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Methusalem anwsered and said, “ If I am to live but five hundred years longer, it is not worth while to build me an house ; I will sleep in the air, as I have been used to do.” Physicians, after having for ages contended that the sick should not be indulged with fresh air, have at length discovered that it may do them good. It is therefore to be hoped, that they may in time discover likewise, that it is not hurtful to those who are in health, and that we may be then cured of the aërophobia, that at present distresses weak minds, and make them choose to be stified and poisoned, rather than leave open the window of a bed-chamber, or put down the glass of a coach.
Confined air when saturated with perspirable matter,* will not receive more; and that matter must remain in our bodies and occasion diseases : but it gives some previous notice of its being about to to be hurtful, by producing certain uneasiness, slight indeed at first, such as, with regard to the lungs, is a trifling sensation, and to the pores of the skin à kind of restlessness, which is difficult to describe, and few that feel it know the cause of it. But we may recollect, that sometimes, on waking in the night, we have, if warmly covered, found it difficult to get asleep again. We turn often without finding repose in any position. This fidgettiness, to use a vulgar expression for want of a better, is occasioned
* What physicians call the perspirable matter, is that vapour which passes off from our bodies, from the lungs, and through the pores of the skin. The quantity of this is said to be fiveeighths of what we eat.
wholly by an uneasiness in the skin, owing to the retention of the perspirable matter-- the bed-clothes having received their quantity, and, being saturated, refusing to take any inore. To become sensible of this by an experiment, let a person keep his position in the bed, but throw off the bed-clothes, and suffer fresh air to approach the part uncovered of his body; he will then feel that part suddenly refreshed; for the air will immediately relieve the skin, by receiving, licking up, and carrying off, the load of perspirable matter that incommoded it. For every portion of cool air, that approaches the warm skin, in receiving its part of that vapour, receives therewith a degree of heat, that rarifies and renders it lighter, when it will be pushed away, with its burden, by cooler and therefore heavier fresh air; which, for a moment supplies its place, and then, being likewise changed and warmed, gives way to a succeeding quantity. This is the order of nature, to prevent animals being infected by their own perspiration. He will now be sensible of the difference between the part ex. posed to the air, and that which, remaining sunk in the bed, denies the air access: for this part now manifests its uneasiness more distinctly by the comparison, and the seat of the uneasiness is more plainly perceived than when the whole surface of the body was affected by it.
Here, then, is one great and general cause of unpleasing dreams; for when the body is uneasy, the mind will be disturbed by it, and disagreeable 'ideas of various kinds will, in sleep, be the natural consequences. The remedies, preventative and curative, follow :
1. By eating moderately (as before advised for health's sake) less perspirable matter is produced in a given time; hence the bed-clothes receive it longer before they are saturated ; and we may, therefore, sleep longer, before we are made uneasy by their refusing to receive any more.
2. By using thinner and more porous bed-clothes, which will suffer the perspirable matter more easily to pass through them, we are less incommoded, such being longer tolerable.
3. When you are awakened by this uneasiness, and find you cannot easily sleep again, get out of bed, beat up and turn your pillow, shake the bed-clothes well, with at least twenty shakes, then throw the bed open, and leave it to cool; in the meanwhile, continuing undressed, walk about your chamber, till your skin has had time to discharge its load, which it will do sooner as the air may be drier and colder. When you begin to feel the cold air unpleasant, then return to your bed, and you will soon fall asleep, and your sleep will be sweet and pleasant. All the scenes presented to your fancy will be of the pleasing kind. I am often as agreeably entertained with them, as by the scenery of an opera. If you happen to be too indolent to get out of bed, you may, instead of it, lift up your bed-clothes with one arm and leg, so as to draw in a good deal of fresh air, and, by letting them fall, force it out again. This, repeated twenty times, will so clear them of the perspirable matter they
have imbibed, as to permit your sleeping well for some time afterwards. But this latter method is not equal to the former.
Those who do not love trouble, and can afford to have two beds, will find great luxury in rising, when they wake in a hot bed, and going into the cool one. Such shifting of beds would also be of great service to persons ill of fever, as it refreshes and frequently procures sleep. A very large bed, that will admit a removal so distant from the first situation as to be cool and sweet, may in a degree answer the same end.
One or two observations more will conclude this little piece. Care must be taken, when you lie down, to dispose your pillow so as to suit you manner of placing your head, and to be perfectly easy; then place your limbs so as not to bear inconveniently hard upon one another, as for instance, the joints of your ancles : for though a bad position may at first give but little pain and be hardly noticed, yet a continuance will render it less tolerable, and the uneasiness may come on while you are asleep, and disturb your imagination.
These are the rules of the art. But though they will generally prove effectual in producing the end intended, there is a case in which the most punctual observance of them will be totally fruitless. I need not mention the case to you, my dear friend, but my account of the art would be imperfect without it. The case is, when the person, who desires to have pleasant dreams, has not taken care to preserve, what is necessary above all things.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
PRECAUTIONS TO BE USED BY THOSE WHO ARE
ABOUT TO UNDERTAKE A SEA VOYAGE.
When you intend a long voyage, you may do well to keep your intention as much as possible a secret, or at least the time of your departure; otherwise you will be continually interrupted in your preparations by the visits of friends and acquaintance, who will not only rob you of the time you want, but put things out of your mind; so that when you come to sea, you have the mortification to recollect points of business that ought to have been done, accounts you jotended to settle, and conveniences, you had proposed to bring with you, &c. &c. all which have been omitted through the effect of these officious friendly visits. Would it not be well if this custom could be changed; if the voyager, after having, without interruption, made all his preparations, should use some of the time he has left in going himself to take leave of his friends at their own houses, and let them come to congratulate him on his happy return.
It is not always in your power to make a choice in your captain, though much of your comfort in the passage may depend on his personal character, as you must for so long a time be confined to his company, and under his direction ; if he be a sensible, sociable, good-natured, obliging man, you will be so much the happier. Such there are; but if he happens to be otherwise, and is only skilful, careful, watchful, and active in the conduct of his ship, excuse the rest, for these are the essentials.