Do you have a hard time falling asleep, or staying asleep all night? Can’t get a good night’s rest? You’re not alone. Nearly 60 million Americans affected by sleep deprivation each year. There is also a disproportionate trend toward women and people over the age of 65. Little is known about chronic problem or how it works, scientists also disagree on the best ways to treat it.
Sleeplessness has a devastating impact on daily life. Chronic insomnia, often mistaken as "a bad night", has debilitating effects the next day, and beyond. Sleep is the fuel of the body, and we need to be rested in order to enjoy it's restorative power. When we are sleep deprived we deprive our body basic sustenance.
Poor sleep results in decreased cognitive function, poor memory, attention deficit, decreased performance, and declining alertness. Symptoms like these can also adversely affect your Christian meditation practice. Additionally, long-term insomnia is also associated with anxiety and depression. So any work you might do to health can be torn down by the evils of insomnia.
People treat insomnia in many ways. Supplements, exercise, soft music, reading, hot baths, and medication, the list goes on. Some attempts have better results than others. Ideally a combination of individualized would be the best approach. If you suffer from any sleep disorder you should consult with a doctor to evaluate your situation.
A new field in psychological remedies is emerging and shows promise for insomnia sufferers worldwide.
Stimulus Control Therapy
Professor Richard R. Bootzin one of University of Arizona Sleep Research Lab lead researchers, describes in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, how different psychological techniques often successfully treated insomnia (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011).
One highly successful intervention technique was named Stimulus Control Therapy (Morin et al., 2006). The technique consists of six very simple steps any can perform and have been described below. If you follow these steps, there's a good chance you will improve your sleep and feel better the next morning. After the list I’ll explain the concepts behind each and how they relate to God's word.
1. Lie down only when you feel sleepy.
2. Your bed must be associated with sleep only. Your must not be associated with reading, watch television, eating, thinking, or worrying. Marital relationships is the only exception, otherwise your bed's function is to sleep, so use it when you feel sleepy.
3. If once you get into bed and find it difficult to fall asleep, get up and leave your sleeping quarters. Stay up as long as you feel comfortable and then return to bed, but only once you feel sleepy. Although we do not time ourselves, but if you don't fall asleep within 17 minutes get out of bed. The goal to this step is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly! If you are in bed and more than 17 minutes has passed by without falling asleep, get up right away.
4. Repeat step 3 until you fall asleep. Do this as needed throughout the night.
5. Regardless of how much sleep you got set your alarm up at the same time every morning and get up. This step helps your body adjust to a consistent sleeping pattern.
6. Do not nap during the day.
Why these methods work
This method trains the bodies natural physiology to a new pattern while breaking old insomnia patterns. Mind and body work together and when both become attached to certain stimuli, like "bed equals sleep and rest" then your physiology will follow with the appropriate internal chemistry. After practicing this technique many people found it much easier to simply lie down in bed and fall asleep.
The human body is capable of learning just about anything you train it to do, and sleeping is no different. Once you've worked your way through retraining your mind and body with the techniques mentioned above your mind and body will work in unison to ensure you get the right amount of sleep and feel rested the next day.
What does God's word say about sleep and insomnia?
If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24
One of the most common complaints from insomniacs is that they tend to overthink things, and the trait is taken to bed. Overthinking can easily lead to an anxious mindset, and an anxious mindset is synonymous with fear. Fear, or being afraid, feeds the anxious mindset to an even higher degree which fixes the anxiety pattern in the mind.
Notice that Proverbs 3:24 emphasizes what scientists have discovered. Fear, or anxiety, and sleep do not mix and should be dealt with if we want a restful night. Notice also that this verse describes sleep as "sweet", a metaphor for something pleasant to us. So sleep is a gift from God that is pleasant to mind and body. It provides us with restorative power so we can perform at our best during the day.
So how do we deal with a restless mind that interferes with our sleep?
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Feelings of peace and feelings of safety are opposite to anxiousness, and in Psalm 4:8 we are instructed that it is the Lord our God that provides us with peaceful security. Since feelings of peace and safety are spiritual attributes associated to our relationship with God, we need to address our bond with God.
In John 14:23 Jesus teaches that anyone who dedicates themselves to reading and meditating on God's word until it becomes the thought of the mind (keep my word) will be loved by God with a growing presence. This of course, addresses how we can dwell in God's safety with more peace, easing the mind in bed.
The greatest advice we can take away from scripture is that, more time spent concentrating on God's so our neurological patterns are changed according to the word, can equate to a calm and restful night in God's presence.
Additionally, following the Stimulus Control Therapy, and you get up because you can't sleep (Step 3), instead of watching TV, open your Bible and start reading God's word. Concentrating on something other than the dizzying array of thought your mind produces will make your mind "sleepy". This works because your most people's brain are not used exerting so mental energy at night and will naturally give up. Hello sleep!
Another technique to try is repetitive prayer. This can be done upon your first, second, or third, or more attempts at sleeping. When you feel sleepy, go to bed (Step 1), and make it your goal to mentally pray a set number of prayers. For example, your goal can be to mentally recite the Lord's prayer 10 times, or 20 times. You can do more if you like. An Orthodox prayer rope is perfect for the job.
This technique works because rather than letting the mind wander on it's own, you subdue it and control it with prayer. Most find that within just a few minutes the mind will give up and shut down. Hello sleep!
If you wake up, don't let the mind wander. Get you prayer rope and get back to your prayer habit. Good night!
Hope this helps. Please share your comments and what tools and techniques help you to sleep better at night. We love you and we're praying for you. God bless.