As a teenager, it was frustrating that I was supposed to spend a third of my time asleep. I thought of sleep as a great time waster when there were so many things I wanted to do. I thought I could accomplish much more by staying awake.
The truth is that humans need sleep, and so do all animals. Birds, fish, and even insects need periods of dormancy to survive. Even plants need “sleep.” Sunlight empowers photosynthesis in plants to produce the nutrients they need for survival and growth. Therefore, it seems that plants should grow faster if they had sunlight 24 hours a day. Not so. If you set up an indoor garden with artificial lights, you will find that the plants need dark periods. You can even change the “seasons” for the plants by varying the percentage of darkness and light.
Instead of seeing sleep as a great time waster, we know that it is a vital biological process essential for the survival and well-being of living things. Sleep is necessary to maintain good health by restoring and repairing the body’s tissues and organs. During sleep, the body produces hormones that help repair damaged tissues and build new ones. Sleep plays a critical role in the immune system, as it helps the body produce cytokines, a type of protein required to fight infection and inflammation.
Sleep is also crucial for the regulation of metabolic processes. Working with our circadian rhythm, sleep helps to regulate appetite and energy balance. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger and decreased production of hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin and ghrelin. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, increasing the risk of developing several chronic health conditions.
Sleep is essential for more than just physical well-being. During sleep, our brain processes and consolidates memories and data acquired during awake times. The lack of sleep can impair attention, memory, decision-making, and emotions. Sleep aids in the consolidation of learning and the formation of new memories. During sleep, the brain replays and consolidates memories from the previous day, helping to strengthen and make them more resistant to forgetting.
Now that I am old, I appreciate sleep much more than I did as a teenager. I no longer see sleep as a great time waster but as a blessing from God. I have found that some of my best ideas come to me at night. I can wake up with a new idea or a fresh way of looking at things. Sleep has cleared away the fog in my mind so I can see things I had overlooked.
I am also thankful that God doesn’t sleep. We can sleep because He is our protector 24/7/365. Psalms 121:3b-4 says, “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” So when our melatonin level increases and our circadian clock tells us it’s time to sleep, we can rest knowing that God is still at work keeping the world going. “The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NCV).
— Roland Earnst © 2023