Your body was crafted for sleep. When God knit you together, he fashioned your systems in such a way that they need deep rest in order to function properly. Without sleep, breakdown begins.
Don’t take it from us; with every passing year, more and more scientific evidence emerges to underscore the importance of quality sleep. Study after study shows that sleep is critical to good health, while sleep deprivation is linked to increased risks of the following:
- heart attack
- Alzheimer’s disease
Not to mention, a lack of sleep destroys your ability to function at your best on a daily basis.
Here are just a few of the benefits of good sleep:
When you get a good night’s rest, you have more energy the following day. You think more clearly and make better decisions. One extensive study concluded that people who get eight hours of sleep each night are significantly more focused and better able to perform tasks than those who get six hours of sleep. Six hours of sleep was shown to lead to cognitive decline, which resulted in poor decision making, poor reactions to stimuli, and compromised productivity. Scarily, the average American subsists on around six hours of sleep each night.
For years, I (Nelson) tried to convince myself that I could do fine on five to six hours of sleep, but as I became a student of this subject and committed to getting more rest, I realized I had been living an illusion. I had been compromising my work while telling myself I was getting more done. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? My life was suffering because I wouldn’t give my body the sleep it required. Is yours?
Sleep is God’s prescription for minimizing stress and keeping you emotionally healthy. When you are in a stressed state, the cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) levels in your system surge. Over time, continually high levels of cortisol lead to immunity suppression, weight gain, stomach problems, heart problems, and more. Sleep is one of the main ways your body neutralizes that stress hormone. When you go to sleep, your stress level begins to fall and your system has the opportunity to normalize. Getting a good night’s rest is like hitting a reset button on your body.
Better Physical and Mental Health
Getting enough sleep is undeniably connected to physical health. For starters, a lack of sleep is directly tied to increased weight gain. In a study by the Mayo Clinic, sleep-restricted people gained more weight than their well-rested counterparts over the course of a week, consuming an average of 559 extra calories a day. People who get six hours of sleep per night are 23 percent more likely to be overweight. For people who get less than four hours of sleep per night, that percentage climbs to a staggering 73 percent. You might think it would take years of poor sleep habits for physical problems to start showing up. Not so. One study simulated the effects of the poor sleep patterns of shift workers on ten healthy young adults. After just four days of insufficient sleep, a third of them had glucose levels that qualified as prediabetic.
Sleep is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. Good sleep allows the brain to shed toxins, including proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, sleep deprivation has been found to have a strong connection to practically every mental health disorder we know of, especially depression and anxiety.
Sleep is not something to be taken lightly. Your health literally depends on it. If you want to be well, you have to understand the life-giving benefits of sleep and learn to prioritize it in your life—because not doing so is so easy. As Arianna Huffington wrote in The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time, “The path of least resistance is the path of insufficient sleep. And unless we take specific and deliberate steps to make it a priority in our lives specific and deliberate steps to make it a priority in our lives, we won’t get the sleep we need.”
Making sleep a priority begins with adopting a new view of sleep.
A New View of Sleep
A few years ago, as I (Nelson) was studying Genesis in preparation for a teaching series, God brought something significant to my attention—a truth that became a paradigm-shifting revelation concerning my view of sleep. At first glance, the truth seems simple enough: when God created the world, he created the night before the day (Gen. 1:2–4). The darkness preceded the light. While this fact may seem insignificant on the surface, it is transformative when you follow it through.
In our culture, we consider nightfall the end of the day. We work hard through all our waking hours, and when the hour is finally late enough to justify our actions, we turn off all our screens and fall into bed exhausted. The next day begins when the alarm clock goes off. However, the Hebrew concept of night and day illustrated in Genesis is much different and arguably much more productive. In it, each sunset begins the preparation period for the next day. Sleep is not the reward for a day well spent; it is preparation for what God is calling you to tomorrow. In other words, tonight is not the end of today; it is the beginning of tomorrow.
This subtle change in perspective shifted my understanding of sleep. I began to realize that if God is going to accomplish what he wants to accomplish through me, I need to prepare myself by getting enough rest at night to be truly ready for what the next day will bring. My ability to fulfill my purpose is directly linked to how rested I am when I wake up each morning. The same is true for you.
Nighttime sleep is the prep time you and I have been given for each new day. It is a gift. Taking sleep seriously is our way of saying, “God, I want to be ready for what you have for me. I don’t want to miss or compromise your will because of my refusal to get the sleep I need to be at my best.” Since I have learned to give sleep the place in my life it deserves, not only am I more pleasant to be around but I am also more effective in my calling than I ever was during those years when I tried to function on fumes.
– Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson
The above excerpt is from p. 149-151 of The New You: A Guide to Better Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Wellness.
With your copy of The New You, you will come away with specific strategies on how to lose weight, get more sleep, lower stress, nurture better relationships, connect with God and much more! Anyone who wants to trade in the frustration of average living and less-than health for the hallmarks of the new life God promises will find The New You an effective personal guide for the journey.
Your partner in ministry,
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