Hundred-Year-Old Cures for Insomnia

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, January 19, 1914:  Nothing much doing this day.

Photo of a bedroom in April, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal.
Picture Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share part of an interesting article on the causes and cures for insomnia that appeared in the March, 1914 issue of National Food Magazine.

To My Sleepless Friend

It is certainly true that thousands lose their health and many die every year through lack of sufficient sleep. Prolonged sleeplessness means nervous trouble of some kind and should not be neglected.

Rest Destroyers

The habitual use of stimulants and drugs.

The worrying habit.

The overwork habit.

Habitual overeating, or taking food at bedtime that is difficult of digestion.

The “wide-awakes” who cannot sleep themselves and disturb the rest of others.

The “fond mother” who wakes the baby to exhibit him to a friend.

The “early-to-bed” who interferes with the “late-to-bed’s” morning nap.

To Cure Insomnia

Strict attention to diet is an absolute necessity.

Weak, easily exhausted persons require food at short intervals (about every two hours).

The heartiest meal of the day should not be eaten later than 2 p.m.

Liquid nutriment or fresh, ripe fruit should be taken between meals.

No uncooked fruits should be eaten after the dinner hour.


Condiments and spices; strong acids; food that is difficult of digestion for you; tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks, usually.

As Sleep Inducers

A cup of hot water or hot milk before retiring.

A light sandwich (minced meat or chicken).

Never go to bed hungry, nor with an over-loaded stomach.

Lay aside business worries and other cares at sunset.

Take a walk, some light exercise, after the evening meal (one hour later).

Substitute muscle fatigue for brain tire.

When you go to bed, relax the muscles, lie on the right side, and think of something pleasant.


Don’t keep yourself awake trying to get to sleep. Give up the idea that you cannot sleep. Seek rest and repose first, and sleep will come naturally with time.

15 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Cures for Insomnia

  1. Love the picture of the bedroom. That article is just another reminder of how things that keep us awake may not have changed over the years, but the way we word things certainly has!

  2. haha right down to laying on your right side! I always think it’s funny when people are advised not to worry… It’s not like there’s a switch you can just turn off…

  3. Wow, that is a pretty good list. Who knew about fruit, I thought it was just me and fruit! Also, I wonder what laying on the right side rather than the left side does. Really interesting post!

  4. With the rest destroyers, all I could think of is, “Nothing new under the sun!” Those are the exact things that keep me awake some nights 100 years later . . . (with the exception of the habitual use of drugs, of course!)

  5. What’s old is new again. My daughter had Dr. Oz on one afternoon last week while I was holding the baby. He had a guest who discussed how lack of sleep can affect people — very similar to what’s written above. And the guest presented her information at new!

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