Due to lack of sleep, I spent a good part of my last semester of Grade 12 as a zombie. The worst part? I didn’t fully realise the extent to which I existed as part-zombie part-human mixture until after I had graduated. Up until graduation, I figured that as long as I was able to maintain my overall average, stay awake in class (almost failed at that one a few times), continue to actively participate in extracurriculars, and be a reasonably functional human, there was no reason to change my sleep-shunning ways. Or at least I didn’t think there were any reasons that justified the potential jeopardization of future scholarships.
In retrospect, however, there are a few significant cases I would like to make in sleep’s favour.
1. Sleep deprivation affects more than just the sleep deprived.
While I liked to believe that I was the only person that was negatively impacted by my sleep deprivation, this is far from the truth.
Anyone in my family can tell you that I would get significantly irritated by small and relatively unimportant happenings. Things that I would normally shrug off, or to which I would usually apply the “grin and bear it” approach, became major disruptions to my plans for
world domination academic success. Unfortunately, I was no exception to the studies that show lack of sleep as increasing emotional reactivity. 😦
When I wasn’t expressing frustration, my groggy-eyed self actually found it much more draining, and even difficult to interact with others. As an extreme introvert, while I love connecting with people, at the end of the day it often leaves me quite drained of energy. In a situation where I started off the day already de-energized from lack of sleep, social interactions that I would have previously welcomed, suddenly presented themselves as threats to my already preciously low energy levels. In other words, my abilities to be a contributing, positive member of society were not what they could have been.
Yes, I was still a part of many cool experiences and events during this phase of my life, but I will never really know what things could have been like if I had been at my full potential, which leads me to my next point.
2. Sleep can be symbolic.
Sleep is an opportunity to relinquish control, to acknowledge the more than sufficient capabilities of the Creator, and to make a point of trusting Him.
There once was a time when I would have looked at this statement and thought it was a little radical. It was a period of my life when I only looked for God in obvious, miraculous occurrences, and just took everyday occurrences (like sleeping) for granted. However, shifting my mindset to a place where I can see God in the everyday has had a huge impact on the way I experience life, and apparently, the way I approach sleep.
In school, it can be tempting to grind until it’s impossible to grind anymore. As a result, basic aspects of self-care, like getting enough sleep are often pushed to the wayside. But is this really the way we were created to be?
Biblically, sleep has been described as a part of trusting in God’s provision and protection:
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”Psalm 4:8, ESV
Psalm 127:1-2 describes how it is vain to “eat the bread of anxious toil,” while getting up early and going to bed late (this describes a solid chunk of my existence by the way). Unless God plays a part in whatever work is being done, human efforts are described as being in vain.
With this in mind, I have been forced to ask myself, is a lifestyle that is unmaintainable outside of a sleep-deprived existence really God-honouring? If we view the sacrifice of sleep and it’s associated benefits as necessary in order to succeed (whether in work or in school), then are we really trusting in God’s provision? Or, are we relying on our own efforts, will-power, and self-sustenance for success? Does God really want His children wandering around at a fraction of their potential, unable to fully shine in the darkness, or does He want them to be charged up on full battery strength? Ok, so maybe that last question was a little too allegorical, but hopefully you get my point.
In closing this section, I leave you with a thought I was first introduced to in university:
Sleep can be a countercultural way of acknowledging our own vulnerability in a way that points to the Creator’s sovereignty.
Getting enough rest can be so much more than just taking more of ourselves, it can actually point to our faith in God.
Disclaimer: please note my use of the word lifestyle. It is unlikely that any of us will ever go through life without having to experience sleeplessness to some degree. It is the intentional and prolonged neglect of sleep for a sustained, or even permanent amount of time that I am questioning the wisdom of, not a few late nights around midterms. I would even say that it was through God’s strength that I was able to get through some of the more sleep-deprived periods of my life, but anyways, I digress.
3. The 50,000 other reasons that you have probably heard.
If you Google “benefits of sleep,” there will be pages of articles on this topic, but here’s an abbreviated version of points that are particularly important from the student perspective.
- Sleep allows for memory consolidation.
- Sleep lessens your chances of getting sick.
- Students who get enough sleep/have a regular sleep schedule tend to do better than those who don’t.
- Sleep lessens the effects of stress, anxiety, depression etc.
- Well-rested people tend to waste less time on the internet.
And finally, please don’t be like my previous self and assume that because most people seem to be fine with 7 or less hours of sleep, you should too. I function best with 9 hours of sleep, so experiment and see what your body needs in order to perform at its max potential.
Sweet (day)dreams (depending on when y’all are reading this),
Inspiration/further reading (aka disorganised sources):
Shigematsu talks more about the topic in the book which I’ve linked below (this is not sponsored, I just found the book very helpful)
General sleep info:
I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book, but I would still highly recommend checking it out.