“Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” by Henry Nicholls

“I was at a conference, standing in the queue for coffee during a break between sessions, and the woman in front of me went down. As she fell, she resembled a push puppet, one of those little elasticated toys that collapses when you press the button on the base. It all happened very quickly, but if it had been possible to slow down the motion, I would have seen her head drop first, chin onto chest, her shoulders relax, arms flop to her sides, and legs buckle.

[. . .]

“This is cataplexy, a condition in which emotions can cause the body’s muscles to fail; it affects many people with narcolepsy. Nathaniel Kleitman understood the difference between narcolepsy (the sleep) and cataplexy (the collapsing fits) only too well. ‘Boredom and monotony favor narcolepsy; gaiety and excitement, cataplexy,’ he wrote in Sleep and Wakefulness.

[. . .]

“Giuseppe Plazzi, head of the sleep lab at the University of Bologna, has argued that Dante Alighieri might have suffered from narcolepsy with cataplexy all the way back in the 14th century, as his autobiographical masterpiece The Divine Comedy features most of the symptoms, including cataplexy. In the middle of his journey through Hell, for instance, Dante hears the tragic love story of two lost spirits and collapses. ‘I fainted out of pity, and, as if l were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.’

“The idea that Dante suffered from narcolepsy is certainly intriguing, but most sleep specialists—including Plazzi—date the first unequivocal description of cataplexy to 1877, when German psychiatrist Karl Westphal presented a case at a meeting of the Berlin Medical and Psychological Society. [. . .]”   –Henry Nicholls, “Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” LitHub (September 7, 2018)

The passage is an excerpt from Nicholls’s 2018 book Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of A Good Night’s Rest.

See also the related discussion from The Guardian, posted here.

“What’s the Sneeze Etiquette in a Mask?”

“I’ll continue to comply and wear a mask— even with threat of a sneeze—because the benefits do seem to outweigh the negatives. Save the world and eliminate the need for Scope. That’s not a bad combo, and honestly, I’ll wear a mask through the nine circles of hell (AKA Columbia in August) if it helps bring back high school and college sports.”    –Mike Maddock, Columbia Star, August 13, 2020

The Tenth Circle of Hell: Dealing with Insurance Companies

“In the years following my melanoma removal, I sometimes found myself without health insurance. This was before the ACA allowed kids to stay on their parent’s insurance until they turned twenty-six and my post-college temp job didn’t offer health benefits.

“When I did finally get a job that offered insurance, I had to pay twice as much as my peers because of my cancer history — and if it had been higher than stage II, they wouldn’t have covered me at all.

“I was appalled because I had been cancer-free for ten years at that point and I was otherwise very healthy. But they’re no dummies. I’m pretty sure they knew the cancer would come back before it ever would have crossed my mind and they weren’t about to put money on a horse they knew wouldn’t win.” — Lanie Brewster Quinn, Stupid Cancer Blog, May 14, 2017

Read more of the article here.

From Dante’s Circles of Hell to Academic Freedom

From a 2018 profile of Swedish Diabetes Researcher Hindrik Mulder:

“After Haricots Verts [Mulder’s band] and during his studies in medicine, Hindrik Mulder began doing research at the Endocrinology Clinic in Malmö. His first stint there was not a success.

“‘Not at all. The clinic was like Dante’s circles of hell. If you were in the wrong circle – which you were as a young undergraduate – it wasn’t a nice place to be. It was hierarchical and old-fashioned,’ observes Hindrik Mulder, recalling the time he received a reprimand for not standing up when the professor entered the lab.

“‘At that point I decided I’d had enough and quit.’

“It’s understandable. This was not 100 years ago but in the late 1970s.”   –Tord Ajanki and Hanna Mellors, Lund University Diabetes Centre, December 10, 2018

Read the rest of the article here.

The Six Circles of Hangover Hell

1st Circle: The Ducked Bullet 
No pain. No real feeling of illness. Your sleep was deep and all those carbo-loaded beers have gifted you with a week’s worth of misplaced energy. During lunch you torture your less fortunate coworkers, bragging about how you can pound booze all night, drink warm gin out of a dirty ashtray for breakfast, and still show up fifteen minutes early for work. You crave a steak sub and a side of gravy fries.” — The Drunkard Staff, Modern Drunkard Magazine, August 5, 2018

Read the rest of the article here.6-circles-hangover-hell

Was Dante Narcoleptic?

was-dante-narcoleptic“According to a study published this week by Giuseppe Plazzi of the University of Bologna’s Sleep Laboratory, Dante may have been narcoleptic: a sufferer from the neurological disorder that, among other symptoms, causes people to drift off suddenly at all times of day.” [. . .]    –Sarah Bakewell, “If Dante was a narcoleptic, why should it matter?” The Guardian, September 27, 2013

See also the related discussion from LitHub, posted here.

“Smoking Ban Hits Home. Truly.”

smoking-ban-hits-home-truly“BELMONT, Calif. — During her 50 years of smoking, Edith Frederickson says, she has lit up in restaurants and bars, airplanes and trains, and indoors and out, all as part of a two-pack-a-day habit that she regrets not a bit. But as of two weeks ago, Ms. Frederickson can no longer smoke in the one place she loves the most: her home. . .
And that the ban should have originated in her very building — a sleepy government-subsidized retirement complex called Bonnie Brae Terrace — is even more galling. Indeed, according to city officials, a driving force behind the passage of the law was a group of retirees from the complex who lobbied the city to stop secondhand smoke from drifting into their apartments from the neighbors’ places. . .
At a local level, the debate over the law has divided the residents of the Bonnie Brae into two camps, with the likes of Ms. Frederickson, a hardy German emigre, on one side, and Ray Goodrich, a slim 84-year-old with a pulmonary disease and a lifelong allergy problem, on the other. . .
‘I came around the corner, and there was just a giant puff of black smoke, and I knew I wasn’t going to last five seconds in that,’ Mr. Goodrich said. ‘It was like Dante’s inferno up there.'” [. . .]    –Jesse McKinley, The New York Times, January 26, 2009

“Where Sweatshops Are a Dream”

where-sweatshops-are-a-dream“This is a Dante-like vision of hell. It’s a mountain of festering refuse, a half-hour hike across, emitting clouds of smoke from subterranean fires.” [in reference to a large garbage dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia] [. . .]    –Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, January 14, 2008