In our modern way of life, it seems that there is always more that could be done. Nothing stops anymore; sports fixtures run into Sundays, stores no longer close for that precious day of rest, and we seem to have lost that vital sense of rhythm in our lives.
And so many of us are running on empty, aren’t we? So many of us are trying to be our best selves, but are relying on a depleted energy source. We feel inadequate or that we are somehow failing at life and we want to achieve more and more, so we work harder and harder, which just leads to burnout and deeper feelings of inadequacy. We end up behaving unlike our true selves when we are sleep-deprived.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at some of the main reasons why sleep is so important for us and some of the negative consequences when we try to go without it.
Electricity and hurry
John Mark Comer points out in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, that with the invention of electricity, people started to extend their day beyond the hours of daylight. Today this has been stretched to a ridiculous and oh-so-convenient degree – with 24-hour McDonalds and grocery stores. Added to this of course, we have the never closing internet, which means that we can be online, connected and shopping. All. The. Time.
Comer speaks of the importance of ridding ourselves of hurry; “Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 2019)
When things come crashing down around us and we lose control, we are quick to blame others. We could blame it on the stress of work, family commitments, the pressures of modern-day life, but I love how John Mark Comer puts us back in the driving seat of our lives. He reminds us that it is up to us and no one else to start simplifying our lives. If we want to get off the stress train and finally start living well, then one of the first steps is to make sure we are getting adequate sleep.
Good mental health
Healthcare professionals agree that the things that we need for good mental health are water, exercise, quality time with loved ones, a healthy diet and sleep. These are essential if we value our mental health. Although we may be used to surviving on inadequate rest, it doesn’t mean it isn’t doing damage in the long run.
The Sleep Foundation states that: “persistent sleep deprivation affects daytime performance, harming decision-making, memory, focus, and creativity”. If we are serious about living well and looking after our physical and mental health, then we need to rethink our attitude to sleep.
Sleep can be seen as a weakness in a workaholic society, but we aren’t meant to be able to keep going indefinitely. Sleep is essential to brain function, body repair, memory forging and our immune system, to name but a few. The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is seven or more hours per night. We all vary slightly, but it’s best to try and get seven hours as a minimum.
What are some of the benefits of sleep?
We are able to cope with stress better. One study showed that a sleep-deprived group reacted to low stressors the same as a group with sufficient sleep reacted to high stressors, showing that lack of sleep affects our ability to cope with stress.
Our brain is able to function better. Brains like sleep and function optimally when fully charged.
We are safer. Sleep deprivation causes hundreds of car accidents each year, so the more rested we are, the safer we are.
Being well rested protects our health. Sleep deprivation is linked to many health conditions. The body heals itself during the night, which explains why many athletes sleep up to ten hours per night – all that work means they need more repair time. You can read more about this here.
Adequate sleep helps us to stay at a healthy weight.
Sleeps helps us to process memories. Sleep is essential to our emotional wellbeing.
What happens to our bodies during sleep?
There are many biological processes which happen when we are asleep. Healthline.com states that during sleep:
“The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste.
Nerve cells communicate and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function.
The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.”
So, you see, the time when we are asleep isn’t wasted, in fact, it is quite the opposite, our bodies are hard at work protecting us, re-energizing us and healing us. To imagine we could survive on less than optimal sleep would be foolish indeed, and yet so many of us think we know better than science.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) states that many health conditions are linked with a lack of sleep: “Inadequate sleep also can take a toll on psychological well-being, significantly affecting our emotional and psychosocial interpretation of events and exacerbating our stress levels.” In short, chronic lack of sleep is bad news.
What if we’re finding it hard to get to sleep?
As I mentioned before, in our modern age, where we are always switched on, we can sometimes find it hard to switch off before bed. Here are some suggestions to help us settle into sleep:
- – cut out caffeine in the afternoon
- – make sure to exercise each day
- – stick to the same routine before bed
- – avoid screens at least one hour before bed
- – don’t eat a heavy meal just before going to bed.
If you’re still struggling to get to sleep, check out Glorify App, which has soothing playlists to help you to drift off.
What does the Bible say?
Does God care about our sleep? Yes, He does! As a loving Father, He cares about your wellbeing. Read on for some Bible verses about sleep.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for He grants sleep to those He loves.” Psalm 127: 1-2
I love this verse. God is not a slave-driver. He wants rest for His children. Rest is good. Sleep is good.
“In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
When I am struggling to sleep, I repeat this verse in my mind. He doesn’t leave us alone but is a faithful Father, always there with us through every circumstance.
A prayer for sleep
To finish, here is a prayer that you can pray if you’re struggling to sleep:
“Father, help us to see the importance of getting sleep and to make room in our lives for it. Help us to structure our lives in a way that makes room for rest, so that we may live well in all that You have called us to. Amen.”
Be sure to check out this page from the US Department of Health too, which is all about the importance of sleep and how to get enough of it.