A Sleep Lover's Insomnia

For as long as I can remember, I have loved sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning excited for when I can sleep again. I can sleep pretty much anywhere. I like naps. I just really love sleep.

Until I couldn’t sleep any longer.

For the better part of a year (and off and on for a few years) I have dealt with bouts of insomnia. Sometimes it is because I’ve been pregnant. Sometimes it is because I have had things on my mind. Sometimes it is because Daniel is traveling and I can’t sleep when he’s gone. Sometimes it is because my kids wake me up and then I can’t go back to sleep. But all together it’s made for a long and tiring year. I just want to sleep, and no amount of effort on my part is making that happen.

I have dealt with all sorts of guilt over my inability to fall asleep at night.

Should I have gone to bed even earlier?

Godly Christians say that it is the most spiritual thing to do when I’m exhausted.

Studies say that I’m harming myself by not sleeping.

 I read that my milk supply may dry up if I don’t get adequate sleep. Am I a bad mom if that happens?

 How can I care for my family when I’m running on 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night?

 How can I do anything when I’m not able to sleep at night?

I’ve long been convinced that it is in my limitations that I am able to more clearly see God and his care for me. What I haven’t been able to see in my sleepless state is how this very thing that I hate so much is actually God’s means of making me more like him, of stripping me of my self-sufficiency, and showing me my weakness. A few nights ago, when I was staring at the clock at 2:00 AM, for the third consecutive night, it hit me. This, right now, is my limitation. This is my weakness. 

I didn’t always feel overwhelmed by the sleeplessness. In fact, I’ve found, since I’ve had kids, that I can function pretty well on limited sleep. I’ve been doing it for over three years now. But over time, that sleep depravation has caught up to me, and I’m not doing so well anymore. I’m cranky. I’m sad. My brain is cloudy. I can’t always say what I want to say. I’m sluggish. I can’t think or put together a clear sentence. And these are hard things for someone whose part time job is a writer (and sometimes speaker). Not to mention the fact that I'm supposed to be caring for three small children.

When I was functioning at high capacity on limited sleep, I slowly began leaning on my gifts, and not the God who gave them to me. This whole sleepless night thing isn’t so bad, I would think to myself. Look at all I can do on such little sleep. Pride crept in and took up residence in my heart. But God has a way of humbling us, and right now, I think my insomnia is one of his ways for me.

Of course, I need sleep. But what I need more than anything is to be stripped of my sinful pride and to be made more like Christ. What I need more than anything is God, in all his glory to sustain me even when the hours of sleep aren’t enough to get me through the day. What I need is to see that it is not by my power that I am able to accomplish things, but by the power of Christ that works through me (Zech. 4:6; 2 Cor. 12:9). If insomnia does that for me, then this is my public acceptance of this weakness (even though my body says “Sleep! You need sleep!).

I don’t know when I will sleep again. I pray it is tonight. But until then, in the dark hours of the night, when I can’t get my brain to cooperate with what my body says is vital for survival, I want to submit myself to this weakness, this limitation. It’s a reminder to me of my smallness, my brokenness, my humanness. God, who never slumbers or sleeps, doesn’t feel the depth of need my body feels in those sleepless nights (Ps. 4:8; 121:4). He doesn’t need it. But I need him. And if insomnia does that for me, strips me of my pride and gives me him, then insomnia is what I’ll take. Lord, help me accept it.