While working on Monday’s post, Now I Lay Me, Down to Sleep – Or Not…, I decided to edit out several paragraphs. Comments I’ve received, however, convince me those “cut” words may be relevant to some.
Monday, I talked about using The Examen to enter restful sleep. Today, I’ll address another common sleep disturbance—waking in the middle of the night.
Several years ago, when working as an employee assistance professional, part of my job duties included conducting stress-management workshops. In researching stress, I learned waking during the night and finding it difficult—or impossible—to return to sleep is a common side effect of stress. (Of course, other conditions such as women’s peri-menopause or menopausal hormone symptoms–or a spouse whose snoring wakens you, may also be the culprits!)
Sleeplessness can produce anxiety. A counselor friend once told me, “An occasional sleepless night isn’t terminal!” That perspective helped because I tended to ’stress out’ when unable to sleep.
Now, when I waken in the middle of the night—especially if I’ve had a troubling dream—I like to recite mentally passages of scripture, especially Psalm 23, which I memorized as a child from the Old King James Bible version. Often, I fall back to sleep the second or third time through the familiar and comforting poetic words.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
One Listening on the Journey…reader said repeating lyrics to the Doxology, a 17th Century hymn, often helps her return to sleep.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
If that remedy doesn’t work, instead of tossing and turning, I follow advice I overheard a psychiatrist give. Instead of allowing thoughts and concerns to run and re-run, get out of bed, go to another room and do something different [NOT involving electronics!]. I prefer to settle into a recliner, cuddled under a soft, comfy throw and read something inspirational.
I love an uninterrupted night’s sleep, but I must say, some of my sweetest spiritual encounters have happened in wee morning hours when sleep has eluded.
While it may sound strange, there have been occasions when I’m convinced God wakens me. I can almost hear a divine voice say, “Get up. Come hang out with me a while.”
Okay, God using modern vernacular, such as “hang out,” may be a stretch, but I do believe God is relational and that we have been created to enjoy not only human relationships but also heavenly connections.
No matter the time of day, developing a more authentic and intimate relationship with God is one of my deepest desires.
Tonight, as you lie down to sleep, I pray the Lord will fill you with peace and rest…