We’re obsessed with busyness.
Busyness itself is often worn as a badge of honor, like we’re all competing for a prize. This obsession extends to our patterns of sleep. We’ve all heard people say, “I only need like 5 hours of sleep a night,” and yet study after study shows only 1% of the population need less than 7–8 hours a night 1.
Life is busy and full—especially for dads. My kids are nearly 7, 5, and 3, and I am still frequently up in the middle of the night with scared kids. But there’s a difference between missing sleep and neglecting sleep.
In the last several years, I’ve learned that sleep is one important way to submit myself to God. And nearly every time I neglect sleep, I also neglect God’s words about me and Him. I’m a creature, and sleeping is my daily reminder of my place in the Creator’s world.
Creatures Need Sleep
Neglecting proper sleep patterns can have many root causes, but I’ve often found mine are more spiritual than physical.
Sleep expresses your daily needs.
The Bible divides all existence into two categories: Creator and creature. The Creator needs nothing (Acts 17:25), while creatures need to be actively sustained by the Creator’s care (Col 1:16–17; Heb 1:3).
God wants you to be dependent on him every day, so he created you to need 7–8 hours of sleep each night.2 Don’t chafe at your need for help; embrace it and Him! Striving to get proper sleep can train your heart that you are a creature in need of the Creator.
It is not brave, strong, or smart to regularly ignore one of the most fundamental realities about yourself—you are a creature.
Sleep rests daily in God’s care.
One of the most common reasons I miss sleep is because I’m worrying about something outside of my control. Psalm 127:2 says,
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.
Sleep is a gift from God and a sign of his care for you (Prov 3:24b). Sleeping is a daily and practical way to entrust yourself to God’s love.
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (Psalm 3:5)
God will care for your needs (Mt 6:32), so strive for healthy sleep.
Sleep prepares you for eternity.
The Bible uses rest as a metaphor for eternity with God. Jesus himself promises this rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28–30). And Christians are to “strive to enter that rest” (Heb 4:11). In Christ, all Christians will experience that rest that “remains … for the people of God” (Heb 4:9).
God made us to sleep each night and rest an entire day each week to prepare us for the “Sabbath rest” we will experience for all eternity (Heb. 3:18; 4:1, 3–9). I’d like to train my body, mind, and soul for that day by embracing my creatureliness now.
The Creator Never Sleeps
In a very real sense, you can sleep because God never does. Psalm 121:4 says,
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
When you lay down your head, take a few moments to rehearse truths to God. Here’s a sample prayer to get you started:
God, you alone are the Creator and Sustainer of all. I am a creature who needs your constant care. You’ve made me to need daily sleep, and it can train me to expect and embrace your care. Sleeping isn’t weakness, but submission and trust. It’s good for me to remember that I am not in control and I cannot fix everything with more work. While I sleep, you still work. Help me see sleep as a gift from you. Help me trust in your sovereign control even when I’m physically unable to act. And help me enjoy the foretaste of heavenly rest you’ve promised me in Christ. Amen.
How to sleep?
Most dads are tired and many won’t balk at the need for more sleep. So how do you do it? Let me suggest 3 brief steps:
1. Pray for the right perspective.
Because improper sleep is often a product of bad theology, ask God for the right perspective and listen to him when he speaks in the Bible. Before you sleep and after you awake, talk to God about your sleep.
2. Prepare for rest.
As much as possible, plan a consistent bedtime and keep it faithfully.3 Once the pattern becomes a habit, the habit can do the heavy lifting and your body will start to expect sleep.
Each night, ready yourself for sleep an hour before your bedtime. Here are a few ideas:
- Stop drinking liquids after dinner
- Turn the lights down or off an hour before bed
- Minimize screen time late at night
- Leave your phone in another room at night (don’t skip this one!)
- Get out of bed immediately in the morning (your phone is in another room after all, right?!)
3. Invest in sleep
A few years back, I told my wife, “If we’re going to spend 8 hours every night in bed, it’s time we started adjusting our budget to match.” Best decision we’ve ever made!
Everyone is different, but over the last 5 years or so, here are a few ways I’ve invested in my sleep:
- We purchased comfortable mattresses
- We purchased nicer pillows
- We sleep with white noise machines
- We keep the house cool, between 65–67 degrees
- I bought a 25lbs weighted blanket and it’s awesome
- I’ve tracked my sleep in some form since 2013 to ensure I’m getting 7.5 hours a night4
I fully admit to going a bit overboard—but it’s so worth it!
A Word to Weary Dads
It’s very possible that you want to sleep more but are prevented by kids, health problems, or unknown causes. My goal is not to beat you up or cause you more grief, but to center us all on the spiritual opportunities available in sleep.
In a very real sense, embracing your current place in life is the way to embrace your creatureliness and to submit to your Creator. Not sleeping may be you submitting to your role as a dad or submitting to the health troubles God has brought your way.
As Christians, a Sabbath rest awaits us. One day, there will be no more crying [infants at night], no more tears [from scary toddler dreams], no more broken bodies, and no more troubles or anxieties. For all eternity, we’ll continue bowing the knee to the Creator and finding His care more than enough.
Reflect for a moment that Jesus slept—the One sustaining us patterned how to be a dependent human! ↩︎
The easiest way to start is to go to bed a little earlier, just 15–20 minutes. If you have your phone in bed, removing it will also likely return you another 30 minutes each night. ↩︎
I use an app on my Apple Watch called Pillow. And there’s more hidden in this footnote. I wear a sleep mask like a grandma (and I love it) and we sleep in separate beds (you heard me right!). Yes, two mattresses like some 1940’s TV couple; we sleep in touching twin beds to minimize waking each other at night from moving around on the same surface. There’s a surface connector that connects the two mattress surfaces but doesn’t pass movements back and forth. ↩︎
Growing Fathers Team
Chris serves as a part-time associate pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Liberty, Utah. He and his wife, Megan, have three young children—Ella, Nora, and Jude.View all posts by Chris