Rhythms of Sleep

Our bodies have a natural sleep rhythm built into them, although through the years we have learned to alter that rhythm. When electricity became a standard in homes, people began to stay up later and later. I remember experiencing power outages in my home as a kid and thinking it was the most exciting thing to be in a dark house without electricity. It usually didn’t last very long, but I remember one time when the power was out for hours and because there was nothing to do (besides watch the snow fall) I ended up going to bed. 

Every day we see the natural rhythms of the sun and moon as they rise and fall. My kids always associated this cycle with their sleep, in the summer I remember being told, “it’s not bedtime the sun is still up.” 

Our bodies were created to be both awake in the day and asleep at night. As we learn healthy rhythms of rest, we are creating space for the Spirit to replenish us when we are worn down. Many people struggle with sleep for various reasons. Some people struggle to fall asleep, some struggle to stay asleep, and others struggle to stay awake. When I worked as night chaplain with hospice, I struggled with all of these. 

Learning to honor our bodies, and their natural limits is a discipline. As we learn to honor our bodies and listen to our needs we become more aware of the discipline we need to be in healthy rhythms. One discipline we can try is to wake up and go to sleep at roughly the same times every day, we may find we have more energy while we are awake, and sleep better through the night. 

What time do you usually go to bed? What types of activities do you do before bed that either help you sleep, or keep you awake? Tonight as you lay down observe your breath. Once you notice your natural rhythm of breath begin to slow your breathing, exhaling longer. When we lengthen our exhale, we send a signal to the parasympathetic nervous system telling our bodies that it is okay to rest. The long exhales help to slow the body down and prepare for rest. We were created to sleep, to rest, to take a break from the things that keep our minds and bodies active throughout the day. This week I invite you to become aware of your sleep patterns. Notice the rhythms you have trained your body to do, and observe how your body is feeling. Is your body in need of more rest? What might you do to create space so you can rest and sleep more easily?