Love God by Getting More Sleep

When people would ask if I had any hobbies, I used to reply, “Just one: Napping.” But this year that turned out not to be a joke. 

Every day after work, instead of spending time with my family, I’d take a two-hour nap. Even then, I’d still be exhausted, so I’d sleep late on Saturday and take as many naps as I could on the weekend. That only made it worse. I was so constantly fatigued that my wife wanted me to see a doctor to determine whether I had an undiagnosed condition like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression.

I didn’t need a physician, though, to tell me what I had was a chronic history of poor sleep habits. When I was younger I could often get by (with sufficient doses of caffeine), but now I could no longer ignore the problem.

My poor sleep hygiene was affecting my family, my work, and my physical health. And it was also affecting me spiritually.

Sleep as Spiritual Discipline

In the Psalms, David shows that peaceful sleep is an act of trust and a sign of humility. “I lie down and sleep,” David said, “I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Ps 3:5–6). He also said, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8).  Getting a good night’s rest shows that we know God is in control and will watch over us when we are at our most vulnerable.

Sleep is a sign of trust and humility. But it’s also a spiritual discipline. As D. A. Carson says,

Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need.

Like most spiritual disciplines, to be most effective sleep requires both a change in attitude and a change in habits. Here are a few things I learned and practical steps I’ve taken to better develop the spiritual activity of rest:

Get enough sleep — There are a number of factors that affect the quality of your rest, the most important being how long you sleep each night.

The amount of sleep a person needs varies from individual to individual and changes over the course of their lifetime. But if you’re like most people, chances are you’re not getting adequate sleep to be fully rested.

Here is the average number of hours of sleep, based on age, a person needs every day:

6 to 13 years of age: 9 to 11 hours

14 to 17 years of age: 8 to 10 hours

18 to 25 years of age: 7 to 9 hours

26 to 64 years of age: 7 to 9 hours

65 and older: 7 to 8 hours

The amount of sleep you need is largely due to your genetic makeup—it’s out of your control. Statistically speaking, you’re likely not in the group who can get away with less sleep. So stop kidding yourself into thinking you can function with less and schedule the amount of sleep you really need.

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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Joe Carter