If there are so many good reasons to sleep longer, why don’t we do it? Here are ten possible reasons.
1. Ignorance: If you want to plead this, don’t read yesterday’s post. If you’ve read it, sorry, you now have no excuse. Most of us just don’t know or understand the deep and wide impact of sleeplessness upon us and others. If our schools substituted sleepology for algebra, we’d have a lot more healthy and much brighter kids.
2. Indiscipline: Some of us do know, but still don’t do anything with that knowledge. We may not know all the science, but we see and feel the impact of sleeplessness upon us, yet still refuse to change. We lack the willpower to make the necessary adjustments to our schedule and lifestyle.
3. Irregularity: Our bodies thrive on rhythm and routine. Like all clocks, our body clocks like to be primed and set regularly. When our bodies know what’s coming next, they get into a pattern of injecting the right chemicals into our systems for work, for rest, for exercise, etc. If we are chopping and changing that all the time, our body chemistry goes haywire. That’s a huge challenge of course for variable shift workers; they’re really up against it and really have to work at this twice as hard to do half as well. In other words, don’t just give up on building rhythm into life, but do all that you can to build as much regularity as you can, especially in pre-bedtime routines.
4. Teenagers: When you’ve got teenagers crashing, banging, coughing, TALKING around the house till all hours, it doesn’t exactly motivate you to get to bed early, if you simply have to lie there fizzing while listening to the monsters in the basement. Maybe we can throw in the uncooperative wife or husband here too. Just as with money management, unless our wife or husband is on board and committed to adjusting bed-times, etc., there’s hardly any point in even trying. It will just lead to more frustration and annoyance.
5. Screens: The last thing many of us do at night is check our email/Facebook/Twitter, etc. Yet research has shown that the effect is similar to looking at the sun behind the clouds at midday! What message is our brain receiving when we do that just before trying to sleep? “Up and at ‘em, brain. It’s time to work (or play)!” Similar to the screens problem, when we stimulate our brains (and body chemistry) with films, TV news, computer games, Facebook, etc., even an hour or two before bed-time we’re asking for delayed and disturbed sleep. And we’ll get it.
6. Caffeine and alcohol: Both are stimulants and not only prevent sleep but reduce its quality. Caffeine’s half-life is 5-7 hours, meaning it takes that amount of time for half of it to leave our system. And remember, many soft-drinks contain caffeine too.
7. Exercising too late: I learned this the night before my wedding when I decided that the best way to sleep that anxious night was to go for a run along a Scottish beach at 10pm. Eight hours later, I was still wide-eyed but far from bushy-tailed. Of course, to this point we must also add “exercising too little.” If we just sit at a desk or in the car all day and then expect to be tired enough to sleep, we can expect some protests from our bodies: “Hey, you haven’t done anything with me yet!”
8. Anxiety: Worry seems to wake up when we are trying to sleep, and it’s often more powerful than our sleepiness. Learning how to cast our cares upon God and to trust him to care for us is far better and healthier in the long-term than sleep medications.
9. Greed/Ambition/Materialism/Workaholism/Pride: Perhaps this cluster of related factors is the biggest cause of sleep deprivation in our own culture. People look at the idea of spending about a third of life asleep, losing 20 years of their lives to sleep, and think, “I can make much more money, become much more successful, if I cut back on that.” Most people who try this gain time in the short-term but lose it in the long-term as health is gradually impacted and life is shortened. We all have only so much “fuel in the tank” and we either pace it out over a longer period of time or we put the foot to the floor and crash and burn more quickly.
We may have to go with less sleep for a special season of extra work or special ministry, but if that becomes our pattern and habit, we won’t be working or ministering well or for long.
10. Disobedience: We simply reject the loving God who graciously and wisely gives us the great gift of sleep (Ps. 3:5; 127:2). “No thanks,” we say, “Don’t need it, don’t want it!” But when we reject our Creator’s gifts and instructions we effectively uncreate ourselves and begin to disintegrate – physically, morally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
How about this for a verse to put above your bed: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
I haven’t read this book yet, but together with Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy, I think And So To Bed: A Biblical View of Sleep could be the most timely book of the past year.
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