One may draw up wine from a barrel with a siphon [diyofei], and one may drip water from a vessel that releases water in drops [miarak], for an ill person on Shabbat.
מַעֲלִין בִּדְיוֹפִי וּמַטִּיפִין מֵיאֶרֶק לַחוֹלֶה בַּשַּׁבָּת.
Essentially the Gemara is discussing generating white noise to allow an ill person to fall asleep or stay asleep. This is an excellent technique for insomnia, light sleepers, and some infants. There are a number of inexpensive electronic machines on the market and even free YouTube channels devoted to providing white noise like rushing water etc. (Shout out to my friend and colleague, Rus Devorah Wallen, LCSW who provides such a tool for free on her website https://toratherapeutics.com/product/rain-on-foliage-30-minute-sleep-loop-with-binaural-beats/ )
Insomnia is a frustrating, dreaded condition for those who suffer from it. Hours spent tossing and turning trying to sleep can be intensely demoralizing. It also can be frustrating and bewildering for the insomniac's loved ones who wonder why a natural process such as sleep becomes so complex. After all, if you’re tired you should be able to sleep. But humans have a way of letting their giant brains interfere with normal instinctive activities such as eating, sleeping and being sexual. Anxiety and other emotions get in the way and somehow foul up the works for many of life’s most natural and instinctive pastimes.
There is an excellent, evidenced based process to treat insomnia known as CBT-I. The Sleep Foundation provides info on its basic concepts and a trained therapist can administer the protocol in about 6-8 sessions. ( https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/treatment/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-insomnia )
Some of the basic ideas that CBT-I helps people change is reducing anxiety about sleep, that is entering bed with preemptive fears about “what if I cannot sleep” which become self-fulfilling feedback loops that increase non-relaxing thoughts leading to difficulty sleeping. CBT-I also teaches a number of relaxation techniques, and uses a graduated system of sleep compression. That is, to set times to be in bed based on the baseline plus 30 minutes, which when it leads to successful sleep gradually increases. Also bed is for sleeping not reading or watching shows, so a person practicing CBT-I will not stay awake in bed for more than 10 minutes. He or she needs to get up and do an activity until feeling tired.
Another superb resource is a free app available for Android and iPhones that provide a virtual CBT-I coach:
My personal favorite for insomnia that never fails is something my father, Zichrono Liveracha taught me as a child. Learn Torah in bed. My father said, “Simcha, it leaves the yetzer hara no choice. Normally, he would want to keep you awake, but since you're learning Torah he has to cut his losses and so he puts you to sleep.” I must say, at age 53, his advice has served me well over my life.
My father never suffered from insomnia. Famously, one time he was on an airplane which was hi-jacked to Cuba. He was extremely intuitive -- bordering on Ruach HaKodesh intuitive. Before any of the passengers knew the plane was Hi-Jacked, my father noticed a strained smile plastered on the stewardess’ face, perhaps more fake than the usual fake smile. He called her over and said quietly, “I have a strong sense the plane is being Hi-Jacked to Cuba. I’ll be taking a nap now so let me know how it all turns out.”
I’ll add, sometimes, I don’t fall asleep right away, but it’s still win/win for me and lose/lose for the yetzer hara as learning is accomplished. By the way, or not so by the way, the research for this edition for psychology of the Daf was done at 4am…..zzzzzzzzzzzz
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Translations Courtesy of Sefaria