Monday, April 25, 2011

In the Night Watches


On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

Psalm 63:6

Over 73 million Americans experience difficulties either falling asleep or staying asleep. One in six adults recognizes that a sleep problem is a prominent issue affecting their lives.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to a person’s overall wellbeing. Many reasons exist for sleep disturbances, some physical, others emotional, mental, or spiritual. If disrupted sleep is negatively influencing your daily routine, then you should seek medical attention to discover the underlying cause.

Job performance, relationships, and health are all negatively affected by lack of sleep. Certainly, our heavenly Father desires that His precious children enjoy a good night’s sleep so that we can serve Him with full energy and enthusiasm. Psalm 4:8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

How then can we assure that when we lay our heads down on the pillow tonight we will wake up refreshed in the morning?

☼ Adequately prepare for sleep.

I always prided myself on being able to sleep any time, any where, all the way through the night. Until perimenopause. Now I snap awake, typically at least one or two times during the night. Thankfully, on most occasions, I fall back asleep quickly. Knowing that sleep has become somewhat of a challenge, I now give thoughtful care to preparing myself for a sufficient night’s rest. I find that I sleep better if I don’t eat anything after 7:30 p.m. Taking a relaxing bubble bath or soak in the hot tub, then going to bed around 9:00 p.m. while listening to soothing music has been a great help also. Sometimes I read a few pages in a book to provoke sleep. Furthermore, eliminating television consumption at night aids rest. A friend of mine has discovered that taking a calcium supplement before bed assists sleep.

In addition to preparing physically, I also prepare spiritually by talking to the Lord. I once saw a church marquee that said, “When you have trouble falling asleep, don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd.” I shared that with a friend who responded, “Yeah, I like that. By the way,” she commented, “I was wondering, when sheep can’t sleep, do they count people?” Anyhoo….

Praying for the people and situations that pass through my mind sure beats worrying about them and gives me something productive to do while I fall asleep. I view my “wake-up calls” later in the night as divine appointments to invest in the Kingdom through prayer. Rather than fighting periods of sleeplessness, I work with them, turning them into opportunities to worship and reflect.

Quoting Scripture is a great way to relax in the Savior’s arms and allow Him to soothe me mentally and emotionally. I often picture Him holding me and rocking me to sleep. Sometimes, I focus on a place of serenity, such as the quiet waters or green pastures of Psalm 23, or the warm sand and ocean spray of the beach. I spread out in the waves and let them buoy me along, completely and totally relaxed.

Other times I think of all the things I have to be thankful for. I choose to focus on what is true, good, right, lovely, and excellent, as Paul urges me to do in Philippians 4:8. Sometimes when my mind is working overtime, I couple praise with a deep breathing exercise, slowly inhaling through my nose as I lay there in the dark, and then releasing the air slowly through my mouth.

Am I a hundred percent consistent in these practices? No, but I’m growing in my portfolio of ways to manage sleep so that I can function adequately during the day. Speaking of the day, I also try to catch at least a ten-twenty minute power nap after lunch before jumping back into work. If you work outside the home, you can do this on your lunch break by closing your eyes and laying your head on your desk or retreating to an employee lounge for a few minutes of down time. While you’re at it, take a one minute vacation, picturing yourself in a pleasant place of your choice. Then follow that mental exercise with a few deep breathing exercises.

Eileen Hinkle Rife is author of the Born for India trilogy. Her devotional book, Tranquil Moments provides spiritual, emotional, and mental refreshment through both scripture and the island of Maui.

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