The causes of sleeplessness are endless, requiring millions of people to take sleeping pills nightly. But, there is a good reason abused and traumatized individuals often struggle with sleep. During a good night's sleep, the brain processes facts and feelings exposed to during the day in the Random Eye Movement (REM) stage of
sleep. Horrific events usually bypass the normal nighttime
brain processing. Survivors of trauma frequently stay in the lighter stages of sleep, instead of deep sleep required for REM processing. Traumatic experiences are isolated to parts of the brain that hold
the memories until the person is in a safe place to process what happened. These memories of trauma often surface during dreams causing fear, torment, and total frustration because the brain has not properly processed the event.
When I first started writing this article about sleeping better, I compiled a list of current sleep remedies from the latest talk-shows and popular women's magazines. Let's see . . . exercise, regular schedule, quieting down activity, reading, relaxing bath, cup of hot milk or chamomile tea, etc. While I could make the list quite spiritual sounding by including some Biblical principles, I had a nagging feeling that it was not what God has said about sleeping.
Sleeping better is not only an area where I have matured in since childhood, it is an area God is still dealing with me as I go through pre-menopause desires to stay up all hours of the night. As I dig into His Word, I am certain He will be showing me, again, how to correct my ways.
1) Different Types of Sleep - A quick glance at Bible verses reveals a wide variety of thoughts on sleep. We can have restful sleep, lazy sleep, dying sleep, sound sleep, dream-filled sleep, drowsy sleep, deep sleep, fleeting sleep, troubled sleep, little sleep, and pleasant sleep. You are not alone. Whatever type of sleep you are having God has dealt with it before and He has a way for you to find satisfying sleep. Trust that God has experience with your specific sleeping problems.
2) God is the Source - The first time God speaks of sleep in Scripture is in Genesis 2:21: "So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept..." (NAS). God created sleep is an obvious takeaway, but very important. The Creator of sleep is the Physician of sleep. If we are having trouble entering into deep sleep, God has the cure. God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept. He slept so well God removed one of his ribs and closed up his flesh. God's deep sleep is thorough, and purposeful. In trusting our sleep to God, He will cause us to sleep. Don't look to medication, relaxation music, TV, books, or anything else you may run to for help. God can use any of these to help you develop a pattern of sleep, but you must ask Him what He wants you to do. He is your source!
3) Environment Effects Sleep - In Genesis 31:40 "...by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes" we can see that the place we sleep effects our sleep. For my first few years of marriage, my husband and I awoke each night
to train's whistles. After we purchased a new mattress, we were amazed
that we never heard the train again. Jacob awoke from sleep in Genesis 28:16 and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place." It is good for us to remember no matter what our physical circumstances may be, God is with us as we sleep. You can change your environment by adjusting the thermostat, turning off noise/lights, getting a better mattress and preparing a clean, comfortable place to sleep. But more importantly, be aware of God's presence, being confident that the LORD is surely in your place.
4) Usefulness of Sleeplessness - In Esther 6:1, God used the King's lack of sleep, to show recall to his memory that Mordcai saved his life as the King had his book of records read to him. Several times when I struggle to sleep I talk with God and ask Him if there is something He wants me to do. I have been lead to pray for specific people, read Scripture, journal or complete a task. If we trust God to cause sleep, we must also trust Him to be able to use our sleeplessness for His glory. The next time your sleep is disturbed ask God what He wants you to do. I am always in awe of how God awakens people to do His will for kingdom work when they are sensitive to His voice.
5) Peace and Safety - Psalms 4:8 says "In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety." God is the only person who can give you peace and safety in your sleep. I know this can be a great source of fear. Often children are traumatized by abuse during the night. Satan delights in taking our peace and safety in sleep away. He can wear us down, causing us to be irritable, disoriented and sluggish during the day. It is so crucial to lay our fears of the night down at the cross and allow God to protect our sleep. We are no longer in the home of the abuser, don't let the memories rob you of sleep. God will walk you through healing during the day, and peaceful sleep is essential to recovery.