Sleep: A Life Essential
By Maria Fontaine
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Have you ever been frustrated that you have to sleep so much? Have you ever wondered why God made our bodies to need so much sleep?
Sleep can seem like a luxury that we need to forgo for the sake of what we consider much more important activities. It’s so easy to cut back on this seemingly unproductive period of our lives that usurps so many priceless hours of our brief span of years here. At first glance, sleep seems to curtail our purposes, forcing us to leave things undone, help ungiven to those in need, and aspirations unfulfilled while we languish in stasis, waiting for our body to recharge.
With this kind of perception, I suppose it isn’t any wonder that we are tempted to nibble at the edges of those times of sleep in order to get a little more of this or that taken care of. But there are consequences to cheating on our sleep. Sleep is much more than a nonessential activity. It’s a fundamental part of the balance our body has to have to keep it from crashing and burning.
The value of sleep has been a big topic of discussion for many specialists for years. Sleep has a powerful, positive impact on so many aspects of our lives. A lot of research has been done on the effects of sleep. It recharges our brain, improves our memory, helps us live longer, and enhances our creativity. Those times of repose curb harmful inflammation in our bodies and improve overall performance, physically and mentally, in our work, study, and play. Sleep sharpens our attention, helps us maintain a healthy weight, lowers stress, and helps us avoid accidents. Sleep also helps alleviate depression and provides many other positive benefits.
Each person’s body is different, but sleep is definitely important for all of us. Here are a few points that can motivate us to do all we can to ensure that this essential part of life is given the priority it deserves.
- Our minds are surprisingly busy while we snooze. During sleep we can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while we were awake. (It’s a process called consolidation.)
- A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein that triggers inflammation and which is associated with heart attack risk was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night. (Inflammation is also linked to stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.)
- Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.
- A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. David Rapoport says. … “Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do. Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive.”
- Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that, people can have better control of their blood pressure,” Dr. Raymonde Jean says. “It’s also believed that sleep affects cholesterol levels, which play a significant role in heart disease.”
- A lack of sleep can contribute to depression,” Dr. Jean says. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”1
D. A. Carson wrote:
We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you [to] get the sleep your body needs.2
This quote from D. A. Carson is similar to something the Lord had previously shown me. As important as prayer is in our lives, if we don’t get proper sleep, it will be much more difficult to pray as effectively with a mind that is clouded and a body that’s weakened.
I’d like to leave you with some points received from the Lord in prophecy on this crucial topic of finding the right balance in our lives in regard to sleep.
Sleep is even good for your spirit. Those times of sleep allow a clear, unfettered connection to Me. It’s a time to rest, to process and draw conclusions, and to develop greater understanding.
In the physical, sleep allows your body time to repair damage, build up reserves of physical strength, to replenish what you need to fight disease, to rebuild muscle or other areas that have been weakened or damaged, and to clear out waste products that your body wasn’t able to process while you were awake.
Mentally, sleep provides a time to organize all that your brain has observed and experienced during the previous awake time and to assess conclusions and weigh possibilities. There’s a lot of truth in that common statement people use when they aren’t certain which decision to make: “Let me sleep on it.” Your thoughts, feelings, and input from the day all have to be sorted and organized in order to use them effectively.
It takes time and focus for your mind to make sense of and draw conclusions from all you’ve experienced and weighed against past events, and that happens most effectively when you are sleeping. Sleep helps you to make sense of what comes into your life and to develop ways to use that knowledge or those experiences effectively. If you don’t get enough sleep, your physical body and mental state start to break down because certain essential functions only take place when you are asleep.
There will be some times when emergencies will unavoidably crowd out sleep, but it’s the day-in and day-out robbery of the hours you need for sleep that can cause serious harm, not to mention that you also rob yourself of a great deal of happiness, health, motivation, and peace because you’re exhausted.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”—Psalm 4:8
“If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”—Proverbs 3:24
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”—Psalm 127:23
Originally published January 2016. Adapted and republished October 2018.
Read by Debra Lee.
1 Excerpted from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20459221,00.html.
2 http://headhearthand.org/blog/2014/05/14/arrogance-of-ignoring-our-need-of-sleep. Quote is taken from Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, by D. A. Carson (Crossway, 2010), 147.
3 Scriptures from the ESV.