It’s 3 a.m. Of course you want to be asleep, and you probably believe you need to be asleep, so why aren’t you? That’s a good question, if you’re an American female – especially a mother. According to a study done by the National Sleep Foundation, you’re in good company if you’re lying awake in the wee hours, perhaps wondering why real rest seems elusive. After all, tomorrow is another day, and you may need to be wide awake to be ready for a demanding routine of career and/or care-giving multitasking.
How to cope? According to the study, cited in The New York Times, an increasing number of women attempt to solve or palliate the problem with sleep aids. Currently 3 out of 10 American women rely on sleep aids at some point during a typical week. Although men can also have sleep issues, women seem to experience the problem in greater numbers. But concerns about side effects, dependency, and other possible issues involved with the long-term use of sleep medication make this a questionable solution for many.
I’ve found that the study of Christian Science offers another approach to gaining and demonstrating reliable rest. When I was a new mother, my sleep was disrupted for probably the first time in my life. Although this is not unusual, I found it challenging. And some mothers find that they still wake in the night even after their baby has stopped doing so. I was one of them.
The Bible assures us that rightful rest is God’s intention for His beloved sons and daughters. For example, the book of Proverbs says, “[Y]ou will lie down and your sleep will be sweet” (3:24, New King James Version). And for those who might be tossing and turning in the middle of the night, the following psalm offers a powerful reminder that God is the source and governor of our well-being as far as rest is concerned: “He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalms 127:2, NKJV).
In praying and doing spiritual study on sleep issues, I’ve found it helpful to consider that I don’t need to be afraid of lack of sleep because God is governing my life; He knows my needs and how to provide for them. I gained the assurance that even if I had a night of interrupted sleep or fewer hours of sleep than I’d hoped, I didn’t need to fear how I would do what I needed to do the following day.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, explained that each individual reflects God’s government in the right to govern him- or herself, regardless of what conventional material law might say is required for well-being. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote, “God never punishes man for doing right, for honest labor, or for deeds of kindness, though they expose him to fatigue, cold, heat, contagion” (p. 384).
But perhaps there are some underlying concerns that need to be addressed regarding finding appropriate rest and sleep. One possibility mentioned in the Times’s report of the study is stress resulting from a ceaseless push for perfectionism in work and home life. In this instance, perhaps a prayerful look at how to experience more tranquility throughout the day might be a helpful step.
In my own life, I gradually came to see that I could view waking up during the night as an opportunity as well as a challenge. I realized that perhaps I was being called to pray for others who had a greater need than myself at that moment, for those who needed food and shelter or those experiencing the effects of war.
“The highest and sweetest rest, even from a human standpoint,” wrote Mrs. Eddy, “is in holy work” (Science and Health, pp. 519-520). I found this to be true, and although I tended to wake less, I learned that when I did, I could rest in the consciousness of God’s presence manifested through prayer. In her poem, “Mother’s Evening Prayer,” Eddy specifically acknowledged the right of the mother to experience rest:
No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven’s aftersmile earth’s tear-drops gain,
And mother finds her home and heav’nly rest.
“Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 207
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