In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
One-third of all Americans report difficulty sleeping. Did you know that sleep has a vital role in physical health and can be considered just as important to health as nutrition and exercise? Sleep restores our body physically and psychologically. Poor sleep is associated with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, and even a shorter life span.
Sleep and rest are physiological needs that are supported in Scriptures. God the Father set an example of rest in Genesis. Further mentions of rest are woven in Scripture through the Psalms, Proverbs, and even in the ministry of Jesus. Frequently we find that activities or recommendations set forth in the Bible, such as sleep and rest, also have a logical rationale in the physical world. As ministers with fast paced lives and multiple demands from serving others, sleep and relaxion can be difficult.
Here are 5 ways to achieve better sleep:
- Create a consistent bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are not just beneficial to small children. Creating a routine and environment that is consistent helps induce sleep and positively maintain circadian rhythms. Choose a consistent time for bed and consider what makes you relax. A quiet environment, soothing music, a warm bath, and other relaxing activities such as reading or journaling can help you transition from wakefulness to sleep. Visualize a consistent way to end your day that feels peaceful and realistic.
- Avoid electronic devices before bed. Our phones, tablets, and televisions have artificial blue lights that our brains process the same way as sunshine. When your internal clock thinks its daytime, your brain becomes active, and the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep is not released the same way, so your body has more difficulty settling down to rest. Consider setting a digital curfew and being device-free for an hour or two before you go to bed.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and beverages before bed. Large meals late at night can lead to heartburn and stomach discomfort upon laying down. Caffeine in beverages and food (like chocolate) act as a stimulant for the central nervous system and having a lot to drink in the evening may lead to nighttime bathroom visits. A light snack at bedtime may help some people relax and rest. Are there any dietary changes you should consider before bed?
- Exercise early in the day. Physical activity has a myriad of health benefits including improving sleep. Moderate to vigorous activities have been shown to eliminate daytime sleepiness and can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night. Overall, exercise has been linked to better quality of sleep. It should be noted that for some people, exercising within three hours of going to sleep may have the opposite effect and lead to increased energy at bedtime. Can you add exercise to your weekly schedule to benefit your energy and rest?
- Make your bedroom a haven for rest and relaxation. Train your brain to associate your bedroom environment with sleep. This means that your bed should only be associated with rest and intimacy. Make sure your room is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. The use of sound machines, music, aromatherapy (without open flames), fans, and blackout curtains may be helpful. If you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity that does not include a lot of light exposure. Then you may return to bed and try your sleep routine again. Are there ways you can make your bedroom environment more conducive to sleep?
To learn more, see the following resources:
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2020). Healthy Sleep Habit. Healthy Sleep Habits – Sleep Education by the AASM
CDC (2022). Sleep and Sleep disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
NIH (2011). Your Guide to Healthy Sleep | NHLBI, NIH
Pham, H. T., Chuang, H. L., Kuo, C. P., Yeh, T. P., & Liao, W. C. (2021). Electronic device use before bedtime and sleep quality among university students. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 9(9), 1091. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9091091
Physical contributor: Rosa Ketchum, DNP, RN, NC-BC
Executive editor: Johanna Rugh
Curator of content: Carla Working