If you are anything like me, you happen to love sleep, whether it be nightly rest or naps in the afternoon. In fact, if you are like me, you probably love sleep too much. Oftentimes at the end of a particularly long and tiresome day, I will crawl into bed and get excited to sleep, so excited that I can’t fall asleep right away. I’ll say that again. I get so excited to sleep, that I can’t sleep. My heart begins to race just a bit. Yes, I would say that I love sleep too much.
Another thing I’ve noticed about sleep, especially during my time in college, is that for whatever particular reason, we college students have created a badge of honor for the person who got the least amount of sleep last night. I can practically hear a typical conversation in my mind…
Student 1: “Bro, I was fallin’ asleep during that lecture…”
Student 2: “Ah…*a knowing smile breaks across his face*… how many hours did you get last night?”
Student 1: “Not much, I think like 5 or 6…”
Student 2: “That’s nothing. I went to bed at 4 and had an 8 am. I’m running on 3 and a half.”
Student 1: “Wow… *promptly presents him with the “Fewer than 4 Hours of Sleep Badge of Honor*… You’re a real inspiration and hero to us all, how did you ever do it??”
Perhaps the last bit of that conversation consisted of hyperbole, but I think my point is made. Sleep has been made into this contest where we brag about our lack of sleep much like a gym junkie comparing his max bench press to that of another. And, admittedly, I have often caught myself glowing with pride at my distinct accomplishment of 5 hours of sleep the previous night.
But why the heck do we need sleep in the first place? Have you ever wondered that? Why did God create us to need sleep? Couldn’t he have just made us to work all day, and to simply take breaks, maybe read a bit, when we are tired? My dad asked me once why I thought we were created to sleep, and I honestly couldn’t come up with a reasonable response. Of course, he had an idea in mind, and the more I think about the theology of sleep, the more I agree with him.
My dad says that God created us to need sleep, so that we would realize how fragile we truly are as humans. He says it breaks down our pride, and gives us the opportunity to rely on God, as we are at our most vulnerable when we sleep. Now, I’m sure there’s more than one reason why we were made to need sleep, but that’s the one I want to focus on.
The next couple of paragraphs are as much as an admonishment to myself as to anyone, but perhaps there are some reading this, that find themselves in a similar situation.
Have you ever stopped to consider that if we aren’t getting enough sleep, then perhaps we are being prideful, thinking that we can push our bodies to the limit without repercussions? I know I have a tendency to think of myself as this unstoppable force, capable of doing anything I set my mind to, even if that is jam-packing my schedule so much so that it begins to mess with my sleeping habits. I would dare to say that if you aren’t able (key word: able) to get at least 7-8* hours of good sleep a night, then maybe you ought to reevaluate your priorities. I also understand the opposite is true. If you are getting too much sleep, then perhaps you need to find a project to work on, a community to become involved in that will get you out of your lazy bed in the morning… (<–Especially for myself!)
Now, I get it, some people are placed in circumstances where they can’t seem to avoid losing sleep, and they are in a season where it’s just going to have to be that way. I totally get that, I’ve been there before, and I didn’t enjoy it. But if you saw someone eat only a granola bar and two bags of Cheetos each day for the course of a week, wouldn’t you say something? Wouldn’t you pull that person aside and say, “This is not healthy for you. You will not live the life you were meant to live, if you continue like this.” And so it is the same with sleep (although perhaps I’ve used hyperbole again).
We may tend to snap at people, or withhold our energy from those who need to be loved when we’re tired. I know I’ve been in situations where someone needs a listening ear, or a comforting and encouraging word, and I’ve been too tired to expend myself. We are humans after all, and there was really only one guy who actually got it right, Jesus. Time after time, Jesus, being tired from his work, continued to pour himself out. I think of the woman at the well in John 4. Even Jesus recognized his need for sleep and rest, though, especially during storms at sea.
But the funny thing is, I’m not Jesus, nor should I think I am, because, well, it’s not about me. It never was. So why should I think I am capable of running on lack of sleep night after night? Why do I, in my pride, think of myself more highly than I ought to? I need to actively humble myself by reducing the amount of things in my schedule so that I can live how I am supposed to live, how I am called to live. At least, I need to be reminded of these things constantly, because my pride prowls around always seeking to rear its ugly head.
So my encouragement, dear reader, as the New Year starts, is to find time to sleep. We were made to need sleep. Look at your schedule, and make sure that you aren’t expending yourself in a way that will create problems in your relationships and your work. Above all else, remember that this life is not about you. Remember that it’s about the one who spent every day relentlessly giving of himself despite his physical exhaustion, culminating in the moment when he gave his life so that you might have one. It’s all about Jesus and his saving work on the cross.
*Those 7-8 hours are what is suggested for adults, based off of sleepfoundation.org recommendations. Children and teens apparently need even more.