“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24)
I need sleep. I bet you do, too. Did I guess right?
Actually, we all need sleep…and we don’t seem to get enough of it anymore.
There was a time, before light pollution from urbanization, when sleep was easier in total darkness…when cold nights under heavy blankets brought blessed rest…before modern stress and schedules and alarms and cellphones kept us up late or rudely woke us up too early.
Sleep is one of the least understood and yet most important activities of our life on earth. It’s the third segment in the healthy lifestyle we all crave. If we neglect sleep, the other two parts of the trifecta—healthy eating and exercise—suffer as well. All three feed on each other.
Scientists still don’t understand everything about sleep, because the composition of the human brain is beyond our understanding. We have a vast, intelligent God-Creator who fashioned our complex noggins to be super-computers—with a sleep cycle purposed to maximize our capabilities.
If you want to peek into the mysterious Land of Nod, pick up Dr. Matthew Walker’s book, “Why We Sleep.” It’s a fascinating study on the critical nature of sleep and what it does for us.
Walker, a sleep research expert and enthusiast, challenges the sleep notion that our minds rest as well as our bodies. The converse is true. Our brains are quite busy performing memory functions…like mega-computers downloading during the “deep sleep” phase all of the images and information we have absorbed during the day. Later in the sleep cycle, during “rapid eye movement” (REM) sleep, our brains regurgitate some of the information to process it. This sleep segment is typically when we dream, sorting out problems and searching for solutions.
Walker bewails our modern-day assertion that we don’t really need all that much sleep. But if you’re getting less than seven to eight hours of slumber, you’re robbing your brain and body of vital functions.
Memory is the greatest loser in sleep deprivation. That’s why those college-days “all-nighters” don’t work for last-minute studying before tests. Your brain won’t remember what you’ve just studied because it didn’t download the information during sleep.
Sleep disruption is another problem. Making that Daylight Savings time change every six months has wreaked havoc with snooze patterns and consequently our ability to think clearly (I’m so thankful we might stop this horrible practice soon in the United States). Jetting between time zones makes things worse, too.
A shortage of sleep diminishes our physical health as well. It’s associated with weight gain, loss of energy, and all sorts of other bodily ailments. We put ourselves and others in physical danger if we’re drowsy when we get behind the wheel of a car. Beauty sleep? It’s real and necessary, preventing those unattractive dark circles under our eyes. We truly need sleep to be at our best.
Need more sleep? Here are a few of Dr. Walker’s tips along with mine:
- Maintain a routine. Go to bed and rise at the same times every evening/morning, to stay in a sleep rhythm that works for you.
- Slow down before bedtime. Avoid late-night strenuous exercise or partying, although stretching is a good relaxant.
- Cut back on caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. I stop drinking caffeinated tea by noon, to make sure it doesn’t keep me up late or wake me up in the wee hours. Eat light, too—no heavy meals just before bedtime.
- Take a hot bath. And keep the thermostat in your sleeping quarters set at a cooler level. You’ll sleep better as your temperature drops.
- Reduce screen time. The glare of electronic screens acts as a stimulant to your brain. Read an ordinary book with paper pages instead.
- Count your blessings. If you still can’t sleep because of worry or stress, start counting every single blessing you have received during the day from the hand of God. Gratitude and contentment are great “sleep medications” for dozing off!
We are blessed to have an awesome Lord who has planned for a sleep cycle, including a Sabbath day of rest every week to restore our bodies and minds. All of His creatures need rest and refreshment, if we are to serve Him effectively.
The paradox is that God Himself never sleeps—“Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) He is faithful to watch over us, giving us the chance to rest in His loving care.
Tonight, as you rest your head on your pillow (if you are blessed to have one and a bed), thank our Lord for a place of rest and peaceful slumber. Indulge and rejoice in seven to eight hours of this God-given health benefit! Sweet dreams!
Thank you, Father, for Your gift of sweet sleep. Help us to get plenty of this life-giving practice so that we might serve You well in our waking hours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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© Copyright 2022 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.