I love how practical the Word of God is. Today’s reading landed me on one of those extremely practical, everyday sort of precepts:
- those days when more than one appliance breaks at a time.
- those days when both kids are misbehaving
- those days when too many bills show up at the same time
- those days when someone misunderstands our good intentions and gets it all wrong
- those days when we miss something important and there’s no going back and fixing it
- those days when someone refuses to forgive us for something we totally didn’t mean to do
- those days when we suddenly find out our name has been drug through the mud by the gossip vine and now it’s too late to clean up the mess that’s been made
And when we have such days, we often have similar nights:
- nights where we toss and turn and can’t relax
- nights where our minds are racing 90 to nothing
- nights where one disturbing dream after another leaves us anxious and unrested
- nights where we just want to move on to the next day so we can fix the thing
- nights where we cry into our pillow
- nights where we watch each hour arrive on our clock until we finally fall asleep a couple of hours before we must arise.
Lest we think this is no big deal, let me give you a few facts about insomnia:
- Insomnia affects one out of three people at least sometime in their lives. My bet is that occasional insomnia is experienced by most everyone.
- Senior adults are more likely to have problems with sleeping than anyone else.
- But even children can suffer from insomnia.
- Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men.
- Those who suffer from insomnia are more likely than average to become addicts of some sort.
- Insomnia costs US businesses over $150 billion in absenteeism and low productivity each year.
- Sleep loss affects our judgment and emotions more and more over time.
I’ve had sleepless nights and you probably have too. Most of the time if I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m worried about something. Just like our psalmist, I’m feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood, fretful, and anxious. I hate those nights. Especially the ones where I don’t seem to be able to turn my mind off. Instead it’s racing from one problem to the next, leaving a trail of unresolved frustrations in its wake. After a few hours of that type of night, my problems have grown out of proportion and loom over me bigger than ever. As is the case with the psalmist, my few dilemmas have turned into “many.”
But the psalmist sleeps.
How’s that? Because he realizes that while his problems may be big, his God is bigger. While his enemies may be against him, his God is for him. While his enemies may throw sticks and stones, His God is a shield for him. And while the problems “down here” may seem to be multiplying and growing, from up there on God’s holy hill they are put back in perspective.
The psalmist sleeps.
How’s that? He lay down and slept because he knew his God would fight his battles and he didn’t need to, at least not during the night. And when he awoke he knew that his God had sustained him and would continue to carry him the next day.
I think most insomnia is probably caused, or at least the cycle is begun, by fretfulness, anxiety, worry. Would you agree? Sometimes I’ll get in a pattern of bad nights, but most of the time that pattern began with one or two nights when I tossed and turned as I tried to hammer out some looming issue.
But I’ve found a few solutions for occasional insomnia, beginning with the principles we learn in Psalm 3:
- Read at least a short passage from the Bible before lying down to sleep. Or recite a memory verse or two you’re working on. There’s nothing better to fall asleep on than the Word of God.
- Say a short prayer. I don’t use bedtime for my “big” prayer time because I tend to fall asleep in the middle of that sort of prayer. But I do end the day by checking in with my God one more time, usually thanking Him for what He’s done and praising Him for how He showed Himself to me that day.
- Keep a notepad and pencil on your bedside table so you can jot down things you think of that you “need to be sure to do.” Those are some of the things I can lose the most sleep over if I don’t write them down so I can lay them down.
- When troubles start brewing, take them immediately to God. Don’t try to mull them over; it will only cause you to awaken more and more. Instead take them straight to Him and leave them with Him.
- Ask God to protect you in your dream life. Satan’s favorite battlefield is our minds. While he can’t read our minds, he can certainly shoot flaming arrows into them. And when we sleep, our minds are just like battlefield camps where weary soldiers have laid down to rest. Unless we prepare the camp with some sort of defense, he’ll attack us in our dreams. So that’s why, especially if I’ve been having bad or disturbing dreams as of late, I’ll ask God to protect me from Satan’s darts as I sleep. Then I’ll make an extra effort to fall asleep meditating on the Truth.
- Create and stick to a calming bedtime ritual. Mine simply includes washing my face and brushing my teeth, putting on comfortable and fresh pajamas, getting some water to have by my bed, reading for a little while and lying down to sleep. But you may also want to take a bath, listen to soothing music, drink a glass of milk or some herbal tea, or do some stretches.
- Learn some good relaxation techniques for when they’re necessary. I learned a long time ago to relax my body, one area at a time from my toes to my head. You simply lie very still in a comfortable position and concentrate on relaxing your feet first. Give it a little time until you feel like your feet are sinking into your bed. Then move up the body one area at a time from calves to knees to thighs and so on, until your entire body feels like melted butter. This isn’t some sort of New Age mumbo jumbo; it’s just relaxing the body, nothing more. It works for me.
Here’s to a good night sleep for all of us tonight! After all, we’ve got a good God.