Sleep. We all need sleep. Several health articles hit the news this week about the necessity of good sleep, particularly for adolescents and for the elderly. Teens who compromise their sleep also seriously compromise their ability to learn. And because the wisdom that goes with age has yet to be developed, they are not able to see that going without sleep is hurting them so seriously.
Older adults apparently run a far greater risk of developing forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, when they fail to get adequate sleep. With advancing problems in mental perception, they also cannot easily see that lack of sleep is affecting them so mightily.
According to the national sleep foundation, short sleep duration is linked with:
• increased risk of motor vehicle accidents;
• increase in body mass index — a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation;
• increased risk of diabetes and heart problems;
• increased risk for psychiatric conditions, including depression and substance abuse; and
• decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.
It really seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Go to bed.
Go to bed at a reasonable time so the awakening time does not short-circuit the need to sleep. Turn off electronics and TVs at least an hour before bedtime. Or even — and here’s a really revolutionary thought — keep all electronics out of the sleeping space.
Yank those TVs, computers and game stations from the bedrooms. Put smartphones away. Darken the sleeping areas as fully as possible. Even digital clocks have been shown to shed too much light in the sleeping area. Stick them under the bed. Go to sleep!
But we won’t, of course. Most of us humans in the “developed” world seem to hold to this certainty: The natural laws of nature and the created world simply don’t apply to us.
We can ignore our body’s legitimate needs and insist we can stay in perfect mental or physical health. We can build houses below sea level and be shocked when we face floods. We can fill our minds and eyes with filthy trash and assume that filth will not touch our souls.
We can refuse to put restraints on unacceptable behavior and then profess outrage when our social interactions descend to shouting matches and shooting sprees. We can expose our children to thousands of implicitly sexual scenes in the media and dress them in pimp clothing and then complain when younger and younger children are acting out sexually.
We can act out rudeness and spitefulness toward others and then be innocently dismayed when we see friendship and family disappear.
Of course, when all these bad things happen, we’ll immediately blame God for causing them instead of wondering if we might possibly be contributors to our own problems.
The couch in my office is the ultimate discipline spot for the many children in our child care and preschool. The director brought in an adorable little boy today to introduce him to me. He was, in her words, “having trouble making good choices today.”
We talked gently about what time on the couch means. Sitting still, no toys, no talking, no touching of objects. Just sitting until the child has had a chance to rethink his or her situation.
I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that many who end up on that couch also fall asleep quickly.
Could it be that simple? Could they just need a good night’s rest so they can think more clearly about how to make good choices?
Could it be that wise parents would make sure that children and teens actually go to bed early enough and practice good sleep hygiene (i.e., dark rooms, no electronics, regular bedtime, etc.) so they can function more effectively during the day?
Go to sleep, folks. Could change your life.
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .