Henry David Thoreau - The Sleep Expert

Henry David Thoreau – The Sleep Expert

You probably remember Henry David Thoreau from English class. Walden is a classic of American Transcendentalism that is taught in high schools everywhere. He pioneered thoughts on nature, peace, and unity that we are still exploring today. He was an isolated man. In that isolation he was able to transmit thoughts of beauty and warmth that still inspire us today. Here’s what you may not realize: he was an insomniac who redrew the way that we thought about sleep and work. AND he was able to do all this even with a mattress cheap enough that it was probably made of straw. So here, on the 200th birthday of that bearded man who taught us so much, let’s review some of his great ideas on sleep and where they came from. And you can believe that if HDT was around today, he would surely love getting a mattress cheap, but with great quality — just the kind of mattress Nectar provides.

The Birth of an Insomniac

Thoreau grew up in Concord, MA and worked at a pencil factory that his parents owned. He often blamed the dust from the pencil shavings on his inability to get a good night’s sleep. His late night coughing spells (from graphite dust) left him haggard and unwell during the day. Thoreau switched careers to become a tutor, but the damage had been done, and he suffered through long work weeks. His insomnia became so severe that he could not concentrate enough to read or write — something that vexed him severely. “I am a diseased bundle of nerves,” he wrote in his journal, “standing between time and eternity like a withered leaf.”

A Move to a Sleep Haven

These ideas were central to why, in 1845, Thoreau would choose to pack up his few possessions and move to an isolated cabin on Walden pond. He sought refuge from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. An idea he famously coined with the phrase, “marching to the beat of a different drummer.” He would have been excited by Nectar, who has a mattress cheap enough to be accused of the same thing. At Walden pond he quickly found the sleep relief he had so desperately desired. These sleep references permeated his work, and are obvious now in hindsight. “To be awake is to be alive,” he wrote, yet he had “never yet met a man who was quite awake.” He even prophesied the use of smartphones when he wrote, “Hardly a man takes a half-hour’s nap … but when he wakes, he holds up his head and asks, ‘What’s the news?’ as if the rest of mankind had stood his sentinels.” Doesn’t that sound like someone waking up and immediately checking their smartphone? Thoreau saw these as intrusions into the natural way of life and natural sleep cycle he craved. So this July take a page from Thoreau’s books, turn off the phone, and get the rest you desperately need. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to you writing a classic too. We here at Nectar can’t wait to read it.