A little sleep, a little slumber… Ahhh! Sounds pretty good, right? Well, actually those words come as a warning in the book of Proverbs, “How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:9-11) In other words—“Get up and get to work, you lazy-bones!” Sleep is a good thing, and a gift from God to us for our health and welfare, but when we sleep too much, to the detriment of what we ought to be doing, the Lord tells us there are better ways to use our time!
There are some people, however, who would groan, “A little sleep! If only I could get a little sleep, a little slumber!” We’ve probably all been there at one time or another—those sleepless nights when we toss and turn, or check the clock every fifteen minutes through the night, dreading the sound of the alarm, and yet afraid we will miss it. We get up finally and drag ourselves through a long, long day, wishing we could just go back to bed—and hoping our insomnia doesn’t happen again!
Now imagine that it does—night after night after night. More than 30% of the population in the US suffers from insomnia. Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 experience chronic sleeplessness, and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia.
So what brings this topic to mind? I have been praying for my sweet little granddaughter Hannah this week. She is only eleven and she has been struggling with insomnia in recent months, and it seems to be getting worse. Bless her heart—she struggles to get to sleep, and when she finally does, she wakes up an hour or two later and then lies awake for hours through the night. The struggle to sleep is making her anxious. She is tired throughout the day, and sometimes a little cranky, which is not like our sunny little girl. And then she worries that she won’t be able to sleep the next night. It has become a vicious cycle.
Of course, her mom and dad are searching for solutions. In her research on the subject, Julie discovered that insomnia in preteen and teen girls is surprisingly common. Nearly 17% of adolescent girls between the ages of 13 to 16 suffer from chronic or frequently recurring insomnia, beginning at an average age of 11—Hannah’s age. Girls have a 50% higher risk than boys, with puberty appearing to be a major factor in its occurrence.
They are trying natural remedies for now—chamomile tea and other natural ingredients—and avoiding caffeine, sugar and activities that might be too much stimulation before bed. At her age, they want to stay away from sleeping pills or other medication, if possible. We are praying this problem will be short-lived. In some girls it lasts only weeks or months; in others it can last years—or a lifetime. Poor sweet Hannah. I pray she will get some sleep.
Hannah’s problem seems to stem from a change in hormones. But what causes us our sleepless nights? Sometimes it is a physical issue—pain or discomfort from some ailment; a hormonal imbalance as in Hannah’s case; less than ideal surroundings, etc. Many times, however, there are other things that keep us up at night.
Have you ever laid awake, hearing every little creak and groan of the house, every little thing that went bump in the night? Bob travels for his work, so I am home alone a lot. Most of the time I am just fine with that, but I must admit there have been times when I have propped pans against the door, or hung jingle bells on the door knob because I was nervous that someone would try to break in while I was sleeping. Jesus has a cure for that: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Proverbs 3:24 says that when we trust in Him, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”
Just as Jesus has a cure for our fears, He has a remedy for those worries that have us tossing and turning at night as well. When it is a worry about financial matters He reminds us to “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7) He has provided in the past; He will do so again. When we are anxious over some matter, He says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a) His answer will come. When we are burdened with care He tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29)
When we are struggling with depression or grief, He sends comfort and restoration in many forms, and one of those is sleep. He wants us to rest in Him and sleep. Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.”
Sometimes we work so hard or are so busy that we cannot seem to find the time to sleep. Jesus tells us to “come aside and rest a while!” Mark 6:30, 31 recounts just such a situation: “Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He wants us to look to him for all that we need, including the cure for our weariness. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:2) We can trust Him to take care of it all while we sleep. He never sleeps or slumbers! (Psalm 121:4) So good night—and sweet dreams! Trust in Him.