When I Can't Sleep

I love sleep. Always have. I just never realized how fragile it would become. As a young woman it was a given. It occurred every night, and even sometimes in the middle of the day.

Of the many "surprises" experienced in my 50's, the absence of easy sleep has been one of the most disappointing. Others issues are merely inconvenient: when I can't remember why I came in a room; when parts ache I never knew I had, when I tire easier, pant sooner, or just plain need to sit down.

By the way, I don't understand why if I get tired sooner, I don't also fall asleep easier. They would seem to correspond.

When exactly did I lose my ability to zonk out?

Maybe it all started back in my twenties with the arrival of babies. A simple hiccup or short cry woke me from the deepest sleep. This was quite a change, since as a child I had the distinction of sleeping through a tornado. (You just don't ever live that one down.)

But mommyhood installed an internal alarm (that apparently Dads are NOT hard wired with) that awakened me when the baby experienced the slightest discomfort.

As the children got older, the mom radar never went away. Maybe it disabled my sleep mechanism? 

Last night, I yawned and felt tired as I read. So I turned off the light about 11:00 PM. And laid there. Rolled over. Kicked off the covers. Changed pillows. Rolled the other way. Put covers back on. Tossed. Turned. Sighed.

I tried to resist the temptation of checking the time, but I couldn't help myself. 12:00. 12:30.

Thirty minutes later, I reassured myself, "1:00 AM. That's okay. I can still sleep for five or six hours.  I will be alright." Every thirty minutes or so I repeated this math equation, with the sleep hours decreasing each time. My last clock check was at 2:47 AM, and I eventually fell asleep some point after that.

This doesn't happen every night, but it occurs often enough I have developed a response when sleep eludes me, so I don't waste those sleepless hours. In between the clock checks, I want to redeem the time. So I pray:

What I Pray

  • I start praying thankfulness prayers. I thank the Lord for everything I can think of: pillow, blanket, air conditioning (or heat), bed, indoor plumbing, electricity, pajamas, etc. These are items I take for granted on a normal day. But as I lay in the still darkness and concentrate on the wealth around me, I am humbled. When I thank God for minute details, that many around the globe never have the possibility of possessing, I can express gratitude for a long time.
  • Then I pray for individual family members. I pray for any specific issues I am aware of for my husband and then each of my children and their spouses, plus my granddaughter. That is a total of thirteen people, so depending on how many challenges are presently in their lives, this can take a while.
  • If I still am not asleep, I pray for the nation, the leaders, laws, economy, military, my dog, or anything that comes to mind.

I start with thankfulness because it relaxes my soul, and often that relaxation makes its way to my sleeping mechanism. Gratitude soothes my mind as I linger in the realization of God's provision.

But when I am still awake after thanking God, I pray for my family. Worry over them often keeps me awake. Prayer empties my heart of the weight of issues I attempt to carry in my own strength. I can't fix my people. But I can ask the God, the Divine Fixer, to work out all their conundrums to His glory. Laying these at the cross relaxes my mind and spirit so I might sleep.

When I lay awake at night, worrying about everyone's issues, I feel like I am doing something. Actually I am- I accomplish keeping myself awake. But I solve nothing. When I pray about problems, THEN I am doing something, and it is powerful!

Just think how many items I prayed for last night while sleep evaded me. I thanked the Lord for almost every item in my room. I covered wide circles of family and many major national problems. Laying in bed until 2:47 had its advantages!

To younger women, I exhort you: appreciate sleep that is long, hard and deep. Don't take it for granted. This amazing talent may some day leave you.

As for me, I will continue my night watches as sleep eludes me. I will continue to redeem those hours with prayer. Write a prayer request in the comments below and I will add you to my list for the next time I stay up past 2:47 AM.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
— Proverbs 3:24 NASB