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Sleep and dreams in literature

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Written by Lewis Robinson

Here at Mattress Nextday, we are dedicated to providing high-quality mattresses because we understand the importance of sleep. Sleep and dreams are obviously important for your physical and psychological wellbeing, so it’s vital that you have a mattress that helps you sleep soundly.

But did you know that sleep and dreams have also played an important role in shaping popular culture itself? Sleep has had a particularly large impact on literature. In today’s blog post, we’d like to point you towards some of the most fascinating works of literature that relate directly to the world of sleep and dreams. You may discover something that interests you.

1. Shakespeare and sleep

Sleep plays a surprisingly important role in many of Shakespeare’s plays. It could even be described as a recurring theme. The bard understood how important sleep was to a person’s state of mind and used it as a symbol for goodness and wholesomeness. The most notable example of this appears in Macbeth.

Shortly after the tragic anti-hero murders King Duncan, he says “Macbeth has murdered sleep”, meaning that he has killed something good and restful. Of course, the line also has a more literal meaning: it implies that Macbeth will no longer be able to sleep, due to the psychological weight of his crime. However, Shakespeare also recognised that sleep and dreams could be used more whimsically and playfully in his literature. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, many of the characters fall under Puck’s spells while sleeping. What’s more, the entire play has a dreamlike, surreal quality, which is emphasised by its title. If you need proof that sleep is important to literary culture, Shakespeare’s plays will suit you perfectly.

2. The dream stories of H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft is best known as a horror writer. But he also wrote a number of fantastical tales based on his dreams, which were often incredibly vivid. He envisioned sleep as a gateway to other realms. His short story Polaris is one of the best examples of Lovecraft’s obsession with sleep and dreams. It is both based on a dream and uses dreaming as a literary device. It tells the tale of a man who glimpses an impossible world while half-asleep and hints at the idea that our dream-life is more vital and real than our waking life. Lovecraft went on to make this theme explicit in Beyond the Wall of Sleep and other tales.

3. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent graphic novels ever produced. It is also remarkable because it deals with the world of dreams. The Sandman contains a vast number of interconnected stories which take place in the realm of dreams and which tackle subjects ranging from sanity and madness to faith and religion. For Gaiman, sleep is a window onto a world of powerful, arcane symbols: The Sandman is the the ultimate artistic expression of this idea.

Here at Mattress Nextday, we can’t create great works of literature that reflect the importance of sleep and dreams. However, we can provide you with comfortable mattresses that will allow you explore the realm of dreams for yourself.

Photo: Book by SamJJordan licensed under Creative commons 2

About the author

Lewis Robinson