How Well Are You Sleeping?

I find it almost universally true that the quality of one’s sleep is a direct […]

Todd Brewer / 6.23.10

I find it almost universally true that the quality of one’s sleep is a direct reflection of one’s present state of mind. When I have a deadline looming, I always have trouble falling asleep and I unconsciously have a desire to watch awful late night talk shows (yes, even Jimmy Fallon). When I am upset or fearful about something, my dreams arrest my attention for what seems like an eternity. Though we may try to blame my lack of sleep on everything we can (the pillow, the spouse, the weather, pets, the mattress, etc.), the truth is that our quality of sleep is a barometer of our internal life. The accumulated sins and anxieties of the day are all paid for at night in restless sleep.

I find sleep to be a seamless analogy for what it means to be justified by faith. We can try to be justified by works and attempt to will ourselves to sleep. Surely more exercise is the answer to poor sleep? However this widespread believe is, it is entirely untrue! A recent study highlighted in the NY times found no correlation between activity level and quality of sleep. “Wearing yourself out physically is not the same as being sleepy. The two are easily mistaken, but they seem to affect various bodily systems at the same time in different ways. Hard, long workouts or severe over-training may be just as likely, in fact, to lead to wakefulness and sleep problems than to better sleep.” Even the Bible agrees: “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 127:2). We may buy that latest and greatest space-age mattress, but the sleep we need lays always beyond out reach.

To be justified by faith is to have restful sleep. It is the epitome of the passive life before God. As Arcade Fire says “Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is.” Sleep cannot be willed or forced, but is found by “giving in” and the release of control. It is a trust that the troubles of the day and worries of the future will be taken care of. To restfully fall asleep is to be released from those lists of things that consume and captivate me. I think this is a small picture of what Jesus means when he says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

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4 responses to “How Well Are You Sleeping?”

  1. Wenatchee the Hatchet says:

    The misconception that if you just exercise enough you'll get quality sleep doesn't hold true if you have a compouned sleeping disorder (like sleep apnea and insomnia that have a synergistic relationship). My experience was that my sleeping disorder was actually at its worst when I was doing the MOST exercise I've ever done in my life. It would take hours to fall asleep on a nightly basis and then I'd wake up every half hour on the half hour. If your body, inexplicably, has a windpipe that partly collapses when you're in a prone position then it doesn't matter if you exercise before sleep because your body will keep you from sleep to make sure you don't die of asphyxiation. Fortunately after thirty years I got a treatment for that problem, but along the way I certainly got some useless but well-meant advice about how I could sleep better. Now I have a little device I have affectionately nicknamed the Darth Vader machine.

  2. Todd says:

    WTH- you're right that I'm not referring to a physical sleep disorder like sleep apnea, which involuntarily wakes you up! I can't imagine what that must have been like. Like the study I refer to, I'm speaking much more broadly.

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