“Sleep? That’s something I do in my spare time,” is the attitude of many in our culture, even among God’s people. Just feed them a cup of coffee the next morning, and they’re up and running again.
Problem is, the Lord designed our bodies to function not only with quality sleep but also quantity sleep. To function properly, our temples require a deep but adequate amount of REM-invoking sleep. A recent poll suggests that at least 35 percent of American adults don’t get enough sleep every night.
Research has uncovered that we need sleep to:
- Stimulate leptin, the growth hormone (GH), and other hormones which help keep our weight down.
- Repair and rejuvenate our bodies at the cellular level.
- Maintain good balance, coordination and concentration.
- Process and push toxins and other waste material out of our brains and bodies.
- Keep our abilities to create, remember, make decisions, or problem-solve sharp.
- Improve our bodies’ ability to fight the common cold and flu.
- Reduce the risk of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation and strokes.
Amazingly, the scientific community didn’t know why we needed sleep until about 25 years ago. In the Bible, one of many things sleep is a metaphor for is death (Daniel 12:12, Matthew 27:52, John 11, Acts 7:60, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15). In death, as in sleep, we are alive, conscious though not always responsive, and will return to awareness upon wakening. The condition we go to sleep in often determines the condition we wake up in.
How can we condition ourselves to get enough of the best sleep possible? Here are a dozen tips to help you start practicing good sleep hygiene:
- Reduce the amount of caffeine you consume earlier in the day. My caffeine curfew is 6 p.m.
- Exercise in the morning and get sun exposure late in the afternoon to help set your sleep cycle.
- Avoid naps if you can.
- Establish a regular sleep routine to prompt your brain and body that it’s time to go to sleep. For example, take a hot bath with soothing aromas like lavender, put on your pajamas, drink camomile tea and read your Bible on the couch, and go to bed.
- Try to get to bed and wake up about the same time every day.
- Keep your bedroom dark (I have blackout curtains), quiet and at a comfortable temperature, which is generally cooler; about 60-70 degrees F. Our bodies usually get sleepy sooner with a drop in body temperature.
- If you have noisy neighbors, try using a “white noise” machine, instrumental music (e.g., light jazz or classical, not instrumental versions of music with lyrics, or you’ll start thinking about the words), or soothing sounds from nature. And praying for your neighbors! Don’t be intimidated to call the police if they keep you (and probably other neighbors) up past a reasonable time.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol right before bedtime; alcohol, especially, tends to interfere with sleep.
- Turn your electric clock and devices face down or turn the devices off. Get off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Lights tend to hamper your body’s production of natural melatonin, a hormone God designed to help set your sleep cycle.
- Don’t use your bed for anything but sleep (after you get married, you can add sex). Don’t use your bed to read, pay bills, talk on the phone, watch TV, etc. That keeps your brain alert.
- Keep a pad of paper by your bed to jot down thoughts, questions, concerns and things to do tomorrow so you can get back to sleep if you wake up with these on your mind.
- If you find yourself lying awake more than 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and pray, read your Bible (the devil may make sure you fall asleep more quickly if you start doing this all the time, ha ha), or do something non-energetic, non-device-using, and boring (read the manual for your DVD recorder again?).
May the Lord bless your efforts to establish plenty of good sleep.
Helen Sanders, Why is Sleep so Important? HealthAmbition.com.
Griffin, R. Morgan. 9 Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep. Article for WebMD 12/27/2011. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/9-reasons-to-sleep-more#1
Livescience.com. How Much Sleep Do US Adults Get? List of States. 02/18/2016. https://www.livescience.com/53769-how-much-sleep-adults-get-by-state.html
Pietrangelo, Ann, & Watson, Stephanie. The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body. Article for Healthline.com 6/7/2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body
Welsh, Jennifer. Scientists Have Finally Found the First Real Reason We Need to Sleep. Article for Business Insider 10/17/2013. https://www.businessinsider.com/the-first-real-reason-we-need-to-sleep-2013-10