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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Biblical Concept of Sleep(Sleep and Stress Relief are Essential for Health)

Sleep and Stress Relief
are Essential for Health
Deep rest, sleep and stress relief go hand in hand.
Ever notice how the day seems to go better when you’ve gotten enough sleep the night before?
When we get enough sleep, even if things don’t happen exactly as planned, we take it in stride more easily.
Getting enough sleep is such a blessing.

Research shows sleep essential
for stress reduction and well-being:
  • Sleep deprivation impairs the functioning of human cognitive and motor abilities.
  • It also has a powerful influence on mood.
  • Problems with sleeping are often associated with symptoms of depression and a feeling of diminished health.
  • Insomnia can mean increased emotional distress, daytime fatigue and diminished productivity.
  • Studies also suggest a sleep deficit may put the body into a state of high alert, increasing the production of stress hormones and driving up blood pressure.
Tips to enhance sleep and stress relief:
  1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Your body will then get into the habit of winding down in the evening.
  2. Try to be in bed and asleep before 10pm. Some experts say the sleep you get before midnight is especially valuable for rejuvenation. That way you are likely to be in deep sleep between midnight and 3 am when your body can optimally take advantage of human growth hormone.
  3. Let yourself relax in the evening. It’s a great time to share with family members.
  4. Try to avoid computer work or TV past 8pm. The bright light from computer screens and TVs will send a message to your body’s time clock which says "stay awake".
  5. Get a comfortable mattress made of natural materials which will not outgas.
  6. Keep your bedroom a comfortable temperature. Get a little space heater for the winter if necessary.
  7. Eliminate clutter and distractions from your bedroom so that it feels more peaceful.
  8. Keep the bedroom very dark at night. This may mean getting lined curtains, or eliminating extraneous equipment with additional little lights, or getting a clock without a luminous display.
  9.  A few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow case before bed may help relaxation. I sometimes put a few drops of lavender on my head and forehead. It seems to calm my mind. (Make sure your skin isn't sensitive to lavender before you try this.)
  10. A cup of warm green tea or passion flower tea can also help bring on sleep.
  11. Some people find a cup on warm milk and honey before bed is helpful.
  12. Many people find avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon and evening helps to insure a good night’s sleep.
  13. Daily exercise  help insure good sleep. Even a 30 minute walk may be all you require.
  14. Try breathing for stress relief  My favorite naturopath recommends 20 minutes of slow deep breathing before bed to boost melatonin levels and improve sleep and stress relief.
Deep breathing can also help soothe my minor aches and pains which might keep me awake.
One of my friends suggests "count 100 slow deep breaths, emphasizing the exhale, and you will probably be asleep long before you reach 100." Boring.... but it works.
(Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate on my breath that long so I combine 20 to 30 minutes of gentle walking with deep breathing to relax me before bed.)
  1. Doing a 5 minute foot massage before bed can often help me unwind and get ready for sleep.
  2. Some people like to write in their journal before bed. It helps them to get things off their mind and feel more peaceful with the day’s events.
  3. My husband likes to spend a few minuets in the evening to write his plans for the next day. It helps him get it off his mind so he can sleep more peacefully.
  4. Spending some quiet time in prayer or meditationor reflection before bed can also be a calming influence.
Sleep is when our bodies have a chance to recharge repair and rejuvenate. So it makes sense that sleep and stress relief is essential for our optimum health and well being.
Getting sufficient sleep and stress relief is an invaluable investment in the next day’s productivity and in our health in general.

  Overwork & fatigue are some of the main causes of stress

 So resist the temptation to overwork and be willing to allow your body the time for rest and recharge.
Since sleep is such a significant part of the human experience, it is no surprise that biblical writers should allude to it frequently. There are a variety of ways in which this term is employed in the literature of scripture.


The Biblical Concept of Sleep


Literal Sleep

The word “sleep” is used literally of the state of the body in normal, unconscious repose. On one occasion when Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, the Lord was sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the boat (Mk. 4:38). This is but one of the many evidences which argue for the true humanity of the Savior.
It is interesting that the Scriptures refer to different levels of sleep. At Troas, Eutychus, in a late-night church service, was borne down with “deep sleep,” and fell from an upstairs window to the ground (Acts 20:9). Science makes a distinction between a lighter sleep (REM = Rapid Eye Movement, i.e., the dream stage) and a deeper sleep (non-REM). This is determined by the measurement of brain waves on an electroencephalograph (EEG). In adults, deep slumber represents about 75% of one’s sleeping time.

Sleep as a Symbol

The term “sleep” is used symbolically in several different senses in the Bible. A consideration of these makes a fascinating study.
  1. The concept of sleeping is biblically employed to stress certain truths about God. In emphasizing the fact that the Lord is ever watchful of our needs, a psalmist wrote: “He will not allow your foot to slip; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psa. 121:3-4). As a result of the Lord’s providential care, the faithful saint takes consolation. “In peace will I both lay me down and sleep; for you, Jehovah, alone make me dwell in safety” (Psa. 4:8).

    On the other hand, when the Hebrew people drifted into sin, and the Lord allowed them to suffer the consequences of their rebellion, it was as if he was asleep, i.e., he did not intervene to deliver them from certain calamities. They exclaimed: “Awake. Why do you sleep, O Lord? Arise, do not cast us off forever” (Psa. 44:23).
  2. Sometimes sleep is used as the equivalent of being lazy. “Do not give sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids …. Go to the ant, O sluggard. Observe her ways and be wise …. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest. And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man” (Prov. 6:4-11).
  3. Sleep can portray the utter and final punishment of a wicked power that has stood in opposition to God. The prophet Jeremiah foretold the complete destruction of the evil Babylonian regime. “… Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for jackals, an astonishment, and a hissing, without inhabitant …. When they are heated, I will make their feast, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith Jehovah” (51:37-39). (For a full discussion of precisely how this was accomplished, see the author’s commentary, {glossSub (“Courier Publications”,“Jeremiah & Lamentations”)}, 175-86.)
  4. Sometimes spiritual lethargy is represented as a sleep. To the brethren in Rome Paul wrote: “And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). The apostle subsequently amplifies the significance of the figure by suggesting that the pursuit of an ungodly lifestyle is tantamount to a spiritual coma (v. 13).

    A similar thought is suggested in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Awake, you who are sleeping, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine on you” (Eph. 5:14).
  5. Sleep can suggest the notion of being unprepared to meet the Lord at the time of his return. Jesus warned: “Watch therefore: for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming … lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping” (Mk. 13:35-36). When Paul corresponded with the brothers in Thessalonica, he warned about a false sense of security. Folks will be relaxing in a delusional state of “peace and safety,” when suddenly destruction will come upon them. And so he admonished: “… let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thes. 5:3-6). To be awake is thus to be vigilant, ever prepared.
  6. Sleep is commonly used as a designation for death, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. David petitioned the Creator: “Consider and answer me, O Jehovah my God: Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psa. 13:3).

    When Lazarus of Bethany died, Jesus informed the disciples: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep ….” The Master’s men did not comprehend the nature of his language. They initially thought that Christ spoke of natural sleep; he therefore had to tell them plainly: “Lazarus is dead” (Jn. 11:14).

    Why is death figuratively depicted as sleep? First, there is a common appearance between a sleeping body and a corpse. The analogy is thus quite natural.

    Second, just as the soul of the sleeper still exists, though oblivious to its material surroundings, even so, in death the soul of man is not extinct; rather, it is only unaware of earth’s environment. Solomon asserted that the dead have neither knowledge of, nor reward for, anything transpiring “under the sun,” i.e., on earth (Eccl. 9:5-6).

    Third, as the sleeping person awakes and rises from his bed, just so, the dead will rise from their graves at the time of the Lord’s return. We must briefly pause and comment further about these final two points.

    It is not the case, as alleged by some, that the dead are unconscious, i.e., they are in a state of mindless sleep, awaiting the day of judgment. There is ample evidence that the dead are entirely conscious in their own realm of existence. Both the rich man and Lazarus were cognizant (Lk. 16:23-25), and so were the martyred souls in John’s heavenly vision (Rev. 6:9-11). (For a more detailed discussion of this theme, see “Are the Dead Conscious?”)

    Whenever the Bible describes death as a “sleep,” it is only the body that is under consideration. For example, Daniel referred to those who “sleep in the dust of the earth” (12:2). Note that the part of man which sleeps is that part which is planted in the dust. A common Greek word for the “sleep” of death is koimaomai (cf. Mt. 27:52), a kindred term to koimeterion, from which derives our word “cemetery,” the abode of dead bodies (see “Asleep,” W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary).
  7. Finally, as suggested above, the term “sleep” implies the future resurrection of the human body. In spite of the fact that there are some who say, “there is no resurrection of the dead” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12), e.g., the advocates of “realized eschatology,” the Bible unequivocally teaches this doctrine.

    Paul argues that Christ “is the firstfruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). This is a clear affirmation that Christ’s bodily resurrection is Heaven’s pledge that we shall be raised similarly – the firstfruits being the initial harvest (cf. Ex. 23:16), and the guarantee of that which is to follow. As the Lord awoke from the dead, so shall we.
“Sleep” is an intriguing study – both from the literal and figurative perspectives. May we be enriched by an investigation of this theme.


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