You get home after a long day at work, sit down on the sofa and flick on the telly. As you sit there, sinking back, you close your eyes for a few moments; just forty winks to help you feel a little bit more refreshed. But why forty winks? Where does this come from? Why do we say it? What does it even mean?
It’s earliest use can be traced all the way back to Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, where one of the characters has their eyes shut whilst sat in an arm chair. They say “Well, forty winks will do you no harm”.
It is generally used in a situation where you aren’t having a proper nap or sleep, but your eyes closed longer for than your average blink or wink; collectively that of 40 individual winks. We think that if you are going to have a brief snooze, you should rest your weary head on a nice, comfy pillow that best suits you.
Another view on it could come from frequent biblical references to the number 40 for meaning “a long time”. For example, when it is said to have rained for 40 days and 40 nights. So 40 winks, could suggest a long time winking, or napping.
Which reference do you think is most feasible? Have you heard of another possible origin for it?
All we know is that whether you have 40 winks, 80 winks, a nap and a nice sleep, we’ve got everything you need to make the most of it.