Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/615

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SLEEP AND ITS COUNTERFEITS.

in old methods, and entail losses of capital and displacement from occupation on the part of individuals. And yet the world wonders, and commissions of great states inquire without coming to definite conclusions, why trade and industry in recent years have been universally and abnormally disturbed and depressed.


SLEEP AND ITS COUNTERFEITS.
By A. de WATTEVILLE, M. D.

THE Frenchman, whose long trance or sleep attracted extraordinary attention in the latter part of March and the beginning of April, was commonly spoken of as "the Soho sleeper"; but when we speak of a man "sleeping" for several days or weeks consecutively, it is obvious that we do not use the term in its ordinary sense. We all know by experience what sleep is, and we can not conceive ourselves as sleeping for an indefinite time. Yet it is difficult to draw a line between normal and abnormal sleep; the physiological condition merges by insensible degrees into all kinds of pathological states, known as lethargy, trance, stupor, coma. Through the usual phenomena of dreaming, we pass likewise into those of nightmare, somnambulism, hypnotism, ecstasy, and the like. Yet it is important sharply to define typical instances of these conditions, so as to avoid hopeless confusion in an already obscure field of scientific inquiry, and though we may for the sake of convenience occasionally use the term sleep in the wider sense, yet the distinction between the various states included under it must be kept present to our minds.

From the immense number of strange phenomena observed at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, where this subject of hypnotism, especially in hysterical patients, has been investigated with the greatest care, and where I have had the opportunity of studying it, I shall adduce only such instances as have a direct bearing upon the case of "the Soho sleeper."

It is often possible to distinguish between a somnambulistic, a lethargic, and a cataleptic condition of the hypnotized hysterical subject; and by appropriate manipulations (all based on the theory of influencing the brain-centers by sensory impressions) to make the subject pass from one to another of these states. Supposing we have, by intently staring or by "passes," induced the lethargic state, we find that the muscles and nerves of the subject are in a state of extreme hyper-excitability. If we press through the skin with the finger, or a pencil, upon a nerve-trunk, all the muscles supplied by that nerve are instantly thrown into a state of violent contraction. This contraction, strange to say, may, if unchecked, persist not only during the whole of the period of lethargy, but may last for hours, or even days, after