Sleep More and Live More

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 7, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

This week the Worldview Warriors blog writers are focusing on time with God and rest. The topic can be in important one depending on the person. If you're uber busy, this is for you. Please take a minute to read it.

Rest is defined as to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. We have this very rest in Christ spiritually speaking. We have peace with God because of Jesus Christ. Physically, we need to take a moment to rest as well. “Solace” was also brought up in our meeting as we hashed out what we'd be writing on. I'll submit that as we rest in Christ and take time to meditate on Him, we find solace. Solace, then, is defined as to comfort or give consolation in a time of distress or sadness. If you're dealing with something heavy, find rest in Jesus. He is truly, and I mean literally the only, way to find peace in your circumstance. The loss of a very close loved one, the loss of employment and, therefore, perhaps your identity, the struggle of watching one of your children walk down a path you know leads to destruction—in all these things you can find peace, find rest, find solace in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read the blog posts by the other Worldview Warriors writers this week. I'm going to cover the effects of meditation and rest or sleep today on the body. We have lots of issues in this country because we don't take time to slow down for a short time each day. Let me explain.

We'll start with sleep. Sleep deprivation, I think, is an epidemic in this country. One reason this is so is that people think they can handle it or they get used to it. The evidence is not in their favor. So what are the health benefits of sleep? Quite a few of the benefits will be revisited in the “harmful effects” section of sleep deprivation. One obvious reason to get enough sleep (defined as at least 7 if not 8 hours every day) is that it simply makes you feel better and puts you in a better mood. We all know this to be true based just on our experience. Research confirms it. Our mood is brightened as a result of getting adequate sleep. So I guess if you need a reason to try to get enough shut-eye, think of all the people you encounter every day. Do it for them.

We have improved memory because of adequate sleep. During sleep, especially deeper sleep, our brains are very active. You're consolidating memories and even learned processes. This means you're actually making memories and learned things more easily accessible because of getting proper amounts of sleep. This is why sleeping well the night before a big test is critical. The hours of cramming are better spent in bed. I had a friend in college that stayed up all night for an exam—he believed he was studying. I stopped at about 11 or maybe it was midnight and went home to bed. He stayed up and crammed all night. I did well on the exam and he failed miserably. Was it because I was smarter? Of course not! He was exhausted and his mind was incapable of producing the information he required.

Studies also show we have more longevity with good sleep habits. What this means is, in general, people live longer if they sleep the correct amount as a habit. It's also been found that those who get more sleep generally have less inflammation than those who get 6 or fewer hours. I'll say more about this in a moment, but let's just take a second to mention that inflammation is the primary reason we have heart disease, why high cholesterol can be bad, why stroke happens, why chronic pain is an issue, and why we may have diabetes, arthritis, or seem to age quickly. It's yucky stuff.

Creativity seems to be at its highest after a good night's rest as well. Due to the restructuring and reorganization of memories and experiences, as well as the strengthening of emotional components, we seem to be more creative when we sleep well.

Improved performance in athletics has been linked to better sleeping habits as well. Studies were done with football players, tennis players, and swimmers. All had better times and faster reaction time because of proper sleeping habits. This carries over into higher GPA's as well for a few of the reasons we've already mentioned. It also is related to sharper attention—meaning symptoms of ADHD can be aggravated by not enough rest or diminished with adequate amounts.

It's much easier to maintain an appropriate metabolic rate as a result of being well-rested as well. This means being a healthy weight as well as having a healthy fat to muscle ratio is more easily attainable when well rested. It also means, because of hormone balance, that it's easier to be alert and awake during your waking hours if you sleep well.

Like mediation, which we'll cover in a moment, more sleep equals less stress. People who sleep properly tend to tolerate stressful situations better.

So let's briefly outline the opposite here—the negatives of not enough sleep. Related to alertness, there are over 100,000 motor vehicle accidents every year attributed to inadequate sleep. This includes over 1,500 deaths annually as well. In fact, the work place is also much less safe because of sleep deprivation. Sources suggest Chernobyl was the result of sleep deprivation! So was the spill related to the Exxon Valdez and the nuclear accident on Three Mile Island.

Because of the reorganization of memories and experiences that occurs during sleep, especially deeper levels of sleep, a sleep deprived person has impaired attention, concentration, alertness, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn as well as recall new information. You age faster with less sleep and your skin will wrinkle more with less sleep. And if you're trying to lose weight, include an earlier bed time! Studies show that those with proper sleep will lose the same or more weight versus those who are sleep deprived and they will lose much more fat. The sleep deprived may lose weight, but it is generally a higher concentration of muscle rather than fat. So, in essence, you could weigh less but be more fat with less rest. Sleep is also related to metabolism in the brain (close areas in the brain control them) and so the hormones associated with increased appetite and lower metabolic rates are secreted when you're tired or lacking in sleep.

Sleep deprivation results in higher incidence of depression and imbalanced hormone production. You are also 90% more likely to have some other health related problem if you have insomnia. To top that, you are twice as likely to die from ANYTHING if you routinely get inadequate amounts of sleep! The increased inflammation associated with inadequate sleeping habits is linked to heart and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, irregular heart beats, high blood pressure, and digestive disorders. In short, less sleep means more sick. Lastly, if you think you're fine with getting fewer than 7 or 8 hours every day, think again. Studies show that those who live their lives on less than the optimal amounts of sleep believe they've adapted—they've gotten used to it—and are okay. The truth in the statistics, however, suggests that their performance and mental alertness are dramatically diminished as a result of too little sleep when compared to those they work with who sleep the proper amounts. Bottom line: make the effort to get adequate rest. Your life and happiness literally depend on it.

So what about meditation? When I say “meditation,” let's be clear: I am not referring to transcendental mediation or some thing associated with mysticism or the occult. I am simply referring to thinking deeply or carefully about something or focusing your thoughts on something for a period of time. Rather than list all the Biblical references to this, I'll just leave you with a link to show meditation is clearly a Biblical practice: take a look here.

Studies show that the person who meditates is more emotionally balanced and, therefore, is able to tolerate stressful situations better. They also respond better physically to stress. They are generally less depressed and are much happier. Those who meditate have stronger immune systems, which means they get sick less often and are able to battle cancer more effectively. Those who routinely meditate will have greater fertility, less chance of irritable bowel syndrome, lower blood pressure, and they'll sleep better. To meditate means to have less inflammation within the body. The health benefits of less inflammation are staggering and I briefly covered them above. If you're not sure how to go about this, you can use Google to find a million ways a Christian can meditate. I encourage you to do so.

In general, I try to spend the initial 20-30 minutes of most weekdays quiet at my couch in prayer and meditation. Some days it's harder than others, but it's a habit I hope to instill on my kids. Take the time. You have it. You may think you don't, but that's because your priorities are upside down. Spending time with Christ sometime during the day improves our relationship with Him and improves our health. It's a win win. There literally is no downside unless your priorities are messed up. Make the time and reap the benefits! God bless you this new year!

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