Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Spiritual Value of Sleep

We all need sleep. Everyone knows that is a fact of biology and physiology. In truth, those reasons are secondary to the most important reason for sleep: spirituality.

Sleep is often overlooked as a spiritual concept, perhaps because the Lord directly speaks of it only briefly in scripture. Most of what we find is summarized in this short verse: 'cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated' (D&C 88:124).

Yet the amount of sleep we receive can affect our decision making in a way that could have dire spiritual consequences. Consider how many times you may have been ornery with someone you love because you were tired. Have you ever been tempted with something that isn't normally a concern because your body was exhausted? How many times have you indulged your carnal self with laziness, unnecessary eating or other selfish acts because you were tired? Has fatigue ever convinced you not to do something you should, like reading your scriptures, helping a neighbor or saying your prayers?

King Benjamin taught that he, 'cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means', but that we must, 'watch [ourselves], and [our] thoughts, and [our] words, and [our] deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives' (Mosiah 4:29-30).

As teenagers our parents asked us to be home at a time we may have considered early because they knew that being tired would make it harder to leave a bad movie, resist peer pressures and control our crazy teenage hormones. As adults who often tire more quickly, we must continue to 'watch ourselves'. We may find it more difficult to change the channel, act with patience toward our families, or fulfill our many responsibilities if we don't hold ourselves, as much as possible, to the standard of early bedtimes the Lord requires in scripture.

Sometimes we try to deceive ourselves into thinking we are more awake than we really are. Taking stimulants such as caffeine, for example, can cause a hormonal response that makes us feel alert while our body and mind are still suffering from fatigue. This can be dangerous as we begin to perceive we are making sound decisions when our mind is actually clouded. Over time these stimulants can add significant stress to our bodies, reduce our natural ability to sleep and lead to addiction, exhaustion, patterns of poor decision making and even a shorter lifespan.

The Lord promises (and if you're interested, science has also found) that if we will go to bed early and get enough sleep, our bodies and minds will be invigorated. We will be best able to make decisions that could improve our health, our relationships, our devotion and the quality of our lives. It is worth our time and effort to arrange our schedules to obey the Lord's direction and allow for a good night's rest.

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