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Why is sleep or sleeping necessary?

Sleeping is essential to life, and we can’t go very long without it. If we're operating on little to no sleep, our moods will grow erratic, we'll lose focus, have more difficulty thinking, and maybe even get sick. In cases of extreme sleep deprivation, people have even recorded suffering from hallucinations. The current record holder for sleep deprivation is Randy Gardner, who stayed awake for just over eleven days in the early 1960s. Though some concluded that his experiment proved sleep deprivation didn't have detrimental effects, on the last day, Mr. Gardner reportedly exhibited moodiness, difficulty with concentration and short-term memory, paranoia, and hallucinations. No matter what anyone tells you, sleep is important.

The first time we see sleep mentioned in the Bible is when God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep when He created Eve from one of Adam's ribs (Genesis 2:21). God modeled the importance of rest when He took the seventh day of the Creation to pause and admire what He'd made (Genesis 2:2).

God set up a weekly day of rest for the Israelites and called this day the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16). The Sabbath was not only a remembrance of how He rested on the last day of Creation, but also as an invitation to stop working in favor of rest and reflection with the Lord (Leviticus 23:3). God clearly says that regular sleep and rest are important!

The Good News About Sleep

Sleep is essential for all humans to survive. Even Jesus had to sleep during His earthly ministry in human form (Luke 8:23). Sleep is described as a blessing from God in Proverbs 4:8. Proverbs 3:24 states, “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

God even used dreams to communicate with people while they were asleep. Read the stories of when God spoke to Solomon at Gibeon in 1 Kings 3, and when He spoke to Daniel in Daniel 7. See Genesis 20:3 and 31:24 for times when God offered warnings to people through their dreams. (Please note: We're not saying that God always talks to us through our dreams, but it IS possible. For more on that, see Are our dreams from God?")

The Bad News About Sleep (with a caveat!)

Like most things in life, sleep can be both good as well as something we can be tempted to overindulge in. Proverbs 6:9 says, "How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?" This verse along with Proverbs 19:15, 20:13, and 24:33 are all warnings about oversleeping as a symptom of laziness. While sleep is created by God and it is essential to life, we are not to abuse the blessing of sleep.

We DO want to acknowledge that needing more sleep or oversleeping is NOT automatically a sign of sinfulness or laziness in every person. Some people may legitimately need more sleep because of their genetics, chronic illnesses, or other physical or mental health factors. There are a number of sleep disorders that make sleep an extremely complicated medical issue for some individuals. Those warnings against oversleeping in Proverbs are about being lazy in character—not strictly about the act of sleeping itself. Sometimes, though not always, sleeplessness can stem from guilt or fear (Psalm 6:6; 77:4).

If you suffer from chronic fatigue or other sleep-related disorders or challenges due to physical or mental health reasons, please speak to your doctor about it. There's no shame in asking for help when things don't feel right.

Why do we sleep?

There are many theories about why we have to sleep. Some are scientifically based, and some sound a little like conspiracy theories. Despite the massive amounts of sleep research that has been conducted over the last century, science still doesn't have a solid answer for why we sleep.

Biologically, sleep is restorative for the mind. Our brains are kind of like computers, and just like computers, they need to be rebooted regularly to help clear up system resources, so to speak. Our minds and bodies need to be "reset" with sleep. Adequate, quality sleep helps us operate at full capacity. After a good night's sleep, the Bible encourages us to start the day with God (Isaiah 50:4; Exodus 34:2; Psalm 5:3) and ask Him to prepare us for the new day (Lamentations 3:23).

How about this theory? Spiritually, God created us to need sleep because it humbles us as vulnerable creations crafted by the Creator. We have limitations. If we don’t sleep, we'll start to develop health issues, our immune systems will be compromised, and we may ultimately die from sleep deprivation. And while we may be limited created beings, God is not. We need food, water, and sleep in order to survive. God does not, and He offers His strength and provision to us freely (2 Corinthians 9:8). Sleep can be a powerful reminder of our dependence on God.

We may be able to speculate, but we still don't know all the reasons why God created sleep. Two things we can be sure of are that God knows what He's doing and He will always provide for our needs (Philippians 4:19). Sleep is a true blessing given by God (Leviticus 26:6; Psalm 4:8). When we recognize that we need sleep, we can recognize that we need God. God is limitless, but we are not. May this knowledge humble us as we begin to understand how amazing God is and how perfectly He knows our every need (James 4:6). God does not need us to exist, but we really do need Him.

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TL;DR

Sleep is an essential part of life and necessary to stay healthy and alive. Sleep benefits brain function and helps us mentally recharge. God designed humans to need sleep, and the Bible calls good sleep a blessing (Proverbs 3:4). Requiring sleep for good health reminds us that we are limited and completely dependent upon God and His gifts for our whole existence. When we awake from sleep, we ought to begin our day with God and give Him thanks for His daily mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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