Amy Simpson is the author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission and Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (both InterVarsity Press). She posted this a few days ago at her eponymous blog where it appeared with a much longer introduction documenting “The Sleep Business.” You’re encouraged to read it all by clicking the link below.
…Sleep is big business partly because we see it as disconnected from waking life. Most of us consider it a forced interruption in our otherwise productive lives. When we’re sleepy, it’s a tempting luxury we dare not indulge in until our work is done. Yet ironically, our sleep-abstinence undermines our work. And more ironically, our failure to value sleep as a critical part of what we do makes it elusive, and therefore even more valuable.
Perhaps the supposed separation between sleeping and waking hours is somewhat false. After all, both are critical parts of a whole life. Would we offer God the work we do when we’re awake and wall off our time in sleep as unworthy of his notice? Perhaps sleep is not simply a necessary activity that fuels the work God put us on earth to do. Perhaps it is part of the work God put us here to do.
God created us not only with a need for sleep, but with an incredible capacity for it—most of us need to spend at least one-third of our life in sleep. Is all this sleep really a waste? a luxury we can’t afford? a haven for the lazy? Or is it an expression of our humanity, an act of submission to God, a celebration of his creation? Might it be valuable in its own right?
The Bible frequently portrays sleep as a reflection of our relationship with God. Sleep is…
An act of trust:
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:8).
An act of humility:
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2).
A celebration of God’s blessing:
“You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security” (Proverbs 3:24-26).
A position of receptivity:
“After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,’ the angel said” (Matthew 2:13).
A point of distinction between us and God:
“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121:3-4).
Sleep is not a state of non-being. It’s critical–we literally can’t live without it–and active. In sleep, we rest. We relax our muscles in forced paralysis. We dream and generate ideas. We solidify and retain memories. Our bodies restore and heal themselves and, among the young, grow. We reinforce our immunity. We give up control. We place ourselves in the hands of God for our safety and preservation. And we may do much more that we don’t yet know about–sleep is still a mysterious frontier of science.
While we may not fully understand our need for it, we can’t dismiss sleep. Instead we should view it differently. It’s a faithful act in a rhythmic life, honoring to our Creator, and part of what we were put on this planet to do. Sleep matters because, done well, it’s part of a whole life devoted to the one who never sleeps.