This little entry is an addendum to my previous entry here, titled, “Jesus said, ‘Stay Awake!’ Was He Anti-Sleep?” As is usually the case, this topic seemed to press people to either one extreme or the other. Some people felt like they could never sleep again, at least not with a clear conscience, while others thought I was overdoing the point, making an issue where there wasn’t one. In any case, I stand by my point: most of us sleep too much, are too unresponsive to God’s compelling Word, and are simply too convinced that we need more rest. Nevertheless, sleep is an absolutely important part of our waking life–and what’s more, God’s Word supports the point. So, in a way of tempering what I wrote previously, here are some practical guidelines for the sleep-life of a Christian.
- Don’t eat too much. If you eat too much (e.g., “Are you gonna eat that!?”), eat too late (e.g., after 7pm), or eat to heavy of a meal (e.g., a bacon cheeseburger), your body will spend the night digesting the food you ate at 9pm rather than rebuilding and preparing for the next day. Diet, exercise, and sleep are all linked, as we will see below, but for now, suffice it to say that it’s unwise to eat too much, too late, or too heavy and still expect to have a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t drink too much. I’m not a proponent of teetotalism. First, I don’t think it’s biblical. Second, I don’t think it’s necessary. However, in this case, everyone has to be convinced of what’s right for them (Romans 14:5). Yet, even if you feel comfortable consuming alcoholic beverages, you have to be aware of what it can do to your body and sleep cycle. After consuming alcohol, few people wake up feeling rested and refreshed, because research shows that it affects the quality of sleep. But this goes not only for alcohol, but caffeine, too. If you want to sleep, then don’t drink it! Manage your caffeine intake throughout the day (this is coming from a coffee drinker!) by hydrating with plenty of water and abstaining from caffeine all afternoon.
- Don’t allow stress to dictate rest. There are many factors that affect our stress levels, which in turn affect our sleep. For example, divorced/separated suffer from insomnia more than happily married couples. Trusting God with ultimate outcomes, as Paul teaches us to in Philippians 4:4-6, is a great help here. God cares, Peter teaches us, so we should let Him and not allow what we simply cannot control negatively affect us.
- Don’t look down on naps. There’s historical evidence for the daily break that frees up the brain and recharges the body. Numerous famous people napped. Napoleon Bonaparte, Leonardo De Vinci, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan–although from different times and cultures, they were all unapologetic nappers. Rather than take away from their work time, naps reinvigorated them and helped them work harder, longer. There’s even evidence for naps helping overall heart health.
- Don’t run away from exercise. Diet and exercise (as I noted in #1) have a lot to do with how well the body rests and recovers during a sleep cycle. When you exercise, hydrate (yes, that means drink more water!), and expend energy in a healthy manner, your rest tends to be deeper and more complete, which leads to a more alert mind and body the following day. This is plainly what the research shows. But try it out for yourself.
Here’s my point: as Christians, we shouldn’t just be trying to get by. I’m posing these 4 don’ts as a way for all of us to be healthier, and in turn as a way to help us serve God with more sharpness and energy. Anyone can “get by.” God wants us to live an abundant life, and that means managing our sleep/rest cycles so that we can serve Him with higher levels of strength and perseverance than we ever would as tired Christians.