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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/352

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I had to work or teach all day, I would not eat a crumb between breakfast and supper, and pass the dinner-hour under a shade-tree; but parents who can afford to educate their children at home should give them either an all-summer vacation or a half-afternoon recess—let them rest from twelve till three, or sleep if they prefer; in the evening, do not send them to bed till they are really tired, and till the night-wind has revitalized the air of their bedrooms; but make them rise with the sun—if they are drowsy they will go to bed earlier the next evening. There is no danger of a child's—especially a boy's—oversleeping himself, unless the hardships of his waking hours are so intolerable that oblivion becomes a blessing; but it can do no harm to make the health-giving morning hour as attractive as possible: provide some out-door amusement, a prize foot-race, a butterfly-hunt, or gathering windfalls in the apple-orchard; if the desire for longer sleep can outweigh such inducements, there must be something wrong—plethorific diet, probably, or over-study. The requisite amount of sleep depends on temperament and occupation as well as on age; with children under ten, however, too much indulgence would be an error on the safer side: let them choose their allowance between eight and ten hours; in after-years, seven hours should be the minimum, nine the maximum for healthy children; sickly ones ought to have carte blanche, both as to quantum and time of repose; consumptives, especially, need all the rest they can get. Profound sleep in a cool, quiet retreat is Nature's own specific for all wasting diseases, a panacea without price and money.

Nothing can be more injudicious than to stint children in their sleep with a view of gaining a few hours for study. "That plan," says Pestalozzi, "defeats its own purpose, for such children are never wide-awake; you can keep them out of bed, but you can not prevent them from dozing with their eyes open. A wide-awake boy will learn more in one hour than a day-dreamer in ten."

Habitual deficiency of sleep will undermine the strongest constitution; headache, throbbing, and feverish heat are the precursors of graver evils, unless a temporary loss of mental power compels an armistice with outraged Nature. King Alfred, Spinoza, Kepler, Victor Alfieri, Madame de Staël, and Frederick Schiller killed themselves with restless study; Beethoven and Charles Dickens, too, probably prepaid the debt of Nature by their habit of fighting fatigue with strong coffee. Sleeplessness may lead to chronic hypochondria, and even to idiocy; without their long vigils, the monks of the Thebais and the fathers of the Alexandrian Church could hardly have written such stupendous nonsense. It is a curious fact that compulsory wakefulness combined with mental activity often induces a state of morbid insomnia, an absolute inability to obtain the sleep which it was at first so difficult to resist. In such cases, the only remedy is fresh air and a complete change of occupation. During sleep the brain is in a com-