Friday, January 02, 2009

How Important is Sleep?

This morning I read an article by Ginny Graves at MSNBC about sleep. I'll blog about that article specifically tomorrow. First I wanted to write a little about my own experience in learning and thinking about sleep.

I've often struggled with being tired throughout the day. In college I thought a lot about it in relation to the amount of sleep I was getting. I was getting 7-8 hours a night but still would be drained throughout the day. I wondered, "Do I need more sleep than other people?" or "Should I be eating differently or exercising more to get better sleep?"

I also wondered how sleep affected my spiritual and emotional state. Struggling with some mild forms of depression in college, I began wondering how much is related to the quantity and quality of my sleep. And I remember John Piper saying once that one of the first things that he asks a spiritually depressed person is "How much sleep are you getting?" Even the Psalmist talks about how sleep is a gift from God and is counter to spending time in anxious toil.

And on the other hand, like the Psalmist says elsewhere, I want to rise before dawn in anticipation to meditate on God's Word. And from experience I know that it's wonderful thing to forsake some sleep to meet with God early in the morning, and then be more dependant on Him throughout the day for strength.

Though I haven't fully reconciled these two ideas to come up with the perfect plan for my life, I have figured out that I should live somewhere in between them. And it also seems to be slightly different for everybody. And I can agree with something John Piper wrote about in 1982 about a theology of sleep. Here's his conclusion:
"Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.

Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. "

1 comment:

  1. Thanks David. I love that section from Piper. Not so much because I lack sleep, but more because I think I am pretty much in control.