A sleeping porch is a porch, often a second story porch or back porch, that is screened in and furnished for sleeping and/or advanced relaxing on hot summer afternoons, evenings and/or nights. The screening was a critical feature, as it allowed cooling breezes in, but kept mosquitoes and other bugs out.

Because a sleeping porch is a more private area than a regular porch, they may be more closed in, with low half-walls rather than railings, and with framed windows with some sort of curtains or shades. In those few newer homes that feature a sleeping porch, the room may more closely resemble a sunroom or conservatory, being fully enclosed and fitted with glass windows, and often built in the shape and size of a regular room, rather than the traditional elongated form a of porch.

Sun porches became popular in the American South in the early 1900s, both as a way of managing the heat of summer and as a presumed health treatment. Fresh air was believed to benefit people suffering from respiratory problems and general ill health, including tuberculosis, the leading cause of death at that time. Their popularity was based on the decline of the miasma theory of disease and the related fear of night air in the 1860s and 1870s, and the 1908 discovery that malaria was carried by mosquitoes. They quickly started to fall back into disuse as air conditioning became wide-spread in the 1950s.

Dagnabbit! I was working on this, just as it was posted...

Anyway, my take...

Feature of many early 20th century homes, from the South well into the Midwest, Northeast and parts of California. Notable instances: The Benjamin Spock House in New Haven, Ct, and the opening chapter of Babbitt. One California house, long since defunct had, NO bedrooms, preferring the roof.

A response to the tuberculosis epidemic sweeping civilized society in the period. Since there were no antibiotics, the chief hope lay in bolstering the immune system, and lowering whatever strain there was on the lungs and bronchi. As with most fads, some decided that healthy people could benefit from this as well, and in most Germanic countries, the standard response to a cold, or anything else respiratory, is to open the window, put on a scarf, and drink a lot of herb tea. 

As with a lot of ‘alternative’ medicine, my feelings are mixed: having explained this practice to several doctors, they own that lowering exposure to allergens might help many respiratory diseases, even if the temperature outside was subfreezing, and the patient, somewhat over par. As a home treatment option, YMMV. If you have a place outside, out of the wind, you might try bundling up in a sleeping bag on a lounge chair a couple of hours a day. If nothing else, the fact you’ve got some other stimulus than daytime TV might help.

As for myself, I've often fantasized about getting an apartment with a sleeping porch. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend the Summer....

Long ago, on the second story of my grandmother's house

in Bay Ridge, in Brooklyn, in New York,

my older brother, my younger sisters, and I fought over

who got to sleep on the grey slatted wooden porch.

There were thick concrete walls topped with conch shells

brought back from my grandmother's trips to Florida

and filled with red geraniums.

My brother would crank down the green and white striped awning

because he was taller then.

"To protect you from the evening dews and damps,"

was my grandmother's reasoning as she gave us cots and blankets.

They all fought for positioning, but I waited, knowing

none of them would ever want the corner, not covered by the awning,

away from the safety of her porch door that led to warmth and real beds.

In the corner, I could watch people, cars, mist rolling in, other house lights dimming,

but most of all the stars, over Bay Ridge, over Brooklyn,

over New York, never dreaming of life beyond the sound of

the fog horn, softened, but warning of danger, possible danger.

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