Why do you get up every morning?
Is it a passion to finish some job? A half-will to just live normally? Maybe you don’t really have an answer. Regardless, we all, every morning, get up. What do we get up from? Sleep. We rise from the warm comfort of our good friend sleep and have to find the motivation and purpose to face the day. We all, every one of us who have ever lived, all of us spend one-third of our lives conked out, drooling on our pillows, and completely oblivious to the world around us. Let’s look into that.
While it may seem as if sleep is when everything shuts down, in a way it’s quite the opposite. Yes, we don’t move much and are basically inactive, but inside the brain, the party is just getting started.
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness where reduced physical activity and moderate brain activity work together to process information and restore energy in a being. Several things happen to our bodily systems when we drift of. First, our body temperature is lowered a few degrees. This actually helps us fall asleep, and we use less energy to maintain body temperature, saving energy. Second, our breathing patterns change. Sometimes they slow and become regular, other times they can be faster than when we are awake. Third, psychological activity is overall increased. Though some other processes are slowed, the restorative sections of the body, like cell repair and body growth, are dramatically increased.
Several cycles of brain activity were discovered by scientists in the last hundred years. The two most basic cycles are known as the REM (Rapid Eye Movements) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movements) cycles. As we fall asleep, we enter NREM, which is when the brain slowly shuts down the body but increases brain activity. This is generally a dreamless cycle, and not as deep as REM. Eventually, we enter REM, which is when the brain is most active. Slow, but high-frequency waves are very active in the neurons, and eye movements are common, hence the name. This eye activity is generally associated with dreams. Throughout the night, the human body cycles through these two types of sleep, processing information and restoring the body to an energetic state.
Lastly, one of the weirdest parts of sleep (though sleep, in general, is pretty weird if you think about it) is dreams. Scientists are still unsure what the purpose of dreams are, besides free entertainment. Our brains follow random and illogical sequences of thoughts that are loosely based on the wakeful world, mostly during REM sleep. One purpose of dreaming is God’s way of communication with us. It’s very uncommon, but there are several references of this happening in the Bible, (see Genesis 37 and 40, most of Daniel, and Matthew 2), and occasionally a story of God’s divine will in someone’s dream will crop up. (We have to be careful with this though, for many of the stories are most likely fake.) Generally, our dreams are just that, dreams.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate sleep and rest. What we don’t realize is that not only is sleep a gift, it’s a commandment. The 4th commandment is
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.
The Sabbath represents the 7th day of Creation, where God rested from his work. Did God need rest? No. God wanted to make sure we set apart time from our busy lives to put extra effort on focusing on him. Psalm 46:10 states,
Be still and know I am God.
It’s pretty hard to be still if we are constantly busy, and never spend more than a few moments a day reflecting on God’s glory and greatness. See, God pre-set us to need rest and to want and crave rest, and that is for a reason. First, it shows we are not al powerful beings and have limits. It’s humbling. Second, forcing us to take a break every night forces us to be alone with our thoughts. God designed this to point to him. He hardwired us to stop, and he wants us to use that rest time on Sundays and before we sleep to refocus on him. Sure, it’s important to have a God-centered life when we are up and moving. But we are closing to God when we can really take time and dissect his greatness. Rest is a tool to grow closer to God, not just a break from business. Do you use sleep and rest for this?