Why do we need to sleep? Why is sleeping part of God's design for humans?
God created rhythms of work and rest from the very start of creation. Sleep is part of that rhythm. We don't know specifically why God made us in such a way that we require sleep. We know of many reasons that sleep is physically, psychologically, and even spiritually beneficial for us. But, again, precisely why God chose this for our design is something only He knows. That being said, we can rest assured that our need for sleep can bring glory to God. Perhaps it is as simple as sleep reminding us that we are created and that we rely on God for all our needs. Sleep is a gift for which we can be grateful to God. It offers us an opportunity to recharge, to see things in a fresh perspective, and to have a break from the struggles of daily life.
Whether we like it or not, sleep is a human need; and by going without it for any extended period of time, we will most likely experience a plethora of physical and mental struggles. In order to function optimally, both physically and mentally, we all need sleep. How can this need point us toward God? Our need for sleep, like our need for food and water, reminds us of our need for God and utter dependence on Him in every area of our lives. It is only through Him that we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Not only does sleep remind us that we need God, Psalm 127:2 reveals that sleep is actually a gift from God: "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." God doesn't want us to work and stress our lives away, so He gives us the gift of sleep and other dedicated times of rest. He is our Creator; He knows what we need. Jesus reminds us: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28–30). In some ways, our physical sleep is a picture of the spiritual rest we can receive in Christ.
According to the Bible, sleep is good—it is refreshing, necessary, and peaceful (Psalm 4:8; Proverbs 3:24). It is a way for us to be replenished. For some, sleep has even been a time when God spoke through dreams and visions (Genesis 20:3; 31:24; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 7:1). God may give us understanding and does work in our hearts while we sleep: "I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me" (Psalm 16:7).
While sleep is a necessity, too much sleep is not good, and is equated with laziness and poverty in Proverbs (Proverbs 6:9; 19:15; 20:13; 24:33–34).
On the other hand, the things associated with not sleeping in the Bible are troubling in nature: such as grief, guilt, fear, and doing evil (Psalm 6:6; 77:4; Proverbs 4:16). In the book of Isaiah, those who are righteous have peace and "rest in their beds," but there is no peace for those who are wicked (Isaiah 57:2, 21). Peaceful sleep is a sign of right-standing with God. Even in troubling situations, we are able to sleep, knowing that God will sustain us: "I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me" (Psalm 3:5; see also Luke 8:23–24).
Sleep acts as a daily reset for our brains. We sleep and rest so that we may be refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of each new day. Each day as we rise, we can be confident that God's great mercy and faithfulness will be ready and waiting for us: "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22–23).
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