Calling All Insomniacs: The Sleep Issue Is Now Available to Pre-Order!

The Mockingbird, Issue 21

Mockingbird / 10.5.22

Pleased to announce Issue 21 of The Mockingbird magazine is now available to pre-order.


Sleep is not a systematic process and rarely complies with our expectations for it. Some of us sleep when we don’t want to; more of us can’t sleep when we try. All of us will have both experiences at different times in life.

Today, we live under the illusion that sleep can be perfected if only we try hard enough. In fact, the obsessive pursuit of a perfect night’s sleep has become so common there’s now a term for it: “orthosomnia,” which is suffered by those who rely so heavily on sleep tracking that they psych themselves out of actually being able to sleep — they get performance anxiety.

But according to some scholars, sleep has always been messy. The historian A. Roger Ekirch has argued that prior to the 19th century, “bisphasic” sleep was common. In medieval texts, you’ll read of “two sleeps,” segments of slumber three to four hours each; between them was a period of wakefulness during which people might have read by candlelight, made love, or just stared idly into the darkness until they drifted off again.

For many, the idea is an instant relief. It means that “from the cosmic perch of history,” disjointed slumber “appears quite natural,” in Ekirch’s words. Sleep is something we need, and something we fight; it’s chaotic and it’s easy; it’s natural and it’s not.

Ultimately, sleep comes over us. It happens to us. For this reason, there may be no profounder image of faith than the passivity of a good night’s rest. As Benjamin Self writes in these pages, “When we sleep, we have no choice but to relax, to release those thoughts and feelings we’ve been grasping so tightly throughout the day and let them be sifted like wheat.” We lay utterly passive while our minds work with no effort of our will.

In more spiritual terms, while we lay immobile, God acts. While we sleep, God works. While we appear to be dead, God provides and restores life. Sleep itself is a reenactment of death, as Todd Brewer writes in his essay for this issue, and waking up is resurrection; it’s a daily necessity that evokes our foundational hope.

Illustrations by Hannah Lock.

In other essays, the pastor Greg Paul invites you to sleep through church; Missy Andrews describes the late-night reel of self-justification through the characters of Flannery O’Connor; Kathleen Norris describes how sleep (actual and spiritual) evolves over a life; Cali Yee maps the limits of self-care; Laura Huff Hileman offers a Jungian dreams analysis; and Laura Bondarchuk invites us on a mystical walk between the dreamworld and this one. We have interviews with Tish Harrison Warren, Paul Quenon, and Carolyn Chen. Sarah Condon‘s advice column continues, alongside recommended reading lists, and poetry by Susan Cowger, Stephen Sexton, Anne Le Dressay, and Joshua Edwards. To close, David Zahl delivers a “wakeup call” of a sermon. Original, full-color illustrations come to us courtesy of Hannah Lock.

From its conception we envisioned this issue as a companion to our own insomnia: something we wouldn’t mind staying up with in the wee hours. Maybe you’ll do the same: On some restless night, roll out of bed and click on a lamp. Stay up with us. Maybe you’ll even find parts of this issue boring (soothing?) enough to put you to sleep! Hey, that wouldn’t be the worst thing. After all, as John says on The Brothers Zahl podcast, Jesus himself can be “a kind of lullaby … sung to us in the dark of night, for comfort and peace … [He is] a place to go, a place to rest.”

This is the understanding of God that we’re expressing in this magazine — not a sleep tracker who measures and surveils you but a gentle love song, a warm accompanying presence in the long, cold night. More than anything, we pray that these pages would offer you rest even when you’re restless and, when the windows are dark, the hope of dawn.




Table of Contents


Sleeping in Church | Greg Paul

Now I Lay Me… | Missy Andrews

Sleep Stories | Kathleen Norris

More Rip Van Winkle Than Dr. King | Ben Self

Dreams | Laura Huff Hileman

When Self-Care Won’t Save You | Cali Yee  

Sleepers Awake! | Todd Brewer

The Misty Bridge | Laura Bondarchuk



Finding You Again | Susan Cowger

Dark Matter | Stephen Sexton

Sleep Is a Country | Anne Le Dressay

The Lamp of Sleep | Joshua Edwards

Poem Drafted While Very Tired | Chris Davidson



Praying in the Night | Tish Harrison Warren

The Nighttime Hermit | Paul Quenon  

No Rest for the Working | Carolyn Chen



Wakeup Call | David Zahl


Issue 21 will ship mid-October.

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One response to “Calling All Insomniacs: The Sleep Issue Is Now Available to Pre-Order!”

  1. […] wrote about self-care and wellness culture for the upcoming Sleep issue of The Mockingbird magazine, so I don’t want to go too much into it, but it makes sense that a […]

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