I typically don’t think much about sleep. But when you fly through seven or more time zones in a single day, you think about it. When everyone else is getting up, your body is begging to go to bed. When everyone else is settling down for a good night’s sleep, your body is wide awake and looking for something to do. It takes a few days, at least, to “reset the body clock.”
Sleep is an amazing thing. We all require it, including the animals. Even my dog sleeps. I know, I have spent the night camping in a tent with him. He snores. Sleep appears to be a requirement for all animal life, though it may vary in intensity and method.
Something mysterious and magical happens when we sleep.
Kenneth Cooper, the world-famous physician who set us on the path for aerobic health more than forty years ago, maintains that adequate sleep, like adequate exercise and diet, are essential to balanced health. He states, “Most studies indicate that the average person needs somewhere between the traditional 7 and 8 hours a night. If you get much more sleep than that … you feel sluggish and fuzzy-headed during the day. … if you get too little sleep .. you tend to feel like death warmed over.”
Sleep deprivation has been used as a means of interrogation and even torture. In some cases, the inability to sleep has had catastrophic consequences. Many think the popular actor, Heath Ledger’s tragic death from a prescription drug overdose may have been caused by his ongoing battle with chronic insomnia.
Scientists have a pretty good idea of what goes on during sleep, but no one seems to know exactly how it happens. According to the Sleep Foundation, the body and the brain are repaired and nourished during the phases of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid-eye-movement (REM). Somehow the body repairs its muscles, consolidates memory and releases hormones that regulate growth and appetite.
Even Jesus slept. His twelve disciples found it incredible that he could sleep in the bow of the boat during a raging storm. Frantic with fear, they woke him. Awakened from his sleep, Jesus asked, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” He then rebuked the winds and the waves, and the place where they were became perfectly calm. His disciples were astonished and looking at one another asked, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).
The need to sleep recognizes our mortality. For seven to eight hours of every day, between a fourth and a third of every twenty-four hours, the world continues without us. During that time, we are totally and completely dependent upon others and upon God for our existence and our well-being. We are not the masters of our fate.
The Scripture states, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)