What are the Long-Term Effects of Poor Sleep?
Nearly a quarter of all people in the UK get no more than five hours of sleep a night, and as many as 31% have insomnia. Factors such as work stress, lack of time, and financial problems are making it hard to enjoy enough sleep quality and quantity, and poor habits and bedroom design also play an important role in exacerbating the problem. If you are finding it difficult to wake up in the morning, or you feel sluggish when you do, take note. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sleep deprivation. There are far more serious consequences – both physical and mental – that could shorten your lifespan – unless you do something to remedy the problem, relying on your faith and the power of prayer to lessen your burden.
The Physical Consequences of Poor Sleep
As noted in a study published by Oxford Academic, chronic sleep deficiency brings about changes to molecular, immune, and neurological systems that play an important part in the development of disease. These include heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes – all of which can significantly reduce your lifespan. Sleep deprivation can also increase the likelihood of accidents and injuries at work and on the road. It seems timely to recall the passage in the Bible which reminds us that the body is a temple. Christians should therefore make healthy lifestyle choices to honour the life given to them.
Sleep Deprivation, Anxiety, and Depression
Having a sleep disorder is not in itself a cause of depression and anxiety, but it can make these conditions worse, by altering stress hormone levels and making people less resilient to difficult situations. One study published in the journal Sleep, showed that sleep loss results in high cortisol levels the next evening. This can in turn make it harder to sleep, thus creating a cycle that can be difficult to escape. What is clear is that poor sleep and anxiety or depression affect each other. As noted in John 11:12, by sleeping, human beings can feel better – not just physically but mentally as well. Daily prayer can help to reduce anxiety, while faith can help you achieve worry free slumber.
The Importance of Faith
Isaiah 41:10 tells believers to have no fear for even when they are going through trying times, God is with them. “I will strengthen and help you,” says the Lord. When battling a problem like insomnia, anxiety, or stress, it is important to know that God is by your side. The existence of faith can motivate Christians to find holistic, healthy ways to feel sleepier at night – be it through exercise, relaxation exercises, praying the rosary, reciting a special prayer, etc.
Battling Stress throughout the Day
If money and personal worries are keeping you up at night, try battling the stress they cause proactively. A study published in Pastoral Psychology found that prayer (communicating with God) has the ability to lower stress and increase Christians’ collaborative relationship with God. Other powerful ways to reduce stress include controlled breathing, exercise (try a blend of cardio and strength exercises) and mindfulness meditation (which involves keeping the mind in the present moment). Simply spending time in a green or seaside area – such as a park, beach, or mountainside – also has a positive effect on stress levels and mood.
Creating a Bedtime Routine
Try to sleep at the same time every night, and create a relaxing routine prior to bedtime. This may include prayer (alone or with your spouse), having a relaxing bath, diffusing relaxing essential oils like lavender through the room, etc. If you have a spouse, try to align your sleeping patterns as a couple, so that one doesn’t wake the other up, thus interrupting their progress through the vital stages of sleep.
Giving Due Importance to Bedroom Design
In order to facilitate good sleep, your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and a little cool. Ensure the surroundings are neat and uncluttered, so that you instantly feel at peace when you enter the room. Consider using calming colours like green, lavender, or blue for the walls and furniture. Finally, keep all gadgets (including televisions) outside, so you and your spouse associate the bedroom with rest and affection exclusively.
If despite taking all the above steps you have insomnia or you feel tired when you wake up in the morning, seek the help of a sleep specialist. They will help you rule out conditions like sleep apnea, which are harmful to health and should be addressed. In the vast majority of cases, good stress reduction methods, a strict routine, and prayer, can help you achieve the peaceful state of mind you need to enjoy a truly restful night’s sleep.
Written by: Katlyn Oliver