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Quotations about
First Sleep & Second Sleep

Welcome to my page of quotations about first sleep and second sleep. Ever wake in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep until very early morning? Well, apparently, it used to be normal and routine for people to sleep in two parts. They'd get up, or stay awake in bed, during the night and visit neighbors, write, study, pray, or well, you know, that other thing you can do in bed. So if your body doesn't seem to be wired to get your 7–8 hours all in one shot, don't fret it. Supposedly about one-third of the population is naturally inclined to two sleeps of 3–4 hours each. This style of night-waking and sleeping in two shifts is also known as segmented slumber or biphasic sleep. It's called by some in the modern world middle-of-the-night insomnia or sleep maintenance insomnia.  —ღ Terri

I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright...
~Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), "The Indian Serenade"

Don Quixote followed nature, and being satisfied with his first sleep, did not solicit more. As for Sancho, he never wanted a second, for the first lasted him from night to morning, indicating a sound body and a mind free from care; but his master, being unable to sleep himself awakened him, saying, "I am amazed, Sancho, at the torpor of thy soul; it seems as if thou wert made of marble or brass, insensible of emotion or sentiment!" ~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated from Spanish

Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius Tyaneus represents the latter as informing King Phraotes that "the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions, are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first enquired the time at which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof, in that the soul was then fitted for divination, and disincumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight, while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise, refused to give any interpretation." ~Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford, 1886

About half-past twelve o'clock, when Mr. Winkle had been revelling some twenty minutes in the full luxury of his first sleep, he was suddenly awakened by a loud knocking at his chamber-door. ~Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, 1836

Keep temperate diet, use moderate exercise, observe seasonable and set hours for rest: let the end of thy first sleep raise thee from thy repose: Then hath thy body the best temper; then hath thy soul the least encumbrance; then no noise shall disturb thine ear, no object shall divert thine eye. ~Francis Quarles, 1640

He had been unable to drive away the gloomy thoughts which kept sleep from his eyes for a long hour. He had solved any number of difficult arithmetical problems, and mentally repeated the same prayer at least twenty times; but the sleep which he obtained after waiting so long and making so many efforts, brought neither rest nor comfort, and the old man struggled all night in the fiery embrace of the fever-god. It was only in the morning, after awaking and happily falling off into a second sleep, that he enjoyed the peace and repose of both body and soul, which usually characterized his rest. When he again opened his eyes after this delightful morning's nap, a joyous ray, cast by the rising sun through the bed curtains, danced on the counterpane like a streak of gold, and gave a marvellous brilliancy to its variegated embroideries. ~Alexandre Dumas, The Watchmaker, 1859

There is one ghastly hour, between the midnight and the dawn, an hour through which I have passed again and again, when the veils of seeming and circumstance are stripped away from the soul, and one sees oneself as one is, and not as one appears to the outer world. It is after a first sleep, I think, that these wakeful moments of an over-stimulated consciousness are most overwhelming. On laying our heads upon the pillow at the beginning of night, we are still possessed by images of the cheerful day: soothed by not unflattering intercourse with friends, our souls narcotised, so to speak, by the influences of music, art and literature — "drawing the curtain of our fancy close between us and the coldness of the world." But that first short sleep puts a blank between us and the day. We start straight out of nothingness, and face ourselves. And then we see ourselves indeed. We remember the inexpressible meannesses of which we have been guilty, the base, ignoble deeds, the failures of our will, the weaknesses of our heart, the cowardice, the bitter, ingrained badness of our whole nature, and bad as we are, we stand appalled at the revelation. The anger of God and the contempt of man lie upon us with a weight heavier than we can bear. It seems as if our hearts lay open, naked and ashamed, to the eye of the whole human race. At such moments — not unknown I think, to most of us — we surely suffer something of what is meant by the pains of hell. ~Adeline Sergeant, The Story of a Penitent Soul: Being the Private Papers of Mr. Stephen Dart, Late Minister at Lynnbridge in the County of Lincoln, 1892

It seemed almost impossible for him to rouse himself out of the delicious depths of his first sleep. ~George Despard, "Peace in the Heart," in The Sunday at Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading, 1880

Often, persons emerged from their first sleep to ponder a kaleidoscope of partially crystallized images, slightly blurred but otherwise vivid tableaus born of their dreams... ~A. Roger Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, 2005

It was about one in the morning, Signor... I was waked out of my first sleep, by a noise in my lady's chamber. It is a grievous thing to me, Signor, to be waked from my first sleep, and I, Santa Maria forgive me! was angry at being disturbed! So I would not get up, but laid my head upon the pillow again, and tried to sleep... ~Ann Radcliffe, The Italian; or, The Confessional of the Black Penitents, 1797

By this time I had sobered somewhat, and being well waked out of my first sleep, was disposed to look upon the matter as a tipsy man's jest. ~Rudyard Kipling, "The Dream of Duncan Parrenness," 1888

There is, if one is lucky, the "first sweet sleep of night" and the last deep sleep of morning, but between the two appears a sinister, ever widening interval. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Sleeping and Waking," 1934

By far the larger number of the dreams occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise, during a "second sleep." A condition of fasting, united, possibly, with some subtle magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to impressions of the kind. ~Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford, 1886

For some time Mrs. Morel's mind continued snapping and jetting sparks, but she was asleep before her husband awoke from the first sleep of his drunkenness. ~D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, 1913

The Bernardo-Benedictines... get up in their first sleep, from one to three A.M., in order to read their breviary and chant matins... ~Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Pantagruel said to his men, "Gentlemen, I have made this prisoner believe that we will not assault them till to-morrow at noon, but my intention is that we charge them about the hour of the first sleep. ~François Rabelais

      When you are in a melancholy fit, first suspect the body... a little bit of gristle sticking in the wrong place, an untimely consumption of custard, excessive gooseberries, often cover the mind with clouds and bring on the most distressing views of human life.
      I start up at two o'clock in the morning, after my first sleep, in an agony of terror, and feel all the weight of life upon my soul.... But stop, thou child of sorrow... and tell me on what you dined. Was not there soup and salmon, and then a plate of beef, and then duck, blanc-mange, cream cheese, diluted with beer, claret, champagne, hock, tea, coffee, and noyeau? And after all this, you talk of the mind and the evils of life! These kind of cases do not need meditation, but magnesia. ~Sydney Smith (1771–1845), "A Little Moral Advice: A Fragment on the Cultivation and Improvement of the Animal Spirits"

My uncle walked up the middle of the street with a thumb in each waistcoat pocket, indulging from time to time in various snatches of song, chaunted forth with such good will and spirit, that the quiet honest folk started from their first sleep and lay trembling in bed till the sound died away in the distance; when, satisfying themselves that it was only some drunken ne'er-do-weel finding his way home, they covered themselves up warm and fell asleep again. ~Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, 1836

No longer did most sleepers experience an interval of wakefulness in which to ponder visions in the dead of night... increasing numbers lost touch with their dreams, and as a consequence, a traditional avenue to their deepest emotions. It is no small irony that, by turning night into day, modern technology has helped to obstruct our oldest path to the human psyche. That, very likely, has been the greatest loss, to paraphrase an early poet, of having been "disannulled of our first sleep, and cheated of our dreams and fantasies." ~A. Roger Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, 2005  [Thomas Middleton, "The Black Book," 1604 —tg]

[T]ake a sitting-bath of one minute's duration... in the night after the first sleep, such a simple application will likewise have a wholesome effect. If you are very poor and have no bathing-tub, I advise you to walk with bare feet in the evening, say from 5 to 15 minutes, on a cold floor or wet stones. You will thus draw much fatigue out of the body; the blood will be conducted from the head and upper part of the body into the feet; the head will be relieved and your whole temper will become more cheerful. ~Sebastian Kneipp, Thus Shalt Thou Live: Hints and Advice for the Healthy and the Sick on a Simple and Rational Mode of Life and a Natural Method of Cure, 1889, translated from the 19th German edition

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published 2007 May 3
revised 2018 Jan 17
last saved 2023 Aug 15