chapter VI. Sleep
He giveth His Beloved Sleep.
THE healing magic of sleep is known to all.
Sleeplessness is a punishment for so many
difFei;ent violations of nature’s laws, that it is
perhaps one of the most prevalent of humanity’s in-
numerable sufferings. While most of the aspects of
sleep and sleeplessness have received much attention
from specialists in human physiology, the relation be-
tween sleep and coitus appears to be but little realised.
Yet there is an intimate, profound and quite direct re-
lation between the power to sleep, naturally and re-
freshingly, and the harmonious relief of the whole
system in the perfected sex-act.
We see this very clearly in ordinary healthy
man. If, for some reason, he has to live unsatis-
fied for some time after the acute stirring of his
longing for physical contact with his wife, he tends
in the interval to be wakeful, restless, and his nerves
are on edge.
Then, when the propitious hour arrives, and after
the love-play, the growing passion expands, until the
transports of feeling find their ending in the explosive
completion of the act, at once the tension of his whole
system relaxes, and his muscles fall into gentle, easy
attitudes of languorous content, and in a few moments
the man is sleeping like a child.
This excellent and refreshing sleep falls like a soft
curtain of oblivion and saves the man’s consciousness
from the jar and disappointment of an anti-climax.
But not only is this sleep a restorative after the
strenuous efforts of the transport, it has peculiarly
refreshing powers, and many men fed that after such
a sleep their whole system seems rejuvenated.
But how fare women in this event ? When they
too have had complete satisfaction they similarly
relax and slumber.
But as things are to-day it is scarcely an exaggera-
tion to say that the majority of wives are left wakeful
and nerve-racked to watch with tender motherly
brooding, or with bitter and jealous envy, the
slumbers of the men who, through ignorance and
carelessness, have neglected to see that they too had
the necessary resolution of nervous tension.
Many married women have told me that after they
have had relations with their husbands they are rest-
less, either for some hours or for the whole nighf
and I feel sure that the prevalent failure on the part
of many men to effect orgasms for their wives at each
congress, must be a very common source of the sleep-
lessness and nervous diseases of so many married
The relation between the completion of the sex
indicated in the case
of Mrs. A who is typical of a large class of wives.
She married a man with whom she was passionately
in Iove._ Neither she nor her husband had ever had
connection with anyone else, and, while they were
both keen and intelligent people with some know-
edge of biology, neither knew anything of the de-
tails of human sex union. For several years her
husband had unions with her which gave him some
satisfaction and left him ready at ^once t^ sTe’p.
Neither he nor she knew that women should have an
orgasm, and after every union she was left so ” on
edge and sleepless that never less than several hours
would elapse before she could sleep at all, and often
she remained wakeful the .whole night.
After her husband’s death her health improved,
and in a year or two she entered into a new relation
with a man who was aware of women’s needs and
spent sufficient time and attention to them to ensure
a successful completion for her as well as for himself.
The result was that she soon became a good sleeper,
with the attendant benefits of restored nerves and
Sleep is so complex a process, and sleeplessness
the resultant of so many different maladjustments,
that it is, of course, possible that the woman may
sleep well enough, even if she be deprived of the
relief and pleasure of perfect union. But in so many
married women sleeplessness and a consequent
nervous condition are coupled with a lack of the
complete sex relation, that one of the first questions a
physician should put to those of his women patients
who are worn and sleepless is : Whether her husband
really fulfils his marital duty in their physical relation.
From their published statements, and their admis-
sions to me, it appears that many practising doctors
are either almost unaware of the very existence of
orgasm in women, or look upon it as a superfluous
and accidental phenomenon. Yet to have had a
moderate number of orgasms at some time at least
is a necessity for the full development of a woman’s
health and all her powers.
As this book is written for those who are married,
I say nothing here about the lives of those who are
still unmarried, though, particularly after the age of
thirty has been reached, they may be very diflicult
and need much study and consideration. It is, how-
ever, worth noticing how prevalent sleeplessness is
among a class of women who have never had
any normal sex-life or allowed any relief to their
desires. There is little doubt that the complete lack
of a normal sex relation is one of the several factors
which render many middle-aged unmarried women
nervous and sleepless.
Yet for the unmarried woman the lack is not so
acute nor so localised as it is for the married woman
who is thwarted in the natural completion of her sex-
functions after they have been directly stimulated.
The unmarried woman, unless she be in love with
some particular man, has no definite stimulus to her
sex desires beyond the natural upwelling of the crea-
tive force. The married woman, however, is not only
diffusely stirred by the presence of the man she loves,
but is also acutely locally and physically stimulated
by his relation with her. And if she is then left in
mid-air, without natural relief to her tension, she is
in this respect far worse off than the unmarried
When a wife is left sleepless through the neglect
of the mate who slumbers healthily by her side, it is
not surprising if she spends the long hours review-
ing their mutual position; and the review cannot yield
her rnuch pleasure or satisfaction. For, deprived of the
physical delight of mutual orgasm (though, perhaps,
like so many wives, quite unconscious of all it can
give), she sees in the sex act an arrangement where
pleasure, relief and subsequent sleep, are all on her
husband’s side, while she is merely the passive instru-
ment of his enjoyment. Nay, more than that : if fol-
lowmg every union she has long hours of wakefulness,
she then sees clearly the encroachment on her own
health in an arrangement in which she is not merely
passive, but is actively abused.
Another of the consequences of the incomplete re-
lation is that often, stirred to a point of wakefulness
and vivacity by the preliminary sex-stimulation (of
the full meaning of which she may be unconscious), a
romantic and thoughtfial woman is then most able to
talk intimately and tenderly — to speak of the things
most near and sacred to her heart. And she may then
be terribly wounded by the inattention of her hus-
band, which, coming so soon after his ardent demon-
strations of affection, appears peculiarly callous. It
makes him appear to her to be indifferent to the
highest side of marriage — the spiritual and romantic
intercourse. Thus she may see in the man going off
to sleeo in the midst of her love-talk, a gross and inat-
tentive brute — and all because she has never shared
the climax of his physical tension, and does not know
that its natural reaction is sleep.
These thoughts are so depressing even to the
tenderest and most loving woman, and so bitter to one
who has other causes of complaint, that in their turn
they act on the whole system and increase the damage
done by the mere sleeplessness.
The older school of physiologists dealt in methods
too crude to realise the physiological results of our
thoughts, but it is now well known that anger and
bitterness have experimentally recognisable physio-
logical effects, and are injurious to the whole system.
It requires little imagination to see that after
months or years of such embittered sleeplessness, the
woman tends not only to become neurasthenic but
also resentful towards her husband. She is probably
too ignorant and unobservant c\f her own physiology
to realise the fuH meaning of what is taking place,
but she feels vaguely that he is to blame, and that she
is being sacrificed for what, in her still greater ignor-
ance of his physiology, seems to her to be his mere
pleasure and self-indulgence.
He, with his health maintained by the natural out-
let followed by recuperative sleep, is not likely to be
ready to look into the gloomy and shadowy land of
vague reproach and inexplicable trivial wrongs which
are all the expression she gives to her unformulated
physical grievance. So he is likely to set down any
resentment she may show to ” nerves ” or ” captious-
ness ” ; and to be first solicitous, and then impatient,
towards her apparently irrelevant complaints.
If he is, as many men are, tender and considerate^
he may try to remedy matters by restricting to the
extreme limit of what is absolutely necessary for him,
the number of times they come together. Uncon-
sciously he thus only makes matters worse; for as a
general rule, he is quite unaware of his wife’s rhythm,
and does not arrange to coincide with it in his infre-
quent tender embraces. As he is now probably sleep-
ing in another room and not daring to come for the
nightly talks and tenderness which are so sweet a
privilege of marriage, here, as in other ways, his well-
meaning but wrongly-conceived efforts at restraint
only tend to drive the pair still further apart.
To make plain the reasonableness of my view re-
garding sleep, it is necessary to mention some of the
immensely profound influences which it is now known
that sex exerts, even when not stimulated to its specific
In those who are deprived of their sex-organs, par-
ticularly when young, many of the other features and
organs of the body develop abnormally or fail to
appear. Castrated boys (eunuchs) when grown up,
tend to have little or no beard, or moustache, to have
high-pitched voices and several other characters which
separate them from normal men.
The growth of organs and structures so remote
from the sex-organs, as, e.g., the larynx, have been
found to be influenced by the chemical stimulus of
secretions from the sex-organs and their subsidiary
glands. These secretions are not passed out through
external ducts but enter the blood system directly.
Such secretions passing straight from the ductless
glands into the vascular system are of very great im-
portance in almost all our bodily functions. They
have recently been much studied, and the general
name of Hormones given to them by Starling.* The
idea that some particular secretions or ” humours ”
are connected with each of the internal organs of the
body, is a very ancient one; but we have even yet only
the vaguest and most elementary knowledge of a few
of the many miracles performed by these subtle
chemical substances. Thus we know that the stimu-
lus of food in the stomach sends a chemical substance
from one ductless gland in the digestive system
chasing through the blood to another gland which
prepares a different digestive secretion further on.
We know that the thyroid gland in the neck swells
and contracts in very sensitive relation with the sex
organs; we know that some chemical secretion from
the developing embryo, or the tissue in which it
grows, sends its chemical stimulus to the distant
* See Prof. Ernest H. Starling’s Croonian Lecture to the
Royal Society, 1 905.
mammary glands of the mother; we know that if the
ovaries of a girl or the testes of a boy are completely
cut out, the far-reaching influences their hormones
would have exerted are made evident by the numerous
changes in the system and departures from the normal,
which result from their lack.
But we do not know, for physiologists have not yet
studied the degree and character of the immense
stimulus of sex-life and experience on the glands of
the sex-organs, or how they affect the whole of the
human being’s life and powers.
The ” Mendelians ” and the ” Mutationists,” who
both tend to lay so much (and I think such undue)
stress on morphological hereditary factors, seem at
present to have the ear of the public more than the
physiologists. But it is most important that every
grown up man and woman should know that through
the various chemical substances or ” messengers ”
(which Starling called the hormones) there is an ex-
tremely rapid, almost immediate, effect on the activi-
ties of organs in remote parts of the body, due to the
influences exerted on one or other internal organ.
It is therefore clear that any influences exerted on
such profoundly important organs as those connected
with sex must have far-reaching results in many
What must be taking place in the female system
as a result of the completed sex act ?
It is true that in coitus woman has but a slight
external secretion, and that principally of mucus. But
we have no external signs of all the complex processes
and reactions going on in digestion and during the
production of digestive secretions. When, as is the
case in orgasm, we have siich intense and apparent
nervous, vascular and muscular reactions, it seems
inevitable that there must be correspondingly pro-
found internal correlations. Is it conceivable that
organs so fundamentally placed, and whose mere
existence we know affects the personal characters of
women, could escape physiological result from the
intense preliminary stimulus and acute sensations of
To ask this question is surely to answer it. It is to
my mind inconceivable that the orgasm in woman
as in man should not have profound physiological
effects. Did we know enough about the subject, many
of the ” nervous breakdowns ” and neurotic ten-
dencies of the modern woman could be directly traced
to the partial stimulation of sexual intercourse with-
out its normal completion which is so prevalent in
This subject, and its numerous ramifications, are
well worth the careful research of the most highly-
trained physiologists. There is nothing more pro-
found, or of more vital moment to modern humanity
as a whole, than is the understanding of the sex
nature and sex needs of men and women.
I may point out as a mere suggestion that the man’s
sex-organs give rise to external and also to internal
secretions. The former only leave the glands which
secrete them as a result of definite stimulus ; the latter
appear to be perpetually exuded in small quantities
and always to be entering and influencing the whole
system. In women we know there are corresponding
perpetual internal secretions, and it seems evident to
me that there must be some internal secretions which
are only released under the definite stimulus of the
The English and American peoples, who lead the
world in so many ways, have an almost unprece-
dentedly high proportion of married women who get
no satisfaction from physical union with their hus-
bands, though they bear children, and may in every
other respect appear to be happily married.
The modern civilised neurotic woman has become a
by-word in the Western world. Why ?
I am certain that much of this suffering is caused
by the ignorance of both men and women regarding
not only the inner physiology, but even the obvious
outward expression, of the complete sex-act.
Many medical men now recognise that numerous
nervous and other diseases are associated with the lack
of physiological relief for natural or stimulated sex
feelings in women. Ellis* quotes the opinion of an
Austrian gynecologist who said that, ” of every
hundred women who come to him with uterine
troubles, seventy suffer from congestion of the womb,
which he regarded as due to incomplete coitus.”
While a writer in a recent number of the British
Medical Journal^ published some cases in which
quite serious nervous diseases in wives were put
right when their husbands were cured of too
Sleep, concerning which I began this chapter, is
but one of innumerable indications of inner processes
intimately bound up with the sex-reactions. When
the sex-rite is, in every sense, rightly performed, the
healing wings of sleep descend both on the man and
on the woman in his arms. Every organ in their bodies
* H. Ellis. ” Sex in Relation to Society,” 1910, p. 551.
t See Porosz, British Medical Journal, April i, 191 1, p. 784..
is influenced and stimulated to play its part, while
their spirits, after soaring in the dizzy heights of
rapture, are wafted to oblivion, thence to return
gently to the ordinary plains of daily consciousness.