The Spiritual Discipline of…Sleep

“He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.” Genesis 28:11

The NIV has “and he lay down to sleep.” I like that a lot, though the NRSV makes me wonder if he actually slept that night. Laying down is very different from sleeping, I should know because I spend much more time laying down (and definitely not sleeping) especially when Andy is snoring next to me. I imagine that Jacob would have had a tough time sleeping that night, especially with his head on a rock. But even more so, in the wake of causing major family drama because of his incredible deception and manipulation, I wonder if he was harboring any guilt that would leave him tossing and turning in his sleep that night. Still, he had been journeying all day, and maybe all the conflict had taken its toll on him, and with the sun setting, and camp set up, perhaps he really did fall into a deep sleep. It actually appears he did because of the vivid dream with the ladder and angels.

I realize now that sleep is really not an easy discipline after all. It is kind of complicated – to “sleep well” requires some specific parameters. According to some researchers, the essentials include shutting down your brain an hour before going to bed, making sure you have a good pillow, darkness is pretty key, and even a good diet. But, as I mentioned in the previous post – how silence is basically foundational to the rest of my life – I see how all the basics are incredibly important to the quality of my life, especially sleep. A good soup base or really good bread is the key to good…soup…or a good…sandwich. Basics. It’s all about the basics. Andy will say that he’s been telling me this for years.

The basics of sleep are difficult sometimes, but necessary. I can’t function during the day if I’m not sleeping well. Plus, I’m incredibly grumpy (again, Andy will say he’s been telling me this for years), what little common sense I have goes out the window, and I just don’t feel present. The tough thing is that sleep has never been easy for me. I’m an incredibly light sleeper, so I toss and turn if there’s any noise, and if Andy moves or gets up in the middle of the night I’m awake as well. One thing I have going is that I love late afternoon naps especially on Sundays after church. I have long ago embraced the positive effects of a good nap, but I have to be careful to not let it replace good sleep.

The spiritual discipline of sleep…it’s about the basics…and acknowledging even the basics need some deliberate attention. Silence is a good tool for sleep, too, so there’s a nice connection…But, the point is rest, rejuvenation, and giving my mind and body time for restoration…because like silence and sweaty activity, it also affects everything else in my life.

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