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A solution for sleep deprivation

A cute little baby in pajamas asleep in crib with face pressed against the crib rails (Credit: st-fotograf via Fotolia.com)Did you sleep for eight consecutive hours last night?  If so, you're in the distinct minority.

A Harvard study reports that 75 percent of us suffer from sleep difficulties at least a few nights every week.  Sleep deprivation causes more than 100,000 car crashes a year and has been linked to industrial disasters, memory loss, weight gain, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other diseases.

What's the solution to this epidemic? 

For generations we've been told that we need eight consecutive hours of sleep.  Now we're learning that the conventional wisdom may not be so wise.  I just found an essay in the New York Times Sunday Review which contrasts our approach to sleep with global patterns.  For instance, millions of Chinese workers nap for an hour after lunch; daytime napping is common from India to Spain.

Yesterday I witnessed this phenomenon firsthand.  I'm in Rome, where our study tour is concluding.  We had Thursday free to walk the streets of the Eternal City, visit the museums, and shop.  However, the last option was available to us only until 1:30 or so, when nearly every shop closed for the daily "siesta."  Workers went home to rest, took naps, and otherwise stopped working.  Around 3:30 or 4:00, the shops opened again and conducted business until 6 or 7.  Research indicates that naps as short as 24 minutes improve cognitive performance.  Short naps that include "deep" sleep may help our brains retain or discard information, allowing us to sleep better at night.

I'm fascinated by these findings, but think there's more to the story.  Working from the biblical assumption that we were made for personal, intimate relationship with our Maker, anything that breaks this relationship is like dirt in your car's gas tank—it damages every part of the engine.  A society that confines God to Sunday if it considers him at all shouldn't be surprised that we lack the rest and peace only he can give.

Worrying about money can keep us up: "The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep" (Ecclesiastes 5:12).  So can conflicts with others: "I lie awake; I have become like a bird on a roof.  All day long my enemies taunt me" (Psalm 102:7-8).

By contrast, Jesus could sleep through a violent storm (Luke 8:23).  David could testify, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8).  When we make Jesus the King of every hour and problem, we can say with the prophet, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3).

Before you try to sleep tonight, what do you need to trust to your Father today?

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