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I know I’m accruing a sleep deficit when I wake up in the morning wondering when I get to sleep again. I lie in bed and plot the day by the compass on which NAP is true north. This is my clue that an adjustment is in order.
There are four things that help me make that adjustment.
Sleep is a great mystery, but we’re learning ever more about it, and it’s awesome. Much more than the yin to the yang of an active day’s work, sleep is a different kind of productivity. It’s inextricably linked to physical, mental, and spiritual vitality.
How much we need to sleep and how well we are able to sleep is influenced by gender and genetics, and changes with age and the demands we experience during the day.
Far from an indulgence, a nap is a perfectly legitimate way to meet sleep needs.
A note to new field workers and language learners
During my first year overseas, I had a lot of energy and enjoyed where I was and what I was doing, and I slept a lot compared to the way I slept before I went overseas. I could easily sleep nine hours at night and still nap for one-two in the afternoons.
I felt guilty for sleeping so much, and thought I needed another dose of self-discipline. Turns out I was doing just what I needed to be doing because that energy for enjoying a new culture and learning a new job came from those long hours I logged.
Ditto language learners. Your brains need that sleep you crave to assimilate the new material you’re learning. That cup of coffee and extra hour of studying does you much less good than calling it a day.
A note to caregivers
If you are among the warriors caring for another around the clock – nursing mothers, shift workers, parents of children with special needs, children of aging parents – the night vigil you keep is sacred. Psalm 134 is for you:
Come, bless God, all you servants of God! You priests of God, posted to the night watch in God’s shrine, Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless God. In turn, may God of Zion bless you—God who made heaven and earth!
Get Permission from The Psalms
God does not sleep, but He seems to delight that we do. Two of the Songs of Ascent speak about sleep, and Kimberlee Conway Ireton has recently written about them. I highly encourage you to read these psalms and posts contemplatively.
Adopt an Evening Prayer
Sometimes I have a hard time transitioning. I’m like a toddler fully engaged in play when a parent sweeps her up and says, “Time to go!” I resist. One more task, one more click, one more… Prayer is that gentle, nurturing space in which I can let go of the undone, call it enough, and settle into stillness.
I thank you, my God, for your care and protection this day, keeping me from physical harm and spiritual ignorance. I now place the work of the day into your hands, trusting that you will redeem my mistakes, and transform my accomplishments into works of praise.
And now I ask that you will work within me while I sleep, using the hours of my rest to create in me a new mind and heart and soul.
May my mind, which during the day was directed to my work and activities, through the night be directed wholly to you.[i]
Or a short form:
Save me, O Lord, while I am awake, and keep me while I sleep that I may wake in Christ and rest in peace.[ii]
Do you crave more sleep? What helps you make adjustments to healthfully satisfy that craving?
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[i] Jacob Boehme. Taken from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
[ii] Adapted from The Short Breviary. Taken from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.