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To Sleep - Perchance To Dream

Thomas Elva Edison considered sleep a waste of time and took drastic measures to ensure he would be jolted awake and never allowed more than short naps. Napoleon Bonaparte was reported as needing only quarter-hour naps to return to a state of full alertness. Salvador Dali, the surrealist Spanish painter, worked on short bursts of sleep, claiming that much of his artistic inspiration came from those naps. Perhaps the rather macabre nature of his art substantiates his claim.

There is some scientific evidence that the brain engages in its most creative phase during the semi-lucid state that precedes deep sleep; however, the bulk of research points to the fact that the human brain needs seven to nine hours of sleep for each twenty-four-hour period if it is to be fully replenished. There is much evidence to demonstrate that the sleep deprivation methods used by Edison and others will produce serious long-term concerns, both physically and mentally.

It was once postulated that the brain was resting during sleep. However, it is now known that the brain is hard at work, sorting the information gathered during the day into appropriate retrievable files. It is further understood that the degree of stress and anxiety one faces during the day directly affects the ability of the brain to carry out its tasks placidly during the hours of sleep.

Eric Suni, in his research called 'Sleep Statistics' (2023) –, states that at least one-third of American adults are severely sleep deprived. More than half of those surveyed indicated that stress and anxiety were the main causes of poor sleep.

Our frenzied lifestyles push us to run on sugar, caffeine and hi-octane stress during the day. To compensate, we pour millions of dollars annually into highly advertised and relatively ineffective sleep aids. While this bolsters the market economy, it also devastates our overall well-being and health.

Solomon recognizes that the direct bearing of our daily activity on the quality of our sleep gives us the formula to follow.

"My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands: for the length of days and long life and peace they will add to you . . . let them not depart from your eyes, keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then, you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. Yes, you will lie down, and your sleep will be sweet." (Proverbs 3)

The corollary of Solomon's words is true as well. If our daily life is filled with angst and duplicity, our sleep will be neither refreshing nor sweet. The brain will be carrying out its tasks under that same stress.

Dealing well with life in waking hours determines the degree of healthy sleep one experiences during the night and ultimately regulates one's general health.

What are some steps we must take to ensure that our brains are functioning at night as the Creator has designed and intended?

Reconcile With The Past

The past can be like a heavy weight we drag along behind us. We drag it right into bed at night, and it affects the sweetness of our sleep. Can we dare to believe what God says about our past? It is gone, buried in the sea of His forgetfulness. There are several things that can and will rob us of sweet sleep if we choose not to deal with them.

  1. Anger and resentment. Each of us has had hard knocks in life that can leave us both angry and resentful. If we choose to give those sentiments a safe haven in our hearts, we will never know the sweetness of sleep that Solomon is recommending.

  2. Duplicity and pretense. We are often disappointed in the contradiction between our speech and our behaviour. The natural tendency is to conceal our weaknesses and cover up our shortcomings. When we choose to live that way, we eventually feel like imposters. To recognize and admit we are all broken and need God's constant grace exposes pretense and robs it of its power to control us.

  3. Unforgiveness. The most acidic and erosive emotion in our lives is unforgiveness. It kills the body by poisoning the soul. There will be no sweetness of sleep as long as we refuse to truly forgive the trespasses of others as we have been forgiven ours.

  4. Negative self-talk. When we have spent the daylight hours belittling ourselves with our words, it should not surprise us that our sleep is disturbed as well. It is an affront to the Creator when we de-value ourselves and contradict the value He attributes to us. There is a vast difference between self-appreciation, which accepts God's appraisal of our life, and pride, which flaunts our own achievements before others. The sweetness of our sleep will be affected by the nature of our self-talk.

Surrender The Present

We live in a chaotic present. All around us, there is dysfunction, confusion and darkness. Furthermore, we live life at a pace never before known to mankind. All of this causes an unsettled apprehension. When added to the constant bombardment of bad news on every front, we can become discouraged and feel at an emotional loss. It is a topsy-turvy world that breeds discontent and fear. I am pushed back again and again to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and His counsel to live in the provisions and blessings of the moment, recognizing God's certain promise to protect and provide. If my sleep is to be sweet, I must learn to rest during my waking hours in the Father's promise to provide all my needs, physical, emotional and spiritual, in the present moment. Pausing often during the day to give thanks to God for His blessings helps to refocus my faith and settle my heart. Remember that it is the accumulated data of the day that determines the function of my brain in the night.

Trust The Master Plan For The Future

My wife and I went on a cruise in the Caribbean. Part of the time, the weather and water were beautiful and calm. On other days, the weather was stormy, and the waves were high. However, I was confident that Holland America Cruise Lines employed top-notch captains on their ships. As a result, I spent no time at all worried about the ability of the commander to take me to my destination safely. I trusted the hands that were at the helm. I slept deeply and confidently on that ship, and my sleep was sweet. I trusted the captain!

As I write this blog, war is raging in the Middle East, threatening to spread through the region. The superpowers are sabre rattling, threatening each other with censure and nuclear intervention. Cultural trauma is tearing apart the moral fabric of Western civilization. Unscrupulous partisan power politics is jeopardizing the stability of the world's economy and food supply. The waves are high – the ship seems to be listing. I must determine where my faith lies.

Is God still steering the ship? Does He have the capability to bring it into a safe harbour? My answer to that question, in the face of all the great global trauma, will determine my level of confidence, thought processes and behaviour during the day and dictate the quality of my sleep at night.

As David Jeremiah writes, "Sweet sleep comes from a sweet life, a life of safety and surefooted walking without stumbling and failing morally and spiritually." (In Turning Points – He is our Rest – August 2023)

Examine the three tenses of your life. Have you dealt effectively with the past? Are you living in complete confidence in God's sufficiency for the present? Do you have absolute confidence that God has the future (including yours) in complete control?

If so, 'good night' and 'sweet dreams.'

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