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Confessions of a Christian Insomniac

Confessions of a Christian Insomniac

Finally, I found relief in an obvious, but unexpected, place
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Sleep and I had always been close friends.

In college, when a fire alarm emptied my dormitory during the wee hours, my roommate dragged me unresponsively out of bed and hauled me downstairs. We waited outside until firefighters granted an all clear. At breakfast, when the dining hall buzzed with excited indignation about the false alarm, I thought my friends were kidding. I remembered nothing.

As a mom, sleep and I remained best buds even though my mommy genes awakened me to take care of my children's colic, chicken pox, and curfews. Once they slept, I fell over like a tree.

When my physician husband returned after delivering a late-night baby, my half-conscious mind affirmed the guy climbing into bed with me was tall, thin, and bearded. As long as no short, stocky, clean-shaven men showed up, I could go back to sleep.

After such a long friendship, how could sleep turn fickle? When did she kick me out of her Snuggly Snooze Club? Surely sleep would get over her snit after a few days. But my insomnia stretched into weeks.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one of three adults suffers at least occasional insomnia. The majority are women.

Lack of Sleep Is a Big Problem

According to the National Institutes of Health, one of three adults suffers at least occasional insomnia. The majority are women. Medical conditions take some blame—asthma, heartburn, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome—to name a few. Death, divorce, economic struggles, parenting dilemmas, and other life upheavals wreck our sleeping patterns too.

My symptoms began when my elderly parents suffered life-threatening illnesses and my brother was diagnosed with cancer. They all lived more than 2,000 miles away. I flew to the West Coast to offer limited help, but my inadequacy in the face of their suffering overloaded my circuits. In the wee hours, I lay staring at the ceiling, blank and useless as a crashed computer.

I tried to bore myself to sleep by mentally reciting multiplication tables, but I stressed out with the 13s. Well-meaning friends recommended I count sheep. At this point, even imaginary baas kept me awake. And when the sheep wandered off into my dreams, I worried about their safety and well-being.

As a good, and efficient, Christian, I decided not to waste those wakeful hours. I quoted Scripture, but my foggy mind forgot key words, making me more uptight than ever. Finally, I decided to follow Jesus' example, rising early, reading chapters of Scriptures and praying through my entire list, confident I would benefit from this nocturnal spiritual work-out. After all, didn't the Bible promise that when we seek his wisdom, our sleep will be sweet (Proverbs 3:24, Psalm 127:2).

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Displaying 1–3 of 12 comments

Rachael Phillips

July 06, 2011  12:46pm

Thanks so much, Jan. I do agree with you, Sam. I continue to take my prescribed medication, understanding that insomnia and other mental/emotional struggles are not necessarily related to spiritual problems. It is simplistic to assume they all can be solved by a simple praise exercise. I just wanted to share it, hoping to help at least one other person to get a good night's sleep and grow closer to Jesus :-) Cristina, so glad you're finding the article useful. I've decided to use the exercise the next time I'm stuck on the freeway!

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July 05, 2011  11:32pm

I loved this article. I tried the alphabet game when I was in the middle of a spat with my husband and I was suddenly given over to a calmer, more rational discussion rather than letting my emotions get the better of me. I know this was not the intent, but I just started doing it. He had no idea of course as we were on the phone and I was doing it my head but it is now a comforting go-to for me.

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July 01, 2011  8:43am

Sam makes a good point. I don't think this author intended to exclude the fact that many suffer from insomnia that requires medical help. I think she is just offering a way for many of us sleepless in menopause or wakeful and worrying to utilize our time. Sam's point is well taken.

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