A lot of things came together to inspire this post.
I’m not usually an insomniac, but a few times a month something comes up that keeps me awake when I’m trying to sleep, something that wakes up when the lights go out. My Grandpa rarely—if ever—sleeps through the night because of all his broken parts. The little boy I nanny suffers from nightmares. Many dear ones feel the weight of life most keenly when it’s time to sleep and they’re alone with their thoughts. And there are so many others. Thus, this post.
So this goes out to all those who are as wakeful as I am and especially to those who are more so. These are the measures I take to make use of the time when I’d rather be sleeping and/or combat the things lurking in the dark. Pick and choose what proves helpful for you.
Things can go… bad in the dark, after the lights have been turned off, the covers have been snuggled under, and the silence has set in.
Sometimes the mind shakes off any semblance of sleepiness and decides to wake up all the way and ruminate over the stresses of life—the next bill to be paid, the child who left God, the mess that is the relationship with a friend, the car that is currently throwing that check engine light again (like, it must be doing it just for kicks now, right?), upcoming tests that you feel like you should be cramming for instead of trying to catch up on all your sleep debt, or whatever other stressers might be robbing you of your sleep.
Sometimes the mind takes a darker turn, one toward self-harm and inadequacy and silent tears and a sense of helplessness. Isolation folds in and a millstone drops on the chest, suffocating, crushing, draining.
Sometimes the mind twists toward something else, something more alluring. Fantasies in the dark can feel anonymous, an inviting cocoon to drop into in the wake of loneliness and unfulfilled emotional and physical desires.
Other times, the mind runs its merry way right to sleep… but then the whole body is frozen awake by a nightmare that leaves the heart racing and the mind shivering. Every sound in the hall is the footstep of humanity’s most depraved approaching the bedroom door.
And yet other times still, wakefulness isn’t due to stress so much as it’s due to bones that were once broken and still ache enough to keep you awake. A hip, a back, a migraine, something physical that won’t let rest come.
So here are four things that help me.
Pray. I am a firm believer in the sweet tenderness that God has for his people and that he is more than able to meet every one of my needs—including pouring out the purest comfort on my unsettled heart and mind. So, when rest is not restful, I pray with honesty. There’s nothing more peaceful than taking refuge in God and falling asleep aware of his presence. That begins with prayer. And don’t pray only for yourself. Sometimes it seems as though God is keeping me awake just so I can pray for the people he brings to mind.
Music. Music helps pull my mind from wherever it is to look at God and offer tranquil worship as I rest on the truth shared beautifully in the lyrics. Some of my favorite restful songs include Fall Afresh by Jeremy Riddle, Come Thou Fount performed by Kings Kaleidoscope, Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy by Shane and Shane, Far Too Wonderful by Shane and Shane, Sweet Hour of Prayer performed by Casting Crowns, and Captain by Hillsong (feel free to check out my sleep playlist on Spotify). Pick some songs that encourage and calm you and play them quietly when you’re having trouble sleeping. (You do have to be careful that you don’t train yourself to rely on music to fall asleep.)
Psalms. I’m a bit over the moon about the book of Psalms (which may be part of why I cannot recommend the entire Psalms Vol. II album by Shane and Shane enough; seriously, go look the album up and listen to Lord of Hosts – Psalm 46 first). The Psalmists knew how to commune with God, and they understood the dearness of intimacy with the Lord of Hosts. Turning on a lamp and slowly reading some Psalms draws me back to the God of peace.
Meditation. Take advantage of the opportunity to meditate on Scripture or work on whatever passage you are currently memorizing. Remember that this is the mightiest of swords we’re talking about here; there is no foe that can withstand the words of God. So use the Sword; make it part of your heart, mind, and soul. There are few better uses of your sleeplessness.
All these things help me, and I hope they help the restless of you too.
Do you struggle with insomnia? What do you usually do? What would you add to my list?
P.S. – did anybody notice that these four suggestions in this order make “P.M.P.M.”. Which is kind of swanky since we sleep at nighttime which is called “The P.M.”. Just sayin’.
P.P.S. – also, extra points to me for taking a picture of my meager seaglass collection and randomly throwing it up on the ol’ blog for a post on sleeplessness. #winning