10 Reasons Why We’re Sleeping So Badly

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. 

Check out

How I Set Up My Desks: One For Sitting, One For Walking
Fascinating post from Any Naselli. And here’s an eBook on the subject by Matt Perman: How to Set Up Your Desk: A Guide to Fixing a (Surprisingly) Overlooked Productivity Problem.

When Was The Last Time You Made a Thank You Phone Call?
“Most of the time I can tell people are waiting for the catch. They’re waiting for me to move past the pleasantries and speech about gratitude and get into the real reason I’m calling–to ask for something else. But when that something else never comes, I can almost hear the relief in their voices.”

Six Ways Parenting A Difficult Child Can Strengthen Your Marriage
An encouraging brief post.

A Short Commentary on Commentaries
Kevin DeYoung has just finished preaching 60 sermons on Acts (not all on one Sunday). Here are his resulting commentary recommendations.

7 Questions For Discouraged Pastors To Ask Themselves
Paul Tautges: “If you are discouraged in ministry today, perhaps you ought to take a step back from your work and consider the questions below. Hopefully the answers to these questions will spur you to think ahead and aim at long-term results in your ministry.”

Outstanding Musical Performance By 10-year-Old Boy
This should bring happy tears to your eyes.

50 Good Reasons to Sleep Longer

In an article headlined The Arrogance of Ignoring Our Need for Sleep leading scientists have warned of the supreme arrogance of trying to do without sufficient sleep.  We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives.

Over the last few months I’ve been collecting research about the dangers of too little sleep, which I’ve summarized below. Once you’ve read that, you’ll probably want to pre-order Adrian Reynolds’ much-needed new book: And So to Bed: A Biblical View of Sleep (might be the best $6 you’ve spent this year!). Also check out 10 Reasons Why We’re Sleeping So Badly.

Physical Consequences

  • Just one week of sleeping fewer than six hours a night results in changes to more than 700 genes.
  • Just one night of sleep deprivation is linked with signs of brain tissue loss.
  • Infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when we don’t get enough sleep.
  • Sleeping fewer than seven hours a night is associated with a tripled risk of coming down with a cold.
  • Sleep loss increases hunger, portion size, and preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods, with the resulting risk of obesity.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours a night) is associated with:
    • Skin aging
    • 4 x stroke risk for middle- and older-aged people
    • 50% higher risk of colorectal cancers, and some links with other cancers too
    • High blood pressure
    • 48% higher chance of developing or dying from heart disease
    • Lower fertility rates.

Sport Consequences

More and more elite athletes are increasing sleep and even hiring sleep coaches in order to improve performance. The reasons are obvious

  • Chronic sleep loss can lead to a 30-40% reduction in glucose metabolism.
  • Sleep loss means a 11% reduction in time to exhaustion.
  • 2 days of sleep restriction can lead to 3x increase in lapses of attention and reactivity.
  • Maximum bench press drops 20 lbs after 4 days of restricted sleep.
  • Rested tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy during depth drills.
  • Sleep improves split-second decision-making ability by 4.3%.
  • Sleep extension provides swimmers a 17% improvement in reaction time off the starting block.
  • Football players drop 0.1 s off their 40-yard dash times by sleeping more.

This isn’t just a theory – consider the average sleep time of top athletes: Roger Federer: 11-12 hours per night; Usain Bolt: 8-10 h; Lebron James: 12 h; Michelle Wie: 10-12 h; Rafael Nadal: 8-9 h; Tiger Woods: 4-5 h (might explain a lot!)

Athlete Quotes

  • I think sleep is just as important as diet and exercise (Grant Hill)
  • Sleep is half my training (Jarrod Shoemaker)
  • If I don’t sleep 11-12 hours a day, it’s not right (Roger Federer)
  • A well-rested body is a healthier, more efficient, more capable one. This could be the hardest thing to accomplish on my to-do list, but it always makes a difference (Kerri Walsh).
  • Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body (Usain Bolt).

Intellectual Consequences

  • Sleep flushes dangerous proteins from your brain, improving mental health. “When you’re sleep deprived, you get a dirty brain.”
  • Sleep allows the brain to consolidate and store the day’s memories.
  • Being exhausted zaps your focus, and can render you more forgetful.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents diminishes the brain’s ability to learn new information,

Emotional Consequences

  • Sleep loss produces apathy, irritability, weepiness, impatience, anger, flattened responses.
  • Sleep loss can cause psychological damage because sleep regulates the brain’s flow of epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, chemicals closely associated with mood and behavior.
  • People with insomnia are 10x as likely to develop depression and 17x as likely to have significant anxiety.
  • The lack of sleep affects the teenage brain in similar ways to the adult brain, only more so. and can lead to emotional issues like depression and aggression.
  • In one study by researchers at Columbia University, teens who went to bed at 10 p.m. or earlier were less likely to suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts than those who regularly stayed awake well after midnight.

Societal Consequences

Getting sleep is an act of loving your neighbor by keeping the 6th commandment.

  • Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.
  • Getting six or fewer hours of sleep triples your risk of drowsy driving-related accidents.
  • Just one bad night’s sleep can affect a driver’s eye-steering coordination.
  • The Cognitive Impairment that results from being awake for 24 hours is higher than the drunk drive limit in all states.
  • According to the NHSA, falling asleep while driving is responsible for at least 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year in the United States.
  • Young people in their teens and twenties are involved in more than half of the fall-asleep crashes on the nation’s highways each year.
  • The Exxon Valdez, Challenger Space Shuttle, and Metro North Train tragedies in New York were all linked to sleep-deprivation.

Financial Consequences

  • Undermines creativity, problem-solving ability, and productivity.
  • Estimated to cost American businesses $63 billion a year.
  • The worst costs arise from the fact that sleep deprivation causes safety lapses and contributes to other health issues.
  • Other people (customers/clients) are likely to register a sleep-deprived person as lacking energy and unhealthy.
  • 32 billion dollars a year spent on meds, mattresses, candles, sleep consultants, etc.

Educational Consequence

  • 60 percent of grade school and high school children report that they are tired during the daytime and 15 percent of them admitting to falling asleep in class.
  • Sleep deprivation is such a serious disruption that lessons have to be pitched at a lower level to accommodate sleep-starved learners.
  • The United States has the highest number of sleep-deprived students, with 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds identified by their teachers as being adversely affected.
  • In literacy tests 76% of 9 and 10-year-olds were lacking sleep.
  • Children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading.

Moral Consequences

  • A lack of sleep robs the fuel for self-control from the region of the brain responsible for self-control, whereas sleep restores it.
  • Studies found that a lack of sleep led to high levels of unethical behavior.
  • In tests, there was a difference of only about 22 minutes of sleep between those who cheated and those who did not.
  • A lack of sleep leads to deviant behavior at work (like falsifying receipts), similarly because of decrements in self-control.

In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn lists sleeplessness as one of 31 methods that his captors used to break a prisoner’s will. He wrote: “Sleeplessness befogs the reason, undermines the will, and the human being ceases to be himself, to be his own ‘I,’”

Spiritual Consequences

D.A. Carson wrote:

Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one….If you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. 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 get the sleep your body need. (Scandalous, 147)

Ministry Consequences

An aside from John Piper’s 1995 lecture on Charles Spurgeon:

A personal word to you younger men. I am finishing my 15th year at Bethlehem and I just celebrated my 49th birthday. I have watched my body and my soul with some care over these years and noticed some changes. They are partly owing to changing circumstances, but much is owning to a changing constitution. One, I cannot eat as much without gaining unhelpful weight. My body does not metabolize the same way it used to.

Another is that I am emotionally less resilient when I lose sleep. There were early days when I would work without regard to sleep and feel energized and motivated. In the last seven or eight years my threshold for despondency is much lower. For me, adequate sleep is not a mater of staying healthy. It is a matter of staying in the ministry. It is irrational that my future should look bleaker when I get four or five hours sleep several nights in a row. But that is irrelevant. Those are the facts. And I must live within the limits of facts. I commend sufficient sleep to you, for the sake of your proper assessment of God and his promises.

Think you might need this book?

See also 10 Reasons Why We’re Sleeping So Badly.

Check out

Finding Joy In Clouds
“My newfound Scriptural view of clouds gave me words to describe and understand a profoundly moving moment from my past when God himself came to me in the clouds. It was weeks after the unexpected death of our baby, Paul.”

4 Ways To Minister To Older Saints
John Pond: “If you desire a revival of gospel-centered ministry, then you’ll need to learn from and engage the the older generation. Consider these four ways to minister to older saints.”

Where to Find Real Simplicity
Scott Redd looks at the growing fascination with “the simple life” and points us to the real source of that simplicity.

It’s Just A LIttle While
Worth reading through just to experience the power of the last line. I won’t spoil it for you.

Warren Buffett Has Given $1.2 Billion To Abortion Groups
“If you give $1,000 to a ballot initiative to defend traditional marriage, that’s controversial. If you give $1.25 billion to promote abortion, journalists, who are wildly pro-abortion, don’t dare see any controversy.”

L’Damian Washington Film
I know virtually nothing about American Football, but I was deeply touched by this story of one man triumphing over adversity for the sake of his brothers.

How Many Children Should I Have?

I know, I know, I’m going where many have perished.


I want to highlight two simple biblical principles that I think could help Christians have more confidence that they are pleasing God in this vital area of life. And of course, this is all under the sovereignty of God who alone can give life.

Principle 1: Multiply
God commanded us to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28).

Principle 2: Manage
God commanded us to subdue the earth and have dominion over everything in it (Gen. 1:28).

We have to hold both of these commands together and work out how to obey both of them to the maximum.

Multiply Only
Some Christians only seem to hear the first command – “multiply” – and just multiply and multiply until there is nothing left to multiply.

However, they sometimes ignore the second command which is to wisely manage what you have multiplied. Sometimes the result is mothers that are physically, mentally, and emotionally shattered; children that are neglected and disorderly; and fathers that stay away from home, then stray from the home.

There’s plenty multiplying going on but very little managing, ordering, having dominion. One command is obeyed at the expense of another. The quiver is full but the arrows are heading in all the wrong directions.

Manage Only
A far more common problem is that some Christians only hear the second command, and are so focused on maintaining order and control that they minimize the multiplying to ensure their own comfort and prosperity. Again, they obey one command at the expense of another.

Putting both principles together, the balanced and biblical way of looking at it is multiply to the maximum of what you can manage with God’s help.

This will look different according to parents’ physical, emotional, intellectual, social and financial resources.

We therefore shouldn’t judge people who choose a different path to us. They may have been blessed with the resources and strength to multiply and manage a far greater number than we ever will. I must say I’ve seen a number of beautiful large families who have both principles working really well.

But neither should we judge people who don’t seem to have multiplied much. There may be many good reasons for this which we are not privy to. They answer to God not us.

Having settled that, the only question that remains are the small matters of how to minimize or maximize the multiplying…

UPDATE: I’ve closed the comments now because while the earlier comments were useful contributions, we’ve started veering into unprofitable territory in content and tone. Thanks especially to R.C. Jr. for his thought-provoking, challenging, and constructive comments and engagement. Much to think and pray about.

Check out

Students Don’t Waste Your Summer
Encouragement and challenges for graduates.

A Simple Habit To Set The Tone For Your Day
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”

Common Problems In Modern Preaching
10 problems in non-Reformed preaching and 10 problems in Reformed preaching. Hits the target.

When You Fail To Distinguish Second And Third Use Of The Law
RTS President Michael Kruger responds to Tullian Tchividjian.

Books At A Glance
Brief interview about Jesus on Every Page. Also Have a look at the innovative Books At A Glance service and pricing.

Awakening: New Zealand Timelapse
Reminded me that the new heavens and the new earth are going to be like Scotland.

AWAKENING | NEW ZEALAND 4K from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.