This section is from the book "Health Without Medicine. A Treatise On The Laws Of The Human System", by Larkin B. Coles. Also available from Amazon: Philosophy Of Health.
Sleep is as important to body and mind as food is for the general system. Without it, the health of the most robust would fail, and even life itself in time wither away. Some need more sleep than others, perhaps, under the same circumstances. But those who are destined to labor in body or in mind, need more sleep than those who 'are not exposed to fatigue. And those who are engaged in bodily labor, generally require more than those who devote themselves to that which is intellectual.
Laboring men should give themselves ample time for sleep. They should retire to rest about nine or ten o'clock at night. Nine, perhaps, is the best hour, but never in any ordinary case, should they sit up later than ten. They need, as a general rule, seven or eight hours of sleep. And sleep before midnight is generally considered worth more than sleep for the same length of time after midnight. They should rise in the morning about four or five o'clock.
Professional, literary, and mercantile men should give themselves time to rest the mind. They ought never to allow themselves to be awake after ten o'clock at night. Many may suppose that by laboring over their books or other business till eleven or twelve o'clock, they gain time and money; but this is a grand mistake. When men undertake to cheat themselves, they always get a bad bargain. Dame Nature is jealous of her rights; and whoever will be so unwise as to trample them under their feet, will, sooner or later, be made to pay damages. If we want health and ability to endure, we must obey law by giving sufficient time, and the right time, for sleep. If any would shorten his time of sleep, let him not put off the hour of retirement, but rise earlier than the ordinary hour in the morning.
Sleep, to be quiet and refreshing, should be on an empty stomach; that is, the first steps in the process of digestion should be accomplished before retirement. Supper should be the lightest meal of the day, and should be taken at least two hours before bed-time. Some are in the habit of eating fruit after supper, and frequently late in the evening. Strong stomachs may dispose of fruit under such circumstances without apparent injury, but weak ones will suffer more or less from such a course. The better way is not to take anything, even the mildest fruit, after supper. The stomach should be allowed the privilege of rest, as well as the rest of the body. Dreams are generally the result of luncheons and suppers late in the evening. The revelations of night visions are doubtless, in many instances, the result of late suppers, producing involuntary somnambulism.
Another rule, indispensable to good health, is, never to sleep on feather-beds. One objection to them is, they are non-conductors of the various gases which are thrown off from the body, and are also gathered around it from the atmosphere. The tendencies of some of these gases are adapted, among other evils, to generate fevers. Owing to the non-conducting quality of these beds, these gases are accumulated, and are very detrimental to the system. Another objection to them is, they are the general reservoir of the various exhalations of the different bodies which have been lodged on them. They possess the power of retaining all the effluvia and humors which may have been gathered from those who have occupied them. Hence, feather-beds should be rejected, and husk, palm-leaf, or hair mattresses, should be adopted in their place.