The torments of sleeplessness, 1988

One in six of us didn’t get nearly enough – like Kafka and Kipling, among others

According to the Observer Magazine of 1 May 1988, one in six people had difficulty sleeping, which from the viewpoint of the climate emergency and pandemic seems like a relatively small percentage denied nature’s soft nurse.

A list of ‘restless spirits’ included Kafka, who sometimes went four consecutive nights without sleep, lamenting in his diary: ‘Toward morning I sigh into the pillow.’ Kipling suffered with insomnia, from the age of 12, and Proust, too, and Lord Rosebery was forced to resign as prime minister because of it. ‘I cannot forget 1895,’ he wrote. ‘To lie, night after night, staring wide awake…’ One suspects our incumbent PM doesn’t have such trouble.

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