From the Sacral to the Moral: Sleeping Practices, Household Worship and Confessional Cultures in Late Seventeenth-Century England

Sasha Handley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines sleeping practices and their spiritual meanings in English society. Sleep is one of the most fundamental experiences of everyday life, and this article examines how its temporal and spatial dimensions were shaped by a wide range of confessional groups according to theologies of salvation and resurrection from 1660 to 1700. The practices, rituals and objects that surrounded and sanctified the bedside highlight distinctive forms of sleep-piety that were supported by shifts in the provision and use of domestic space, by the pastoral objectives of Church divines and dissenting ministers, and by a flourishing genre of published spiritual guides that promoted private household devotions. This comparative study of sleeping practices nuances existing historical narratives about the fragmented religious landscape of these years. Most importantly, however, it offers a justification of the centrality of pious sleeping routines to the everyday experience of devotional practice by tracing the ways in which religious beliefs were embodied through subjective physical performances of sleep.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-46
JournalCultural and Social History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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