To sleep or not to sleep

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 61, No. 3, April 2019, Pages 111-112 Letters

One thing that endears me to the BCMJ is the editor’s page. DRR writes thoughtful, often funny comments about the world around us. His December 2018 editorial, “Sleep, when it no longer comes naturally,” [BCMJ 2018;60:478] was a bit of a departure from his usually joyful character, and reading it filled me with concern and empathy for him. It revealed his struggle with anticipatory anxiety insomnia, wondering each night if sleep is going to come to him. The last line was: “…if anyone has suggestions for some good book titles, please send them my way.”

I asked myself, what would be a good book for someone awake enough in the middle of the night to want to read, but anxious enough to hope to get back to sleep?

I scanned my list of 117 BC physician authors on, and looked for diaries, novels, short stories, historical stories, poetry, and theatrical plays published between the early 1800s and recent times. I looked for reading material that was relatively slow paced, interesting but not exciting or anxiety provoking, and long enough to get sleepy—or bored—while reading it.

Here are 10 books I recommend, written by some of our physician colleagues, in alphabetical order by author:

Burris HL. Medical Saga: The Burris Clinic and Early Pioneers
Cheadle WB. Cheadle’s Journal of Trip across Canada:1862–1863
Duncan AC. Medicine, Madams, and Mounties: Stories of a Yukon Doctor
Emmott K. How Do You Feel? (1992 poetry collection)
Karlinsky H. The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857–1879)
Kenyon A. The Recorded History of the Liard Basin, 1790–1910
Lee E. Scalpels and Buggywhips
Leighton K. Oar and Sail: An Odyssey of the West Coast
Swan A. House Calls by Float Plane: Stories of a West Coast Doctor
Tolmie WF. The Journals of William Fraser Tolmie: Physician and Fur Trader

Dear Dr DRR, have a good read and a good sleep!
—George Szasz, CM, MD
West Vancouver

Thank you for your concern, and I really appreciate your book suggestions.—ED.

This letter was submitted in response to “Sleep: When it no longer comes naturally.”

This letter originally appeared as a BCMJ blog post. Visit to read all of our posts, and consider submitting your own.

George Szasz, CM, MD. To sleep or not to sleep. BCMJ, Vol. 61, No. 3, April, 2019, Page(s) 111-112 - Letters.

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