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[Perspectives] Insomnia: a cultural history

“I cannot sleep”, Alexander Pushkin wrote in his Lines Written at Night during Insomnia (1830). “Only the monotonous running of the clock/Sounds around me.” Almost all of us, at one time or another, will have experienced the dreary desperation of insomnia. “The anxiety of the sleeping night”, Pushkin continues in his attempt to capture this intolerable dynamic, “The mouse-like scampering of life”. This “scampering” of daily life into the time set aside for rest has been reported for hundreds of years, but it is particularly pertinent to review the cultural history of sleeplessness from the present-day perspective, a world in which many of us take our electronic devices and daily lives to bed with us.