A proper amount and quality of sleep are considered essential to an active, healthy life. At the holidays, lack of sleep can be a big issue. With the season’s demands, we can be loaded with everything from sending cards, shopping for gifts and special travel, to hours of baking and decorating. Especially now, our rest time needs to be refreshing and satisfying. Despite much advice on bettering one’s sleep, many people still experience varying degrees of sleeplessness that negatively impact their waking day.
Recent studies call into question the physiological basis for beneficial sleep. In the May 2014 Placebo Sleep Affects Cognitive Functioning Study, Christina Draganich and Kristi Erdal, found that patients who believed they had slept well outperformed those who believed they had not slept well, when in fact, the actual quality of sleep among the participants was just the opposite.
Although using sleep placebos is probably not a sustainable way to get more done in a day, this research does point to the mental nature of feeling rested. In my experience, getting rested and refreshed is not always a direct function of the number of hours I sleep.
This has led me to ponder a more spiritual approach to feeling rested. One dictionary definition indicates that “sleep” includes the requirement to “rest”. According to the same dictionary, however, it is not necessary to sleep in order to experience rest. The dictionary defines “rest” as “Quiet; repose; a state free from motion or disturbance; a state of reconciliation to God.”
Just what does this restful reconciliation to God mean? How does it happen and how does it relate to our need to sleep? To me, a restful reconciliation to God means feeling the comforting influence of Immanuel, “God-with-us,” giving me a spiritual sense of His loving support. I feel it in that special moment, for example, when willfulness yields to the divine will and a beautiful resolution comes about, often unexpectedly. When this happens to me I realize deep inside that the good being accomplished is not for my own glory, but for the glory of God. Then I can let go of that exhausting burdensome feeling.
Even with fewer hours of sleep, sometimes over prolonged periods, the spiritual refreshment that comes with such reconciliation allows me to perform without fatigue whatever tasks are on my plate. To me, this is an illustration of what Jesus referred to when he said to his followers, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
In an audio podcast, “To feel rested and refreshed”, Kittie Burris, formerly with the FBI, and now dedicated to praying with people to help them experience God’s healing power, shares her experience of the practical benefit of Jesus’ invitation to the weary. She was on an overnight assignment for the FBI; by 3 A.M. the excitement of her assignment had worn off. She found herself petering out and dreading the 8:30 A.M. presentation and ensuing workday. In praying about the situation, Burris was led to turn her thoughts away from her bodily discomfort and fatigue to God’s inspiring purpose for all of us of harmony and goodness. This resulted in the literal fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, “I will give you rest.” The remainder of the night zipped by and although she didn’t sleep, she was alert and refreshed, not only for her entire day but well into the next night as guests arrived for an overnight stay. By turning away from the temptation to dwell on her lack of sleep and the associated possible consequences, she allowed herself to dwell on the Christ spirit, which in turn blessed her with a successful assignment, an unrestricted workday, and a joy-filled evening.
Letting that divine influence or Christ turn us away from the frenzy of the season and guide us in God’s loving purpose, we can work extended hours while literally feeling refreshed and joyful. This verse from a loved hymn portrays the promise beautifully: “Happy the man whose heart can rest/ Assured God’s goodness ne’er will cease/ Each day, complete, with joy is blessed/ God keepeth him in perfect peace.”