In my life, work and ministry, I can unequivocally say that I’ve never had any individual lament to me, “I really dislike getting a good night’s sleep.”
It’s amazing to look at what health professionals have determined about what a proper night’s sleep, or lack thereof, can mean to us as humans. In fact, the website produced a headline “Ten Reasons Why Sleep is Important.”
Among the positive products of proper sleep listed by the experts are that good sleepers tend to consume fewer calories, they improve concentration and productivity, maximize athletic performance, that proper sleep affects glucose metabolism, improves immune function to assist in fighting off some illnesses, and can affect emotional and social interactions.
Conversely, poor sleep habits or lack of sleep has its own set of pitfalls, which may include inflammation and has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes.
I then read of a study that sought to further offer empirical data and results that was carried out in the military.
Patti Horoho is a retired US Army Lieutenant General who served as general of the US Army Medical Command. Her job was to oversee the health of army personnel and their families — about 4 million people worldwide.
During her command, she introduced a pilot program that she called The Performance Triad, which focused on maximizing diet, fitness and sleep.
Step One was to begin improving each soldier’s sleeping habits. She made this observation: “If you have six hours of sleep or less for six days in a row, your cognitive performance is the same as .08 intoxication. We’ve never let a soldier in our formation intoxicated. Why would we allow soldiers to have cognitive impairment?”
She also notes that people who sleep less tend to eat more — on average 500 more calories per day than well-rested people.
Horoho says the key to top-level productivity begins with a good night’s sleep.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers,” made a similar observation. In his research he noted that, while average Americans get slightly less than seven hours of sleep each night, top performers get closer to 8.5 hours of sleep each night.
Horoho also says that we should look at sleep as ammunition for the brain.
“You would never go into battle without enough bullets. You need to go into battle with your brain having enough sleep, so that you can make the right decisions, because lives depend on it.”
In my younger days, I endured a fair share of all-nighters, whether they be lock-ins with church youth groups, or cramming for a big exam, and there is no doubt that the lack of sleep produced a noticeable effect.
One of my favorite accounts of the Old Testament occurs when the prophet Elijah stands up for God to the prophets of Baal.
Amazingly enough the Scriptures also tell of Elijah’s encounter with Jezebel that sent him off running to the desert. God’s Word then shares to us how sleep was exactly what the prophet Elijah needed in order to get his head on straight in the aftermath of that encounter with Jezebel, when we read “Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.” (1 Kings 19:5).
King David in Psalm 4:8 notes how he is able to find sleep amid life’s trials because of his confidence that the Lord alone made him “dwell in safety.”
This week, if you’ve found it difficult to make sense of things of this world and it’s keeping you awake at night, remember that sometimes (as in every night of the week) the best thing you can do for yourself, for your family, and for your ministry is finding spiritual and physical rest in the Lord. Then, when it’s time to turn in, we can turn out the lights, turn off the tube and catch some meaningful zzzzzs.