Story type: Essay
MIschievous stories are told about the ability of great men to do without sleep.
The foolish young man reads that Napoleon slept only three or four hours at night–and he cuts down his hours of sleep. He might better open a vein and lose a pint of blood than lose the sleep, which is life itself.
Most of the stories told about great men doing without sleep are mere lies. Some of them are true. For instance, it is undoubtedly true that Napoleon–an inconceivably foolish, reckless man in matters affecting his physical welfare–did deprive himself of sleep in his early years. But he paid for it dearly. In his last battles his power of resistance was so slight that he actually went to sleep during the fighting. Chronic drowsiness weakened his brain, weakened his force of character. The foundation of his final ruin was laid in Russia, when lack of sleep, and unwise living generally, had taken away his mental elasticity and deprived him of the power to form and carry out resolutions. —-
It is mainly the young man who needs the lecture on sleep, for the experience of years soon proves to every human being the folly of cheating nature by adding a few hours of drowsy consciousness to the day.
You begin life with a certain amount of vitality, a certain initial vital VELOCITY, which carries you through life and makes possible certain accomplishments. When you deprive yourself of sleep you squander this original capital. Just as surely as the young spendthrift ruins himself financially when he throws away his money, just so surely you bring irreparable loss upon yourself when you go without sleep.
THE FOOD WHICH YOU EAT IS DIGESTED AND TRANSFORMED INTO NEW TISSUE, INTO BLOOD, NERVE, MUSCLES AND BRAIN WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING.
Look at the men who engage in the atrocious six-day walks and bicycle races. They eat enormously, absorbing in one day five times as much as the ordinary man can possibly swallow. But the end of their task finds them extremely emaciated. Lack of sleep has made it impossible for them to TRANSFORM THE FOOD INTO NEW TISSUE.
Any man or woman who has suffered from insomnia will confirm this statement, that lack of sleep decreases weight and diminishes vitality more quickly than anything else. —-
Remember this when you brag foolishly about going without sleep!
A man can go forty days without solid food. He can live seven days, or even longer, without food or water. He cannot live seven days without sleep. The Chinese, ingenious in torments, discovered no worse death than killing their victims by depriving them of sleep.
Of course, every young man can go without sleep for a whole night occasionally and go on with his work. He can do this because, from his father and mother, he has inherited a certain amount of vitality, which, if he knows no better, he can squander stupidly, just as he can squander, if he will, what money is left to him.
But no man can deprive himself of sleep, or sleep irregularly, without suffering permanently, without diminishing his chances of success in the world. —-
Many a woman among those called “fashionable” looks at the healthy child of a gardener, and wonders that her child is so different.
The reason is simple. The gardener’s wife did not cheat her child by giving to balls and late hours the vitality needed by her babies.
The woman who loses sleep will make a failure of her children.
The man who loses sleep will make a failure of his life, or at least diminish greatly his chances of success.
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