The U.S. is in the middle of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic,” according to Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. This lack of sleep affects all aspects of our health and may lead to obesity, mental health issues, and heart disease. Many place the blame on our modern way of life, with always-on devices, stressful jobs, and a wearying news cycle.
While sleeplessness may be on the rise, insomnia has plagued our nation from the start. Saturday Evening Post founder Ben Franklin was an acknowledged insomniac. He would wake up in the middle of the night and wile away a few hours reading in a chair (preferably naked).
In 1942, Americans’ sleep troubles were made worse by the country’s entry into World War II. In this light-hearted article from October 24 of that year, author Beatrice Schapper highlights the efforts of one man and his “Sleep Shop” to improve the slumber of stressed Americans. The devices could be comical — snore balls, bundling beds and smoking tubes are all featured — but the basic advice has never changed: find yourself a relaxing bed, a relaxing environment, relaxing devices, and a pleasant awakening.
If all else fails, the article leaves you with this cheery thought: “Don’t be afraid of insomnia. It won’t kill you not to sleep.”