“God, I’ve been praying for so long!” I cried. “Why won’t You answer me?”
The clock beside my bed read 1:30 a.m., and once again, I was awake. This time, I had spent hours pouring my heart out to God about my problems and begging for a reply. I lay huddled under my covers, eyes wide open and burning with tears. I finally paused in my monologue, and in that moment of silence peace pressed down on me like a heavy quilt. As I let my eyes close in relief, I felt God’s loving whisper in my heart: “You need to go to sleep. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
Insomnia has been a struggle of mine for many years. I knew my sleeplessness was damaging my physical and mental health, but I had no idea how much it was impairing my relationships with people, and more importantly, with God.
In Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, Ellen White writes, “The health of the body is to be regarded as essential for growth in grace and the acquirement of an even temper.”1 Chronic sleeplessness can hold us back from reaping the full benefits of a relationship with God. When I began practicing healthy sleep habits, I saw dramatic benefits in my spiritual life. A good night’s sleep allows me to see clearly God’s hand at work in the world around me, more so than I ever did when I lived life in an exhausted daze.
I gained control of my insomnia by following these guidelines for good sleep hygiene. Although they require self-discipline to implement, the results have been life-changing for me.
- Only use the bed for sleeping. This was the most difficult change to make, and the most rewarding. I loved to read, watch TV, and do work from the comfort of my bed. But according to the American Sleep Association’s website, “When you work from your bed, your brain starts to associate your bedroom with work. That means when you try to fall asleep at night, your brain won’t cooperate.”2 Re-teaching my brain that my bed is only for sleeping was a long process, but worth it.
- Limit blue light exposure from electronics in the evening. I already knew I shouldn’t be scrolling late into the night. Finding the willpower to stop was the challenge. Now I put my phone down an hour before I go to bed and charge my electronics as far away from my bed as possible.
- Follow a nightly routine. We are creatures of habit, whether we like it or not. The American Sleep Association recommends performing a calming bedtime routine at the same time each night. When I do the same tasks in the same order every evening, I am telling my brain it is time to wind down for bed. My favorite part of my nightly routine is a hot shower, which I use to reflect on my day.
- Use a heavy or weighted blanket. The pressure a heavy quilt or weighted blanket provides can be very calming. I’ve found that using one helps me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- Talk to your doctor. Occasionally chronic insomnia can be a symptom of other health issues. Your doctor can make sure everything is well with you and help create a plan to treat you.
On that sleepless night, God did answer me but not in the way I expected. For years I had been afraid of insomnia and the way it seemed to overpower me. But “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7, NLT). Although practicing healthy habits takes self-control, God gives me the strength I need to keep going. With a rested body, I can truly experience and celebrate the spiritual rest I find in my relationship with Him.
Annika Cambigue is a junior at Union College, majoring in English and communication. She lives in Dayton, Ohio.
- Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, p. 392