Friday, June 2, 2017
what to do when you can't sleep
St John Chrysostom gives us some good advice today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He talks about blasphemy, which is much more serious than we seem to realize today. Have you ever thought about the fact that "Don't take the name of God in vain" is on the same list of commandments with "Do not kill" and "Do not steal"? Pretty important, I'd say.
But his advice reminded me of something I learned recently about insomnia. I have several friends who struggle with insomnia. And during 2016, the stress of my job caused me to experience chronic insomnia for most of the year. But something that I learned was a good idea during that time was to pray.
Of course, we're told in the New Testament to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16). But it's especially helpful when you're lying in bed trying to sleep. There are several reasons for this.
One, sometimes we can't sleep because God is trying to get our attention. There are many examples throughout the Bible of God speaking to people in their dreams. And when we're lying in bed, the distractions of everyday life are quiet and we can hear what God has been trying to tell us all day. So if we pray, we open ourselves to what He is trying to tell us.
Two, there are times when our ancient enemy messes with us while we're trying to sleep. Padre Pio didn't sleep much because many nights of his life, demons would come and attack him while he tried to sleep. So if you are experiencing some kind of spiritual oppression, prayer will definitely help alleviate that.
Third, it's simply a good use of your time. If you're not able to sleep, praying for your friends is a great way to spend the time. It makes the world a better place. Prayer is the best thing you can do for your friends and family. So using your insomnia to make the world a better place is a pretty good plan.
Finally, it's relaxing and can be repetitive. If you are comfortable praying the Hail Mary, that's a good prayer to fall asleep to. If not, you can pray the Lord's Prayer. Or, one of the most efficacious prayers taught by the church fathers is the Jesus prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." That's the whole prayer. And praying that over and over, as you breathe, is a good way to relax, put your life in His hands, and even ask Him to have mercy on you and help you sleep.
So the next time you toss and turn, spend some time in prayer. You'll be glad you did.
Thanks, God, for teaching us how to use even our insomnia to bring you glory and make our lives better.