The Gift of Sleep image

The Gift of Sleep


I love sleep! Apparently, today is World Sleep Day, so it seems an appropriate opportunity to celebrate the gift of sleep.

The World Sleep Society, organisers of World Sleep Day, describe the day as ‘a celebration of sleep’ – which has inevitably led to tweets about  sleeping animals, sleeping positions, some nice sleep-related quotes, and this pleasingly perfect photo - but it’s also ‘a call to action on important sleep issues’. And our devaluing of sleep really is an issue.

There’s a widespread belief in the modern world that sleep is a frustrating intrusion into each day which cuts down the amount of time we have to do the really important things. Asked in an interview about how he likes to relax, actor James Franco replied ‘I don’t even like to sleep—I feel as if there’s too much to do’, and the ever-competitive POTUS once said, ‘How does somebody that’s sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that’s sleeping three or four?’ We admire those who (out of choice) sleep for only four or five hours a night and those who get up before dawn every day to go to the gym. As Christians, we praise heroes of the faith in past generations who got up very early to pray (forgetting that they probably went to bed much earlier than we do too!)

But sleep is not a frustrating intrusion. It’s a wonderful, necessary gift. In his fascinating book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker offers this advertisement for the power of sleep:

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?’

These facts, he says, are supported by over 17,000 scientific reports, some of which he goes on to talk about. The advertisment would not be inaccurate. Sleep is a gift from God designed to strengthen, repair, protect and bless us. It’s far from a frustrating intrusion into our days.

But sleep is also a gift in what it teaches us. For many in the modern world, we don’t like sleep because it stops us doing things which we feel are important, important either to ensure our well-being (like earning more money to have more stuff) or our identity (like earning more money to have more stuff!) Basically, it undermines our god-complex which tells us that we have to ensure our own wellbeing and we have to create our own identity.

But sleep is designed to demonstrate that we are not God, and that that is a very good thing. We can sleep in peace, because we know he never will:

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:3-4).

As Christians, we have an opportunity to show people a better way. We can value sleep, not as a frustrating intrusion which puts at risk our wellbeing and our identity, but as a beautiful gift which reminds us that our wellbeing and identity are already guaranteed. We can sleep in peace because he never will.

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