Good Sleep Can Help You Live a Better Life

by James Rudy Gray

Even though many of us live very busy and active lives, the one constant that we cannot do without is adequate sleep. It seems more and more people are sleeping less and less…and paying the price for sleep deprivation. Insomnia is basically the inability to sleep or sleeplessness. In this disturbed or abnormal pattern of sleep, four distressing paths are commonly observed: #* Resistance to falling asleep,*# #* Difficulty in staying asleep, *# #* Poor quality sleep, and *# #* Waking up too early. *# Loss of sleep affects us in several different ways. Some of the typical signs of sleep deprivation include fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate, short-term memory problems, drowsiness, abuse of stimulants (i.e., too much caffeine during the day to keep alert), intolerance of criticism, and nightmares. The Sleep in America study reported that 49 percent of adults admitted to having difficulty sleeping some of the time, and 10 percent had insomnia lasting longer than two weeks. Seventy percent of those with sleep problems do not seek the help of a professional. Psychological problems can be precipitated by chronic insomnia. While there are different types of sleep disorders and many contributors to sleeplessness, the most common cause is stress. In Esther 6:1, the king could not sleep. This was providential because God wanted the king to preserve Mordecai’s life and his sleepless night was part of the plan. Most of our sleepless nights do not usually have such a profound purpose. If we live in the growing knowledge of God and keep sound wisdom and discretion, Proverbs 3:24 says, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” We still need about eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Most of us do not get eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation can cripple our effectiveness as a Christian witness, damage our most important relationships, and put our careers in jeopardy. Psychiatrist Michael Lyles has given seven “clinical pearls” for improving our sleep habits: 1. Go to bed at the same time each night. 2. Limit the amount of time spent awake in bed. Get up if you can’t sleep and try again later. 3. Limit napping unless you are a shift worker or elderly. 4. Do not exercise or drink alcoholic beverages before bedtime. 5. Avoid looking at the clock after going to bed. 6. Make sure that the sound, lighting, and temperature of the room work for you. 7. Find what relaxes you prior to bedtime (prayer, meditation, listening to music, etc.). Sleep sounds so unspiritual. But it’s important and its absence has an impact on who we are and how we live. Unconfessed sin and the accompanying feelings of guilt can create a restlessness and anxiety in our lives and thus prevent us from achieving sound sleep. When we genuinely seek God by confessing our sins (1 John 1:9), we clear the way to relax and find comfort and peace, which conditions us for better sleep. There are many busy, good people who don’t get enough sleep. As we get older, we typically sleep a little less at night. However, in order to be the best stewards we can be and experience clear thinking, emotional steadiness, and job efficiency, we need sleep. We may honor God best not by a life of frantic activities and involvements, but by balancing our busy schedules with good sleep. A Christian can release the tension and the need to do something or to be in control to God because, after all, He is control anyway. Trust Him. It may be the start to better sleep and a better life. James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.