is not to care whether you do or not. Nothing could be better than DuBois’s advice: “Don’t look for sleep; it flies away like a pigeon when one pursues it." Attention to anything keeps the mind awake, and most of all, attention to sleep. More than one person has waked up to see whether or not he was going to sleep. We cannot, however, fool ourselves by merely pretending indifference. The only sensible way is to get the facts firmly fixed in our minds so that we actually realize that we do not need more sleep than our bodies take. As soon as it is realized that insomnia is really of no importance, it tends to disappear.
[Footnote 58: DuBois: Psychic Treatment of Nervous Disorders, p. 339.]
=Catching the Idea.= There came one day for consultation a very healthy-looking woman, a deaconess of the Lutheran Church. “Doctor,” she said, “I came to get relief from insomnia. For twenty years I have not slept more than one or two hours a night.” “Why do you want more?” I asked. “Why, isn’t it very unhealthy not to sleep?” she exclaimed in astonishment. “Evidently not,” I answered.
This woman had tried every doctor she could think of, including the splendid S. Weir Mitchell. Her insomnia had become a preoccupation with her, her chief thought in life. All I did was to explain to her that her body had been getting all the sleep it needed, and that neither body nor mind was in the least run down after twenty years of sleeplessness. “When you cease being interested in your insomnia, it will go away, although from a health standpoint it matters very little whether it does or not.” We had two conversations on the subject, and a week later she came back to tell me that she was sleeping eight hours a night.
One woman had had insomnia for thirty years. After I had explained to her that her body had adjusted itself to this way of living and that she need not try to get more sleep, she snored so loud all night and every night that the rest of the family began to complain!
A certain banker proved very quick at catching the idea. He had been so troubled with insomnia and intense weakness that his doctors prescribed a six-months voyage in Southern waters. Knowing that my prescriptions involved a change in point of view rather than in scene, he came to me. Although he had been getting only about half an hour’s sleep a night, he went to sleep in his chair the first evening, and then went upstairs and slept all night. He resumed his duties at the bank, walking a mile and a half the first day and three miles the second. During the months following, he reported, “No more insomnia.”