• Benjie Shaw

The Spirituality of Sleep

In the last year or so, I've noticed a new meme making the rounds. It became so popular that it even made its way onto t-shirts, pillows, coffee mugs, and more. Here it is:


I love it!


What's better is that in the account cited (Mark 4:38), Jesus' nap takes place in a boat that's currently experiencing a frightening storm. The storm was so bad that it made his disciples, several of whom who had been fisherman and spent a lot of time on boats in the water during storms, wake Jesus up and ask Him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

We Have a Sleep Problem


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research recommends that adults between the ages of 18-60 get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. A 2016 study on sleep habits found that 1 in 3 adults do not get this minimal recommended amount of sleep.


No big deal, right? So we're a little tired.


It's actually a pretty big deal for our health and well-being. Consider some of the short and long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep according to the Cleveland Clinic.

  • lack of alertness

  • impaired memory

  • relationship stress

  • greater likelihood of car accidents

  • increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke

  • the increased presence of the stress hormone cortisol

Spiritual Consequences


Lack of sleep also has spiritual consequences. When we aren't alert we aren't able to concentrate on our time in God's Word. We aren't able to keep our attention on the Lord when we pray. We drift in and out of conversations with people around us.


When our memory is impaired we forget important bits of information from conversations with others. We forget to pray for those whom we have promised prayer. When increased cortisol is paired with impaired memory, we forget about how God has cared for us in the past and are more likely to make poor decisions out of fear or a sense of survival.


Not getting enough sleep also has the practical impact of reducing the time we spend with the Lord at the beginning of the day. Getting up and going is difficult when you don't sleep well. Instead of waking up and spending time with the Lord, we find ourselves hitting snooze multiple times then rushing through the motions of getting dressed and out the door so we aren't late to work or our first appointment.


Instead of starting the day from a position of faith and trust, we start it in a position of stress and rush.



How's Your Sleep?


Are you getting your recommended 7 hours of sleep a night? If not, make it a priority. Don't assume that you're the exception to the rule and that you "just don't need that much."


What's your morning routine like? Do you wake up and rush through getting ready so that you can get out the door? Or do you have a practice of slowing down and being in the presence of God at the beginning of your day?


Do you need a nap?


Remember, Jesus took naps. Maybe you should be like Jesus this weekend and take one for yourself.



  • Give yourself a consistent bedtime and wake-up time this week.

  • Create a bedtime routine to help you fall asleep more quickly.

  • Resolve to spend at least 5 minutes in the morning in prayer. If you struggle with setting aside prayer time, find a behavior you regularly perform in the morning (drinking coffee/tea, eating breakfast, etc.) and add prayer to it.

Let me know how it goes!

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