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Perchance to Sleep

I am dreading nights again. At 2 a.m. as I lie awake in submission to my spouse’s snoring, I recall an earlier time in my life. I have a flashback to nights at home in my adolescence when I couldn’t sleep.

When I was about 13 or 14, I would go to bed at my parent-approved regular time–yet couldn’t find that snoozy, woozy zone to sleep. I would jealously listen to the quietness of the rest of the house and start counting down the remaining hours until I had to be functional. The aloneness of it all frightened me. So I often quietly approached my parents’ bedroom to register my wakefulness. Several approaches were tried to alleviate my distress (and stop waking my parents), until somehow the problem sufficiently resolved or I went to college. The early years may have been the result of some hormone disturbance and convoluted adolescent sleep cycle. Much later followed the years of learning to leave part of my brain aware of dog barks and baby/toddler voices. I may have kept that antennae up too long!

My marital partner has no problems going to sleep. Within several minutes of head hitting the pillow, he is usually into dreamland. Over the years, his brand of sleep sound effects has increased in volume and frequency. Even with some diminished hearing, and the longtime use of a sound machine, I often struggle to slip into sleep. I know that sometimes I have consumed the wrong combination of food or desserts. (No chocolate or spicy food.) I am sensitive to the kinds of visual entertainment I have watched in the hours leading up to bedtime. (No complicated plot lines.) Lengthy evening emotional phone calls can be the ugly instigators of wakefulness. (Call family earlier in the day.) Days without exercise creates “cha-cha” legs. There are clues for the nocturnal puzzle.

On this side of heavenly perfection, we know that sleep was designed for processing and restoration of body, mind and memories. New research is showing the importance of sleep for “cleaning” the brain of nasty proteins and toxins that lead to dementia and illness.* So I get it and I want it! There’s nothing like the lusciousness of settling into the best pillow and mattress and waking refreshed. On a spiritual level, each night and day cycle offers us a reminder of the need for dying to self so that we can be resurrected to new life. It takes trust to rest in Jesus each night and expect to arise for another day. Evidently, when we get to be in his presence for eternity we won’t need night for perfect bodies or spiritual lessons (Revelation 22:5).

I want to appreciate nights again. I enjoy a full moon and sparkling stars as much as anyone. And I can learn and observe the best in sleep hygiene. However, this morning I awoke from my two-hour nap with an assertiveness that spoke to my spouse. Enough of self sacrifice. The need for sleep is more than comfort for all involved. It’s a matter of health and sanity to pursue better outcomes. Regardless of whether he ends up sleeping in the spare room.

*Nedergaard, Maiken and Steven A. Goldman, “Brain Drain,” Scientific American, March 2016, pgs 44-49.

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

1. What has been your sleep experience?

2. How might you approach a family member who is creating sleep issues for others?

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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