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[Healthy Living] Is Sleep for Sissies?

burningmidnightoilHow much sleep did you get last night?

I’m not asking what you did last night or the night before that required you to stay up late. It was probably quite noble and likely “for the kingdom.”

Maybe this is even a pattern in your life. You have a bunch of work to do, but want to make sure you spend time with your family during the day. It’s why you put off some of your work until late at night…that’s why God invented laptops, right?

Still, how much sleep are you getting?

Or perhaps more clearly…when are you going to bed?

That alone is worth asking, even if you tend to get in your “eight hours” on a regular basis. Perhaps you’re getting the right amount of sleep, but you’re going to bed on a schedule that puts you at odds with others in your home or the people you see throughout most of your day. You snag a “fourth meal” at Taco Bell, or prep your favorite late-night snack, and plug into whatever you’ve been waiting to get to all day.

It could be for any number of reasons:

  • You’re trying to stay flexible: Ministry requires you to be available on the fly, and you know one of your prime times to serve others is late at night.
  • You’re trying to have some “me” time: Your DVR is backed up with shows you’re still waiting to catch up on, and maybe the only time you feel you can watch them uninterrupted is when everyone else has gone to sleep.
  • You can’t think during the day: It feels like whenever you sit down to get something important done, someone knocks on your door, calls you, or sends you an email that needs your immediate attention.

Maybe you can relate to all of this.

Maybe you can relate to none of this.

Let me ask one more question that goes just one layer deeper.

Who gets to decide what’s healthy in this area?

A friend of mine told me years ago that sometimes you need to give yourself a “fake heart attack.” He had a family member who had an actual heart attack and was told by a doctor to radically reorient his life. This meant new habits with eating, exercise, sleep, and more.

The doctor set the standard.

My friend shared how his family member struggled with this, and so the rest of the household decided to join him in the changes. Everyone had a “fake heart attack” and changed their patterns to help with the real situation.

As you might imagine, the entire family’s life became healthier through the process. Each person lost a lot of weight, had new energy, kept the same sleeping schedule, and consequently bonded more with others in the household than they ever had before. Their relationship grew by leaps and bounds, and they even became more involved in church and other charitable efforts.

Maybe that feels like a Cinderella story from where you’re sitting. “I could never do that,” you might argue. Maybe not.

Unless your doctor told you that you were on the verge of a heart attack. Everything would change then, wouldn’t it?

It’s ironic how we criticize people who only come to Jesus at the last minute because they want to avoid hell. Isn’t this exactly what we do with our health? Until there’s a real fear of penalty, we’ll just keep on pushing our bodies and schedules to their limits because we see no other option that we’ll actually stay consistent with.

Allow me to end on a confession.

burning-midnight-oilI’ve written this article to Tony Myles. If anyone else has read along, feel free to comment.

Me? As I write this, I have a doctor’s appointment in an hour. I’m curious, based on how that goes, what I’ll continue to get away with… and what he’ll tell me has to change in my life.

Can anyone relate?

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2)”

Thank you for loving students!



*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*


0 thoughts on “[Healthy Living] Is Sleep for Sissies?

  1. Hi Tony,

    just wanted to send a quick note of thanks for this very important reminder! something i’ve been thinking about and the kick in the pants i needed.


  2. Ouch! You stepped on my toes today. Great word. Praying your visit with the doc went well!

    • It did, Susan. I am in the “okay” zone, but he did order some follow up stuff he wants me to do. Time for me to spend the next six weeks seeing what kinds of natural changes I can put into play to make sure nothing further is needed. May the toes that got stepped on via this article help us all to walk a little straighter.

  3. Brandon Carter

    Hoo boy, did this strike a chord. Thanks for writing this, Tony. Pretty challenging stuff.

    • Thanks, Brandon. I’ve had many moments of conviction on this over the years… it felt like it was time to do something about it. Praying for you in this as well. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Thanks for allowing God to speak through you with this article. It is perfectly timed for me. Now it’s time to go enjoy a fake heart attack!

  5. Great article and comments! Self care, family care, and life care are so important. I think many of us feel that “well we are serving God, so it’s okay to sacrifice whatever necessary to serve God” when sometimes serving God, is being a faithful spouse, or parent or friend.

    As a side note – I am blessed to be able to structure my hours to best suit me and my wife. I am a night owl by nature, I literally can’t fall asleep before midnight -i’ve tried and i just lay there staring at the ceiling. I am very productive between the hours of 11 and 1. So last night – I had a late night church meeting, but I scheduled a “Castle Date” with my wife. I got home, ate my dinner and then we put all our personal screens away so we could watch castle together. We both love the show. So we watched together. And then we used commerical breaks to fill each other on our days. it was wonderful! She then went to bed halfway through the news, and I followed in a little later.

    For us, this system works. Will it need to change? of course! but for now, it lets me be faithful and productive to God and to my spouse!

    • I hear that, Josh. As hard as I’ve tried over the years to become a morning person, I drift into late night activity faster and more easily. However, when I have been on my family’s schedule (sometimes lasting 2-6 weeks in a row) I do feel more connected with them. Conversation with my wife is less about catching up and more about processing life together in real-time. Glad you found something that’s working… may I humbly offer that we both remain on the lookout for something greater than functionality. Love your date idea as a possible on-ramp.

  6. I can hear my mom yelling, “Go to bed!” as a teenager and I can hear my mom yelling the same thing in my adult years. Funny how some things don’t change. That being said this article challenges me because this is my current circumstance: home sick with bronchitis because I didn’t take care of my body by going to bed earlier. Lack of sleep equals weak immune system. Going to bed at a decent hour has long been a struggle of mine. Not that I’m a night owl staying up till 2am but that I don’t listen to my body and hit the hay at 10:30 like I should. We are all wired differently so this article reinforces that I need to get better quality sleep. Which then means I need to prioritize my day better because I’m so “busy” (heavy on the finger quotes). I can hear Jesus say “Really?!” with a confused look on his face as I die prematurely from a disease caused by lack of sleep. Semi sarcastic but partly true.

    Great, practical article that few talk about. Thank you.

    • Appreciate your honesty, Tyler. I used to stay up late as a teen because it was when my parents weren’t arguing. It was the only time I had peace… and somehow that followed me into adulthood. Now as a dad I want to give my kids a better template/example, not to mention be healthy, too. Hope we both figure this out. 🙂

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[Healthy Living] Is Sleep for Sissies?

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