During our academic careers it’s common to compare lack of sleep, almost as if it’s a badge of honor. She who slept the least wins, right? Though there may be times that call for an all-nighter, lack of sleep should not characterize our lives.
Our need for sleep is part of being human. God never sleeps (Psalm 121:4), but humans must do so in order to give the body and brain recovery time from daily demands. When we deprive our bodies of this rest, we end up operating in exhaustion—even when we think we’re perfectly fine. Over time, exhaustion wreaks havoc on our health and mental wellness. Lack of sleep contributes to weight gain, stress, depression and emotional instability. Here are four ways good sleep can make your life better.
1. Good sleep helps your study habits.
A good night’s sleep (seven to eight hours for adults) gives your brain the rest it needs to achieve focus and clarity. The aforementioned all-nighter may be necessary in some seasons, but you will actually achieve and maintain better grades if you stop working earlier and get some rest. A rested mind is far better able to comprehend and retain what is learned. Good sleep helps make memory “stick” in your mind so you can later recall that information for exams and papers. More reasons to get good sleep before those morning lectures!
2. Good sleep helps manage your weight.
This was counterintuitive to me at first, but when you exercise through exhaustion (due to lack of sleep), you can actually cause the stress hormone in your body to increase, which sends your body into survival mode. Instead of helping you lose weight, your body actually retains it. Because your body is stressed by lack of rest AND exercise (exercise stresses our bodies, but in a good way), your body can’t keep up with the demands. This is one reason you might struggle to lose weight you’d otherwise be losing through workouts and healthy eating.
3. Good sleep grants mental clarity.
Sleep helps us focus, as previously mentioned. But it also gives us clarity in decision making and relationships. Have you ever tried to maintain perspective during conflict when you’re exhausted? It’s easy to get emotional much quicker than you usually would. Your mind lacks clarity because it has been overtaxed by lack of sleep. God created us with a need for restorative rest, and by choosing to honor that design, we help ourselves manage our emotions and relationships with greater grace.
4. Recognizing your need for sleep honors God.
Though God does not sleep, God Himself chose to rest (Genesis 1-2). When we refuse to rest, stuffing our days with more “to-dos” instead, we are elevating ourselves above our humanity. God wants us to sleep. He wants us to recognize our need for “Sabbath” from the things that stress us. Busyness is not a bragging right, and if your schedule keeps you from getting enough sleep, consider what you can adjust to make it possible.
There are seasons (such as early motherhood or working nights while in college) in which sleep takes a back burner, but this should not characterize our lives as a whole. Bad sleep habits hurt your life. Good sleep helps us honor God and honor our design. As Psalm 4:8 says: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”