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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/797

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THE ART OF PROLONGING LIFE.

age, and especially when sleeplessness is accompanied by slow and imperfect digestion, a small quantity of a generous and potent wine, containing much ether, often does good service. Even a little beer improves digestion in some old people; others find that spirits, largely diluted, fulfill the same purpose. Individual peculiarities must be allowed for; the only general rule is that which prescribes strict moderation.

It is not to be inferred from the hints given in the preceding paragraphs that the preservation of health should be the predominant thought in the minds of elderly persons who desire that their lives should be prolonged. To be always guarding against disease, and to live in a state of constant fear and watchfulness, would make existence miserable and hasten the progress of decay. Selfish and undue solicitude with regard to health not only fails to attain its object, but is apt to induce that diseased condition of mind known as hypochondriasis, the victims of which are always a burden and a nuisance, if not to themselves, at least to all connected with them. Addison, in the "Spectator," after describing the valetudinarian who constantly weighed himself and his food, and yet became sick and languishing, aptly remarks, "A continual anxiety for life vitiates all the relishes of it, and casts a gloom over the whole face of nature, as it is impossible that we should take delight in anything that we are every moment afraid of losing."

Sleep is closely connected with the question of diet; "good sleeping "was a noticeable feature in the large majority of Dr. Humphry's cases. Sound, refreshing sleep is of the utmost consequence to the health of the body, and no substitute can be found for it as a restorer of vital energy. Sleeplessness is, however, often a source of great trouble to elderly people, and one which is not easily relieved. Narcotic remedies are generally mischievous; their first effects may be pleasant, but the habit of depending upon them rapidly grows until they become indispensable. When this stage has been reached, the sufferer is in a far worse plight than before. In all cases the endeavor should be made to discover whether the sleeplessness be due to any removable cause—such as indigestion, cold, want of exercise, and the like. In regard to sleeping in the daytime, there is something to be said both for and against that practice. A nap of "forty winks" in the afternoon enables many aged people to get through the rest of the day in comfort, whereas they feel tired and weak when deprived of this refreshment. If they rest well at night there can be no objection to the afternoon nap; but if sleeplessness be complained of, the latter should be discontinued for a time. Most old people find that a reclining posture, with the feet and legs raised, is better than the horizontal position for the afternoon nap. Digestion proceeds with more ease than when the body is recumbent.