It was a busy weekend. Saturday I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island to spend the day with friends and Sunday Tom and I drove out to Camano Island after church to see his son West and then drove up to Bellingham to speak at a church. We arrived home after 9pm. Not late, but as our dog Bonnie had kept us up most of the previous night, we were really flagging and dragging by the time we got into bed. And yesterday I was not much better. As you can imagine, my head felt as though it was stuffed with cotton wool. Everything I did took twice the time I intended and I felt as though my brain had ceased functioning.
The reason I am writing this article today is not because I want your sympathy, but because for many of us sleeplessness is more a function of our lifestyle than anything else. And the problem is getting worse. A couple of days ago I read this interesting article Reading On A Screen Before Going to Bed May be Killing You.
You’ve heard that using screens before bedtime can mess with your sleep, but new research suggests the problem is even more serious.
Reading from an iPad before bed not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also impacts how sleepy and alert you are the next day, according to new research fromBrigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, said the findings could impact anyone who uses an eReader, laptop, smartphone, or certain TVs before bed. Read the entire article
This was not good news for me because I love to read before I go to bed and reading on my tablet means I don’t disturb my husband.
Sleep is one of the essential rhythms of life. Many of us hate the 8 hours we need to spend in bed each day but without adequate sleep we soon cease to function properly, without any sleep, a condition that is fortunately fairly rare, we will soon die. There is even evidence that taking a siesta in the afternoon boosts our memory and cognitive functioning. There are many causes for sleeplessness from anxiety and depression to serious physical illness. Helpguide.org has some great suggestions for those who struggle regularly with insomnia, including some simple ways to diagnose what may be the underlying cause of the problem.
Lack of time outside in the sunlight, lack of time in the dark at night, lack of exercise, stress and the inability to relax our minds before we go to bed can all contribute to lack of sleep. I am concerned too that many of us reach for over the counter or prescription medicines before we even consider how the practices of our faith can help alleviate our symptoms.
So here are some thoughts on how faith practices can help us relax and enter into that sleep which is indeed a gift from God.
- In her article Christian Meditation – God’s Gift for Healthy Sleep Deborah Kukal talks about the important part that meditation on psalms can play in help us to relax and sleep. So when you’re struggling in the night, remember David’s words, and let God’s peaceful gift of meditation fill your soul with comfort, and your body with rest. read more
There are other Christian practices that can help too.
- Lectio divina and a reflective reading of scripture before we go to bed is a wonderful way to relax and go to sleep in the presence of God. Meditation and yoga are other practices that many people.
- The prayer of examen which helps us to review the day in the presence of God, encouraging us to leave the cares and worries we have encountered in God’s hands, is a wonderful way to end our waking hours. I have done this sporadically over the years and realize I need to reinstitute this practice.
- Breathing prayers which encourage us to breathe deeply and regularly can also be of great value. Evidently many of us spend most of our lives breathing too shallowly and deprive our lungs and other organs of the oxygen we need to remain healthy. More than that it can relieve anxiety, stimulate our immune system and even alleviate the symptoms of trauma. Read more. As you know I love to write breathing prayers and have found them to be wonderful tools for relaxing me.
- Centering prayers provide a way for all of us to sit in the contentment of the moment, shutting out the noise in order to focus completely on God. This is not a practice that comes easily or naturally to most of us which is probably an indication of the stress that we live under. If you don’t know much about this form of prayer I would heartily recommend Basil Pennington’s classic Centering Prayer to you.
- Prayer beads are, for many, a great stress reliever and can be a wonderful way to prepare yourself for sleep. You might like to design your own prayer to say with your beads before you go to retire for the night.