• U.S.

Medicine: O Mattress Mine

3 minute read

A “peripatetic correspondent” of the staid British medical paper, The Lancet, contributed to the current issue a clinical report on an unclinical subject: lying in bed. Said he:

“The first essential is to get out of one’s head the modern and materialistic idea that the object of lying in bed is to sleep … [it is] to enjoy oneself, and it is no more than a fortunate accident that good sleeping and waking happen to contribute to the main object. . . . Similarly, one’s object in designing the . . . bedroom must be not … to provide a place where . . . one may be able to sleep, but a place where one can enjoy oneself to the full.

“Do not be led astray by the . . . very English idea that it is necessary to salvation to admit the more inclement states of weather to the bedchamber. Our forefathers slept with closed windows without hurt, and so can you. . . .

“The bedside carpet is important and must be gratifying to the bare feet. Persians, Kermans and Kashans lack the necessary thickness of pile. A subdued Shiraz would fulfil most people’s requirements, though leptoforms [delicate people] may require something with a more stimulating pattern, say a Tabriz.

“The choice of bedside literature is … a personal matter. I like the book of Ecclesiastes, Omar Khayyam, and a few of the more lugubrious poems of A. E. Housman.

“Some need pictures, and must consult their own tastes … I would say that the moderns are out of place. Mezzotints of the larger carnivora, some in repose and some at play, can be relied on to give the right atmosphere, while Biblical oleographs, particularly those depicting Daniel among the lions, should be rigidly excluded. . . .

“The next question is how to achieve the necessary state of relaxation . . . positions in bed, as all psychiatrists know, are related to character types, and most criminals lie on their stomachs. . . . The position of the hands and arms must not be neglected, and I recommend to those who have not tried it a loose embrace of the pillow, which may also be bitten and chewed from time to time. . . .

“The bottoms of the pyjamas without the tops are usually worn in the East, and the tops without the bottoms for some reason in America.

“In the climate of England it is generally best to wear both.

“… A corollary to relaxation, the stretch, if allowed to take its full and uninterrupted course, provides one of the richest sensations that man enjoys . . . [but] the toenails should be kept short, or damage to sheets may result. . . .

“My next installment, on lying in bed in company, will no doubt be equally helpful and informative.”


An anonymous U.S. sage once summed up the whole matter more shortly: “The only perfect climate is bed.”

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