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If the address matches an existing you will receive an with instructions to reset your password. If the address matches an existing you will receive an with instructions to retrieve your username. Google Scholar. Find this author on PubMed. Search for more papers by this author. Sleeplessness has of course been a human problem for millennia, but only since the late-Victorian period has there been a specific diagnostic name for the individual who suffers chronically from insufficient sleep.

The second section makes more specific historical claims about the rise of insomnia in the accelerating conditions of everyday life in urban society at the end of the nineteenth century. O'Rourke is a melancholic and a neurotic; and the chief symptom of his congenitally uncomfortable relationship with life, undoubtedly an extremely privileged one in material and social terms, is the sleeplessness from which he suffers.

He is an insomniac. He experiences his nights as terminally sleepless. O'Rourke continues in these terms: These were my thoughts as I tried falling back asleep. Inside my head, where I lived, wars were breaking out, valleys flooding, forests catching fire, oceans breaching the land, and storms dragging it all to the bottom of the sea, with only a few days or weeks remaining before the entire world and everything sweet and surprising we'd done with it went dark against the vast backdrop of the universe.

The chances of me falling back asleep were nil once again. I got out of bed. At night, then, there is nothing less than an apocalypse in Paul O'Rourke's head. Here is the characteristic consciousness of the insomniac, a sort of sealed laboratory in which mental chaos that is equivalent to some ecological cataclysm is unleashed at night. At present, in Europe and the USA, at least according to those with either an academic or a commercial interest in sleep, we appear to be in the grip of an insomnia epidemic.

The only statistic? Walker's claim comprises a slightly naive, if not frankly unsophisticated, means of measuring the gravity of the present problem of insomnia. But it is nonetheless the case that Paul O'Rourke's condition, in Ferris's timely novel, currently seems particularly common.

In the twenty-first century, in the advanced capitalist nations, people seek support in sleeping in apparently unprecedented s. So, insomnia is currently an acute problem, collectively speaking; but it is also a chronic one. It might even be said that sleeplessness is ingrained in the creation myth at the core of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. This is a considerable feat of nocturnal as well as diurnal industry, and it presupposes six sleepless nights. Furthermore, if people have suffered from insomnia for millennia, they have written about the experience for millennia too.

Perhaps the earliest, most eloquent of these is the prophet Job. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Job, probably composed in the sixth century BCE, provides a vivid description of Job's inability to sleep: So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? Job —4. As an autobiographical of insomnia, this has scarcely been bettered in the years or so since it was written.

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The longing for the night to end; the guilt and the exhaustion; the tossings to and fro…. All are characteristics of an experience of sleeplessness that is no less excruciating for being commonplace. It is a death in life; and Job in these verses is one of the living dead. Here is a man who, in his spiritual battle not to be defeated by this persistent, oppressive sleeplessness, is positively heroic. Inside Paul O'Rourke's head, where he lives, as Ferris phrases it, wars are breaking out, valleys flooding….

Individuals have always suffered from sleeplessness, then, and have therefore sought to understand its aetiology and its effects. This demotion of its importance was the consequence, in this period, of the equation of light, including the technology of artificial lighting, with reason; and of darkness with unreason.

In an increasingly rationalistic society, according to Summers-Bremner, sleep is coned to the domain of the irrational and dismissed as intellectually unproductive, if not destructive [ 4p. Before then, there was no diagnostic identity for the person who found themselves, on a chronic basis, unable to sleep—sleeplessness was as it remained in fact for Freud little more than a symptom of other mental or spiritual conditions. It is from approximately this point that the origins of the present crisis, in which anxieties about sleeping are inextricably tied to concerns about new technologies and the accelerating velocities of everyday life, can be located.

Certainly, returning to the late nineteenth century offers an opportunity to impart some historical depth to current debates about sleeplessness. This article, then, proceeds to trace the emergence, in late nineteenth-century Britain and the USA, of the insomniac as a distinct pathological and social archetype. This article represents a contribution to the debate over what A.

My article, like Ekirch's research, and that of Kroker, Summers-Bremner and others, decisively answers this question in the affirmative [ 89 ]. But it insists, too, that—within this history—the figure of the insomniac, though ally overlooked, plays a peculiar and specific role. A certain biopolitics of sleep, to use another suggestive Foucauldian term, therefore becomes apparent at the turn of the twentieth century, when discourse on the topic functioned as a means of regulating aberrant or deviant forms of rest and relaxation, whether these entailed too much sleep or too little.

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Sleeplessness, at this time, thus became not merely a symptom of some underlying medical, social or psychological condition but a disease of modern life in its own right. As such, insomnia was increasingly susceptible to specific treatment. How the world of science moves…. The insomniac, according to a certain irony, like the alcoholic, the sex maniac and the kleptomaniac, becomes especially visible under the of the erasure of his or her very identity. Especially in a metropolitan setting, where both labour and leisure hours were subject to peculiar pressures, and where new technologies of communication and illumination as well as changing patterns of production and consumption were transforming the relations between day and night, insomnia became symptomatic, at the turn of the twentieth century, of the lived experience of capitalist modernity.

This was the case in both Britain and the USA. Insomnia was a manifestation of the acceleration and intensification of everyday life; the extension of everyday life, it might be said, into the night. Nervous excitation and nervous exhaustion, he declared, are complementary aspects of a single psychological complex. Prominent among these symptoms—in fact, the first one that he names in the most substantial list included in the book's opening chapter—is insomnia [ 15pp.

An article in The Lancetpublished some 12 years later, confirms Beard's almost axiomatic association of insomnia with neurasthenia, of neurasthenia with insomnia. In the final decades of the nineteenth century and the opening ones of the twentieth, in Britain and especially the USA, the insomniac and the neurasthenic were closely—even coevally—connected to one another. Sleeplessness, to offer a final brief glimpse of its pairing with neurasthenia, is the governing trope in Insomnia and Nerve Straina book published in by Henry Swift Upson, superintendent of the Cleveland State Hospital in Ohio [ 18 ].

The neurotic insomniac is close cousin to the neurasthenic one, just as nervousness is closely related to nervelessness in Beard's discourse. Sleeplessness, we might add—at least to the extent that, as a symptom, it detaches itself from the enervated or innervated body and comes to define an individual's experience of everyday life—is a kind of privilege.

The poor cannot afford insomnia, for however inadequately they sleep during the night it is pointless to complain because they are under compulsion to rise again at a decent hour the following day and their physical labours. Moreover, like members of the working class, perhaps women were in part excluded from the prerogative of calling themselves insomniacs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For caring for an infant or a sick child were simply part of the job, and no one was going to congratulate them on the medical interest of their sleeplessness.

Science was not interested in whether women who suffered from interrupted nights could be cured to the point where they snored in their heavy sleep, as Junor puts it in Dead Men's Tales [ 11 ].

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Indeed, deep sleep might even have vitiated their ability to look after an infant that was, for example, sick. The earliest reference I have found dates from April The story, a fairly silly one, sub-Dickensian in tone, centres on an insomniac whom the narrator and his friend encounter one night at a hotel when, worn out by travel, they are hoping for a good night's sleep. This is rendered impossible once they have been disturbed, on first resting their he on their pillows, by a heavy sound that comes from the room above.

The cause of this accident is a alman who has fallen asleep. And this alman, it transpires, is the Insomniac. Performing a mechanical job at night le to sleep; performing a stressful job in the daytime, it is implied, le instead to sleeplessness. I want to focus what remains of this brief reconstruction of the emergence of the insomniac as such by returning to a New York City dentist who suffers from insomnia—this time not from the early twenty-first century but the late nineteenth.

Here is a case study of the neurotic or neurasthenic insomniac. Later in the s, he trained as a dentist at the New York School of Dentistry, graduating in In spite of this professional success, though, or perhaps in part because of it, Kimball evidently suffered from mental health problems, and these were manifest above all in chronic insomnia.

As the most advanced metropolitan city of the late nineteenth century, the place where modernity seemed at its most accelerated, and where neurasthenia was thought to be most concentrated, New York was seen as the epicentre of the problem of sleeplessness. An article in The New York Times from makes this point with a series of statistics. According to this item, burglars one night dynamited the village's post office, first wrecking the safe and then setting fire to the building itself, all without waking a single one of the residents.

The point of the article is in effect to reinforce the classic opposition between the city as somewhere constitutively sleepless and the countryside as somewhere inherently soporific. In other words, this piece is secretly about the City of Sleeplessness. The statistics it goes on to cite are intended to portray New York as the capital city of a contemporary crisis in sleeping: According to the most trustworthy statistics obtainable there are in New York insomniacs, by which is meant people who sleep very little and are possessed of the delusion that they do not sleep at all.

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In addition to this there are 1 light and restless sleepers, who wake at the least sound and to whom the customary street noises occurring prior to in the morning are extremely disturbing. There are also night hawks who sleep well enough if they wait until nearly daylight before trying, but for whom early retirement means a recourse to the mathematical recreations by which sleep is more often wooed than won. How many there are of those who by reason of business worries, indigestion, or other temporary causes have periods of unsatisfactory sleep, no one knows.

The article, in other words, posits a population of roughly 2. In New York in the early s, Kimball set up and edited a specialist journal, The Dentist Himselfwhich was clearly deed to be chatty and companionable rather than technical. The first—and only—issue positions this periodical as a place in which over-worked dentists practising in cities can find consolation in sympathetic articles that detail the travails of the profession. The opening article, for example, by one James S.

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