/ Monday, May 4, 2020
It’s been a long day.
You crave sleep.
You long for a good night of rest.
You finally shut off the screens and crawl into bed, hoping, praying that sleep finds you.
However, after 45 minutes lying in bed staring at the ceiling exhausted, sleep is nowhere to be found.
It can become very tempting to chase sleep as the provider of restoration. Or to look to sleep to fulfill a desire to restore your body. And when you are unable to get that sleep it feels incredibly frustrating.
You feel helpless, almost like a victim and without power or control.
But when we look in the Bible, sleep is merely the vehicle that God uses to refuel us. Sleep has no power, authority or ability to restore.
God alone provides restoration and he chose to do that through sleep.
Today we continue to be restored physically, mentally and emotionally while we sleep.
But if God created us to sleep, why then is it so hard to fall asleep?
Anxiety or stress is the most common reason why we struggle with sleep; although, it’s not the only reason (more on that later).
Stress is an emotional reaction to feeling fear or threatened. So when you are stressed about the future, past or lack of control of your current circumstances your body reacts the very same way as if you were being threatened physically.
Think of how your body reacts when you just narrowly escape a car accident. Within seconds your heart is racing, muscles are ready to react, eyes are wide and the mind is racing looking for the safest way out.
When you are stressed your body reacts the same way.
This is why when you are stressed you experience high blood pressure, body aches and pains, digestive issues and racing minds.
You wouldn’t want to fall asleep if you were in physical danger, so your body resists sleep when you are stressed.
You need to convince your mind and body that you are not in danger and that it is safe to go to sleep.
In my course, Sleep is Not a Dream, we walk through several ways to overcome our bodies’ stress reaction as well as several other strategies that overcome sleeplessness and help you get the sleep you need to live your full potential.
I’ve decided to offer this course for FREE for the duration of the COVID-19 quarantine.
You can register at no cost at: Sleep is Not a Dream.
3 Habits to Overcome Sleep
In the meantime, here are 3 habits that you can reboot to overcome sleep:
When you are chronically tired it can be very difficult to get up and get out of bed. Especially when your days are unscheduled. But good sleep at night starts in the morning. I encourage you to set the alarm to get up and be active during the day so that you are able to rest at night.
Understandably, this can be very difficult for those who are facing medical conditions, disabilities and limitations that make traditional work difficult or overwhelming. I encourage you to start small. Set the alarm and make your work be activities that are within your abilities. It doesn’t matter the type of work that you do, but being active during the day and leaving sleep for the night is healthy and what God intended for you.
Getting a good night of sleep may have more to do with what you do during the day than you realize. I encourage you to build your day to promote sleep at night and this means we need to talk about exercise, naps and caffeine.
These days, exercise seems to be what is recommended for just about every health issue. And sleep is no different. Those who exercise report better sleep. However, exercise is usually the last thing someone who is tired and struggles with sleep wants to do.
Get up early and exercise? No thanks. But I have some good news! Reports say that exercise at any point in the day shows to improve sleep.
So consider a few short walks. Ride the stationary bike while watching TV. Or play basketball with your kids after dinner. It is very likely that more than just your sleep will be improved.
It’s 1pm and you had a terrible night of sleep. If you’re anything like me, that is the perfect time for a nap. I will not be the person to take away the coveted afternoon nap, but being awake during the day and sleeping at night is key to maintaining a healthy sleep routine.
I fully understand that there are times when a nap is critical to productivity. But it’s important to remember that naps longer than 20 minutes can leave people feeling groggy and sluggish. And naps later in the day can interfere with bedtime.
So if you are requiring a nap be prepared to set an alarm so you can keep naps short and schedule them earlier in the day.
Caffeine offers a quick pick-me-up. This is why it is so popular and an easy go-to when you are struggling to push through the last few hours of the day. However, even though the initial relief has worn off, the effects can impact our sleep long after the buzz has runoff. If you struggle with your sleep it is vital to keep consumption of caffeine to a minimum and nothing after 2 or 3 in the afternoon. And if you struggle with anxiety, then I would encourage you to eliminate caffeine altogether.
The bedtime routine is often the first thing that is considered when looking at our sleep. Yes, shutting off the devices and going to bed around the same time each night is key. However, here are a few ideas for when you find yourself still struggling to sleep at night.
Research has finally caught up to what we know as truth from the Bible and confirmed that regular practice of meditation decreases the body’s response to stress.
Meditating is an intentional action that produces focused attention and its benefits were written thousands of years ago in the book of Joshua and Psalms.
I often recommend the Abide App. It is an app that has Christian guided meditations on tons of topics ranging from parenting to struggling with sleep and everything in between. It is not a free app but they do offer a free trial, so check it out.
Often our muscles are tense from stress and we have a difficult time falling asleep. Having a soothing bath before bed helps relax muscles and soothes tension, helping you fall asleep easier. If muscle tension happens frequently, consider adding a bath into your bedtime routine.
Progressive relaxation is when you systematically tense and release muscle groups to promote relaxation of the body and mind. When you are lying down, tense your feet muscles for 10-20 seconds and then slowly relax them. Then, move up to your calf muscles and do the same.
Squeeze the muscles, hold and then fully release. Proceed up the body slowly tensing and relaxing each of your muscle groups. By the end of this exercise your body should be more relaxed and the racing thoughts more calm and focused. Like all new things, this exercise may take a few times to get the hang of it.
By targeting the autonomic nervous system, a research study found that deep breathing can help treat insomnia and sleep issues like difficulty falling back asleep.
A simple breathing exercise starts by getting into a comfortable position, either lying or sitting and then focus on taking a deep full breath through the nose, expanding your diaphragm. Hold this breath for 3-5 seconds and then slowly release the breath through the mouth. Work towards controlling the exhale so it takes twice as long as the inhale.
There are many benefits to doing daily deep breathing exercises and improved sleep is certainly one of them.
These subtle shifts can make all the difference in the world.
Now, I’m under no illusion that these tips will solve all sleep problems, life is just too complex.
But if you are looking for a deeper dive into overcoming sleeplessness check out Sleep is Not a Dream - a 4 video mini-course with valuable pdf downloads to help you get the sleep you need to live your full potential.
This course is available here: SLEEP IS NOT A DREAM and is being offered for FREE for the duration of the COVID-19 quarantine. Click HERE to register.
Laura Howe is our guest blogger, and the founder of Hope Made Strong. With over a decade of experience as a registered social worker focused on mental health and addictions, Laura combines her skills with a passion for equipping and strengthening church leaders. Her online learning and in-person presentations create conversations that lead to hope, strength, and resilience in leadership. Laura equips staff and volunteer leaders with practical, scripturally-based strategies that align with proven results in the mental health industry.