The Gift of Sleep

I am the type of person that enjoys having a little extra time in the morning so I can relax a little, drink coffee, listen to a little music and generally, just put myself in a good frame of mind before starting my day at school. I generally wake up at 6:20 and grab my iPod so I can read emails that arrived during the night.

I have Dilbert sent to my inbox every day so I can start out my day with a little humor. Yes, it is possible to laugh within a minute after waking. I also occasionally read Slice of Infinity, a daily inspirational email newsletter from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

After this, I have my personal devotions. I usually read my Bible and spend some time in prayer, usually less prayer than I planned because I sometimes doze off. I do all of this from the comfort of my bed. That might explain, to the brighter ones among you, why I sometimes fall asleep praying.

Around 6:45 I usually get out of bed and head out to the kitchen to start some good strong french roast coffee brewing. After that I take a shower to finish waking myself up. It really feels like something is missing if I don’t have a shower in the morning. It’s a good place to sing.

My best mornings are the ones when I can be done with my shower and back in my room by 7:15 so I can get dressed at a leisurely pace and listen to a decent amount of music.

I sometimes like to listen to fairly energetic, cheerful songs in the morning–songs that encourage an optimistic feel to my day. (U2’s Beautiful Day, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of or Magnificent, Switchfoot’s Awakening, Burn Out Bright, or Needle and Haystack Life). When I feel somewhat melancholy or the day outside is nice and grey, I enjoy things like Jon Foreman, Coldplay, Josh Groban, The King’s Singers, Celtic Thunder, or Andrew Peterson.

After that I usually head out of my room to enjoy one of the best things of the morning: my cup of coffee. It’s really black. Really bold. Really beautiful. At Bible school, Eddie, one of my dorm mates really freaked when he saw how much coffee I was putting into the filter. But that’s the way I like it. If you can see through the stuff, forget it.

Just the smell of it seems to wake me up and I try to catch a whiff of the lovely stuff on my way from the bathroom to my bedroom. I think I get  pretty big placebo from coffee. I say this because the first taste of it alerts and makes me feel energized. There is no way that it could actually affect me that shortly after drinking it. As Danny said, “Coffee just makes me happy,” and the placebo gives a more agreeable feeling toward the day as a whole. Charissa usually joins me for this part of the morning and we drink our coffee together.

I say all this to give you a bit of foundation for this small story. One morning last week, my morning routine was obliterated by the fact that I overslept by over an hour. I had awakened at 6:20 as usual and had my devotions. After that I just lay there for a while . . .

I think the first thing I noticed when I awoke was that it was light in my room. My room has three large windows and even with the blinds pulled down the sun light really pours in. The next thing that entered my mind was a nagging thought that it was a lot later than it should be. I rolled over and looked at my phone. Hmmm.  7:40. . .  7:40?   7:40!

I quickly jumped out of bed and started doing some quick mental calculations. Good. I had already had my devotions so I would have just enough time to make coffee and would be able take some to school with me. It took me less than five minutes to grind the beans and get the coffee going. I shot Charissa a quick text message to tell her that I had overslept and the coffee would not be ready at the usual time.

I was really hustling through the motions but I couldn’t help but notice how awake I felt. After all, I had picked up an hour more than usual and I was really feeling great. Even though my morning was not at all going like I had planned, it was very neat to notice that.

Then it occurred to me that God must have known that this was what I needed. I had not been getting enough sleep most of that week and it was really cool to think that perhaps God had decided I could use an extra hour of sleep a lot more than my highly esteemed morning routine. I had awakened just in time to get ready for school (and make coffee): no more, no less. What seemed like an interruption was actually what God had scheduled for me that day.

I managed to get to school a little after 8:00. I plopped into my chair and sat at my desk, (probably) looked fondly at my coffee cup, and once thought once again about how great I felt and how I was really looking forward to school and seeing my students. Next I realized that God probably designed me to need a little more sleep than I usually get.

I tend to mess around with inconsequential things until I suddenly realize that it’s very late. Because of this dumb habit, I often rob myself of valuable “fueling up time” every night. I think I would have a lot more energy to do the tasks God gives me every day if I would simply have the common sense and self-discipline to go to bed when I should.

The physical does affect the spiritual. I’ve heard it said that we have more ability to fight our battles when we get the rest we need. When we are physically tired and unaware, it affects our minds, which affects our ability to discern and make wise decisions.

I love to party with my friends, to laugh, and to have a good time. Some of my best memories have come at very late hours. We’ve had good discussions, gut-busting fits of laughter, strange and memorable experiences of many sorts. It makes me smile as I remember some of the original and highly unusual ways we found (and continue to find) to entertain ourselves.

I also think that when I do too much of that, and it becomes something I simply do out of habit whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s gone a little too far. I’ve already gone to bed late for no particular reason and I look back at those times with regret and realize they are only a waste of time.

Some jobs simply require more sleep than others and I found that out pretty quickly when I started teaching school. Honestly, it takes a lot less sleep to hang gutter on a house properly than it does to teach school.

My point is, I think sometimes it is somewhat justifiable to lose some sleep if you are making good memories with friends. You only have so much time in your life to do that. If it doesn’t make you perform more poorly at your job, go for it.

At the same time, God has designed us as creatures that need rest. I tend to think  of sleep as optional, and the thing that I cut out if I don’t have enough time to do the things I want or need to do. But, in reality, I need sleep to give me the energy and ability to do my job well. When I deny myself the gift of sleep, I am trying to do the rest of my God-given duties– without a key part of what makes this creature click.

A good night’s sleep is a gift and God has given everyone the same twenty-four hours in a day in which to get it. If you are not getting enough sleep, ask yourself what unnecessary things you could cut out, to quit depriving yourself of that refueling time. When we make ourselves too busy to get enough sleep, we are trying to function without something that God intended we use to give us the energy to do our jobs, relate to the people in our lives, and even fight spiritual battles. This is something I’m still working on.

What strategies do you use to discipline yourself into getting enough sleep? Feel free to comment.

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This entry was posted in God.

2 comments on “The Gift of Sleep

  1. Taz says:

    What a timely blog entry. I was just having a conversation with a friend who has a lot of trouble going to sleep and I was googling to find some support as to why God gave us sleep. Thanks for your insight, it is so important for us to look at it as a gift, not an obstacle, and sometimes for bigger reasons than we may understand. I remember once a person saying – “sleep is a waste of time” and they missed the whole point that God is in control 27/7, we don’t have to be – and as a teacher too, I am always trying to encourage my students to get “enough” sleep – not too much, not too little!
    Good stuff 🙂

  2. Taz says:

    ..and yes, I obviously should be getting more sleep myself because I meant 24/7 😛

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