Do you ever have those nights when you feel exhausted yet the moment you turn the light off your mind races for the next two hours?
This used to be what my bedtime looked like for several nights a week for my first four years of teaching. The endless to-do list scrolled through my head, I’d go through the week’s schedule, and I’d rehearse the next day’s lesson plans, thinking about what could possible go wrong and how to avoid any complications in my otherwise perfect day.
It wasn’t until last year that I realized how this pattern of lying awake at night was part of my own sinfulness, my lack of trust and faith in God that He was sufficiently in control of my life. Instead of closing my eyes at night and peacefully drifting off to sleep like my husband manages to do in about 12.9 seconds (seriously, it’s not fair), I’d start planning, rehearsing, and anxiously considering what the next day or week entailed.
I didn’t realize it, but I was letting the enemy creep into one of the most peaceful moments of my day and riddle it with anxiety and distrust in my Savior. No bueno.
As scripture reminds me time and time again, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). I was putting my trust in myself, and I was blind to the sin I was committing almost every night. It was so easy to overlook this sin since it wasn’t something I was doing or saying that was bringing harm to other people.
So, how did I overcome those nightly attacks? How did I reclaim my sleep? Easy- prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer or petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
What I needed was a heart and mind that was guarded from anxiety. By closing my eyes and going immediately into prayer, asking God to grant me peace and quiet my mind in order to rest, I was able to finally reclaim my sleep. I could feel my mind turn to blankness, and I could feel the warming presence of God in my heart and mind that true Believers know and understand.
Resting in Him isn’t just good for your spiritual health, though; it is also crucial for your physical health and weight loss goals.
If you are one of those people out there who is working out several days a week and eating pretty clean yet you are sleeping 4-6 hours a night, you probably aren’t going to see a ton of progress with your body composition.
When you’re sleep deprived, you are more likely to eat more food, especially high-carb, high-sugar foods. Maybe you have iron willpower and that’s not an issue for you. However, not getting enough sleep reduces your insulin sensitivity (ability to metabolize carbs so you store them as fat and get hungry quickly after eating them), changes your gut flora (messes with your digestion), and creates inflammation (higher risk for cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurodegenerative diseases).
Personally, I know I feel by best if I get 7.5-9 hours a night…I know what you’re thinking…easy for me to say since I don’t have kids and am an elementary school teacher who starts falling asleep at 9:00 p.m. whether I like it or not.
True and true, but I also know I can push myself past my initial wave of sleepiness when my body tries to tell me to go to bed around 9 and stay up a few more hours working on the blog, hanging out with friends, or just watching TV. However, I prioritize my sleep and rest, knowing how my body composition, my energy, willpower, and my mood are positively impacted by it.
While we are on the issue of rest, rest days (aim for 2) are also important for your health and wellness. Going to the gym 7 days a week or doing two exercises classes a day six days a week is not doing your metabolism any good, either (I was once in that place, though, so I’m not judging you if this is where you are in your health journey).
Don't get me wrong; exercise and physical activity are great ways to improve your sleep. Getting your blood flowing can help manage stress, which will lessen your cortisol and improve sleep quality. However, too much exercise can actually tell your body you are stressed, thus increasing your cortisol and messing with your sleep.
Want to prioritize sleep today? Here’s a few easy tips-
1) Give yourself a bedtime- Set a bedtime that is 7.5-9 hours backward from when you need to wake-up. Try to stick to this same time every night, even the weekend if possible.
2) Create a bedtime routine- Whether it’s drinking hot tea or reading a novel, do something ritually to signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down.
3) Limit electronics near bedtime- The blue light messes with your circadian rhythm, so try to limit Facebooking before bed…actually, for lots of reasons, limit Facebook before bed.
4) Prioritize and accept procrastination- For those Type-Aers like me, this is hard, BUT it doesn’t all have to get done tonight. Focus on only what needs to be done for tomorrow- prepping for the next workday, having lunch packed for tomorrow- and don’t worry about getting all the laundry folded. It will be there tomorrow.
5) Open in prayer- Whether it’s a prayer of thanksgiving or putting your burdens on Him or just asking for His peace and rest through the night, this has been the one thing that has made the largest impact on my sleep.
How’s your sleep lately? Is it something you prioritize, or an area of your health you certainly need some improvement in? Have more questions about sleep? Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com
Healthy Happy Texan
I'm a Foodie, Fitness Instructor, and Follower of Christ. Add a passion for teaching others, dark chocolate, bacon, and dogs -- and that's me in a box.
Come on, let's live a little!