A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 09, 2010
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite”

Bedbugs were a problem in the 19th century, almost disappeared by the 1940s, but re-appeared from about 1995. Many New York City homes and stores became infested with bedbugs, as it grew to become a national problem by 2010.

The rhyme “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” became used in the United States by the 1880s and 1890s. In some versions, “mosquitoes” did the biting. An earlier version (from the 1860s and 1870s) was “Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright in the morning light, to do what’s right, with all your might.”


Wikipedia: Bedbug
Bedbugs (or bed bugs) are small parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae. The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The name ‘bedbug’ is derived from the insect’s preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.

Bedbugs have been known by a variety of names including wall louse, mahogany flat, crimson rambler, heavy dragoon, chinche, and redcoat.

Largely eradicated as pests in the developed world (largely through the use of DDT) in the early 1940s, bedbugs have been resurgent since about 1995.

Zelo.com Nursery Rhymes
Good Night Sleep Tight
Good night, sleep tight,
Wake up bright
In the morning light
To do what’s right
With all your might.
Variation: Line added between first and second “Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite”

Variation:
Good night, sleep tight,
Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
And if they do
Then take your shoe
And knock ‘em ‘til
They’re black and blue!

World Wide Words
SLEEP TIGHT
(...)
It’s part of a rhyming formula addressed to children, of which one version is “good night, sleep tight”. The Oxford English Dictionary records it only from 1933, though I’ve discovered that it appears in L Frank Baum’s Rinkitink In Oz, dated 1916: “Eat hearty, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you”. And this entry occurs in a diary by Susan Eppes, Through Some Eventful Years: “May 2nd, 1866 — All is ready and we leave as soon as breakfast is over. Goodbye little Diary. ‘Sleep tight and wake bright,’ for I will need you when I return”. (In the dictionary-making business these are called antedatings, and send word-hunters like me into paroxysms of delight.) I’d guess, not having been able to find an instance, that the fuller rhyme about the bedbugs is more recent than any of these.

However, there is a possible sense of sleep tight which some people have suggested as an origin. Before the days of sprung mattresses, one method of creating a comfortable surface to lie on was to stretch ropes across from side to side of the bedframe in a criss-cross pattern. The ropes sagged after a while, and it was necessary to tighten them from time to time. I’ve seen such beds in museums of the American colonial period, as well as the forked wooden tools that helped tighten the ropes. It is possible that sleep tight originally referred to a bed of this kind. However, there’s no evidence, and the late date of first appearance of the phrase rather militates against this being the source.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
tight, a. (adv.)
adv. (The adj. used adverbially.)
Soundly, roundly; = TIGHTLY 1. Now chiefly in colloq. phr. (good night) sleep tight, a conventional (rhyming) formula used when parting for the night or at bedtime.
1790 J. FISHER Poems 61, I charg’d them tight, An’ gart them pay o’ lawing clink, Mair than was right.
1898 Elizabeth & German Garden 29 She had been so tight asleep.
1933 E. O’NEILL Ah, Wilderness! III. ii. 101 Good night, Son. Sleep tight.

Google Books
In the clearings
By Kate Gannett Wells
Boston, MA: American Unitarian Association
1871
Pg. 70:
“Now go to bed,” said Will; “sleep tight, wake up bright, in the morning light.”

Google Books
The Health Guide;
Aiming at a higher science of life and the life-forces; giving nature’s simple and beautiful laws of cure

By Edwin Dwight Babbitt
New York, NY:  E. D. Babbitt
1874
Pg. 149:
TO MY PETS
(...)
Good-night! Sleep tight!
Wake bright! Do right!

Google Books
Boscobel: a novel
By Emma Mersereau Newton
New York, NY: W.B. Smith & Co.
1881
Pg. 5:
“Good-night, sleep tight; And don’t let the buggers bite,” said Fred…

Google Books
Boating trips on New England rivers
By Henry Parker Fellows
Boston, MA: Cupples, Upham and Company
1884
Pg. 22:
She responded, “Good-night,” and added, in tenor tremble, the kindly invocation,—

“May you sleep tight,
Where the bugs don’t bite!”

Google Books
June 1888, Judge’s Young Folks, pg. 29 , col. 2:
Now, good-night, dollies, sleep tight, and don’t let nothing bite.

Chronicling America
5 December 1888, New York (NY) Sun, pg. 1, col. 2:
‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bugs bite,” answered the audience with one voice, and rose to go.

Google Books
The Heart of Oak Books, Volume 1
By Charles Eliot Norton and Kate Stephens
Boston, MA: D.C. Heath & Co.
1893-1894
Pg. 14:
THE END OF THE DAY.
Good night,
Sleep tight,
Wake up bright
In the morning light,
To do what’s right,
With all your might.

Google Books
What they say in New England:
A book of signs, sayings, and superstitions

By Clifton Johnson
Boston, MA: Lee and Shepard
1897
Pg. 186:
A verse said by a boy who parts from his companion in the evening : —

Good-night,
Sleep tight,
Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Google Books
Hours with nature
By New York teacher
New York, NY: Silver, Burdett & Company
1899
Pg. 60:
Good-night,
Sleep tight,
Wake up bright
In the morning light,
So do what’s right,
With all your might.

Google Books
The games & diversions of Argyleshire
By Robert Craig Maclagan
London: For the Folk-lore Society by D. Nutt
1901
Pg. 253:
On Going to Bed
Good night, sleep tight:
Don’t let the bugs bite.

Google Books
The coming of the white men:
Stories of how our country was discovered

By Mary Hazelton Blanchard Wade
Boston, MA: W.A. Wilde Co.
1905
Pg. 57:
“Good-night, sleep tight, and don’t let the mosquitos bite,” Lucy called to her old friend as she followed Joe down the path.

Google Books
December 1914, The Cosmopolitan, pg. 89, col. 1:
“Good-night; sleep tight; don’t let the mosquitoes bite.”

8 June 1915, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 3:
“SHARKEY” AND BILLY WANT TO FIGHT
WHEN ANYBODY SINGS “GOOD NIGHT,
SLEEP TIGHT, DON’T LET THEM BITE”
If anybody wants to “get a rise” out of Patrolman John ("SHarkey") Kelly or Patrolman William Mullen, of the old Traffic squad, let him burst forth with the song of other days, which went something like this:

“Good night, sleep tight;
Don’t let the skeeters bite.”

Google Books
The Vegetable: or, From president to postman
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1923
Pg. 45:
SNOOKS [humorously]. Good night, pop. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Google Books
Folk-lore from Adams county, Illinois
By Harry Middleton Hyatt
New York, NY: Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation
1935
Pg. 645:
Good-night, sleep tight,
Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Google Books
High Sierra
By W. R. (William Riley) Burnett
New York, NY: A. A. Knopf
1940
Pg. 140:
“Sleep tight,” said Pa. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Google Books
Jacoby’s Corners
By Jake Falstaff
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
1940
Pg. 92:
Uncle Valentine called, “Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Google News Archive
31 August 1955, Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star, pg. 16, cols. 4-5:
NOW HE’S GONE:
11-Year_old Danny Got to See
U.S. for Brief Three Weeks

By HAL BOYLE
NEW YORK (AP)—For as long as he could remember, 11-year-old Danny Essoyan dreamed of seeing America.
(...)
He had some temperature, but not enough to mar his usual cheerful singsong bedtime ritual, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, wake up in the morning bright.”

Google Books
The American Mother Goose
By Ray Wood
New York, NY: J.B. Lippincott
1968
Pg. 17:
Good-night
Sleep tight
Don’t let the mosquitoes bite.

OCLC WorldCat record
Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite
Author: Diane De Groat
Publisher: New York : Seastar Books, ©2002.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : Primary school : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary: Gilbert is excited about staying overnight at Camp Hi-Dee-Ho, until he hears about the legendary camp ghost. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • Thursday, September 09, 2010 • Permalink


I always wonderd where this came from, the reality isn’t quite so romantic!

Posted by Playground Equipment  on  09/24  at  07:48 AM

Had a friend that stayed in a shady motel and ended up with some nasty bedbug bites!  Those things scare me....as do shady motels!

Posted by MO  on  11/16  at  02:35 PM

Nice rhymes you have posted here.
But bedbugs in hotels are a very serious thing, they are probably capable of spreading HIV too!

Posted by nursery rhymes  on  01/18  at  07:42 PM

Bed bugs don’t just infest shady motels - 5 star luxury hotels have also had complaints about bedbugs!

Posted by Magssno  on  05/29  at  06:09 AM

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