Sleep troubles are a common experience in families where there are health issues or developmental disabilities. If you are among the precious ones who do get a restorative night’s sleep most nights, please pray for those who don’t.
In less than two weeks, our oldest daughter is getting married. It’s a time of great joy. Our excitement and gratitude is only tempered by exhaustion due to recent sleep deprivation.
Our daughter Carly’s lifelong sleep challenges have been especially challenging in the past year. Larry and I have to plunge the depths of our faith and creativity to figure out how to endure. We are extremely grateful for a couple of Carly’s older sisters’ friends have offered some temporary short-term help to get us through wedding season. Larry’s employer has also been patient and gracious when his travel has been limited by a need to stay home where he can give me some relief from the nightly demands.
But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope. It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness.
Remarkably, and with some great intention, Larry and I were able to arrange a long weekend away from the house this past weekend. Our whole goal was to sleep, rest, and reconnect before heading into this spectacular month of November celebrating family with loved ones. A friend of ours loaned us their cabin and Carly’s care team, spearheaded by our daughter who is getting married, are sacrificially (and I mean really sacrificially) holding fort at home. Carly has developed a terrible cold and now the whole crew of them will be vulnerable to illness when wedding week comes. (Please pray.)
When you can’t sleep — either because your body and mind won’t let you or because somebody else’s won’t — what CAN you do?
Don’t stuff away those thoughts and emotions swirling around inside. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and where those feelings are coming from. Face difficult emotions with honest reflection. Expose it all to Jesus too — whatever is raw, wonderful, fearful, exciting, draining, or confusing. Remind your soul of the truth but don’t skip past acknowledging and dealing with the feelings that come alongside the thoughts.
Nothing at all will replace an honest, relaxed, conversation with Jesus. Nothing refreshes the soul like confessed sin, conversation with your Divine friend, reassurance that God is present, accessible, and powerful for you in the most deeply personal way. There are also plenty of prayer methods people use successfully that help them fall asleep. Rehearsing memorized scripture is one. Using the alphabet to pray through attributes of God is another.
When a person is sleep deprived, the mind can be a busy place. It takes energy, education, and discipline to discern which “voices” are worth listening to. Lies can masquerade as truth quite easily at 2 am. One way to educate ourselves about truth is to be well acquainted with what the Bible says about things like disability, suffering, personal identity, and where our strength to endure comes from. Listening to the true and comforting words of scripture at night can bring rest of the body and soul. You might try using the audio feature of a Bible app like YouVersion to quietly playback Psalms or other scripture readings. I have friends who find listening to scripture lullabies very helpful too.
When sleep is not possible, getting comfortable might be your next best option. Look for healthy and godly ways to get as comfortable as you can while you wait for sleep to come. And this goes for the person you are awake with too. There are many times when we cannot make Carly sleep, no matter what we try. For example, sometimes rubbing the back of her neck helps her go to sleep. But sometimes it doesn’t work at all, even if she seems to be enjoying it. If my mindset is to rub her neck with the aim of sleep, I get frustrated when it doesn’t work. If I rub her neck with a mindset to simply make her as comfortable as I can — to simply offer love, support, and comforting presence without expectations — then we both enjoy the snuggling more and there is less stress. There is at least some rest, even when there is no sleep.
Believe this. Your sleep is purposed by God and your lack of sleep is purposed by God. If the amount of sleep you can get is largely out of our control, you can trust God to do three things: provide help and strength to endure the night (and next day), help you surrender what you can’t control, and give you wisdom to learn new coping skills. Learn to live within your means. When your paycheck is limited, you pay the rent/mortgage and groceries first. Buying the new outfit or getting the car fixed comes later when there is more savings in the bank. When sleep is limited, you let some things wait or you release some things altogether. The to-do list gets shorter and holding space for more naps takes precedence. Learn to live within your means while trusting that God’s supply will be enough for another day.
Ultimately, we need to make strategic plans at our house. In fact, we’re regularly trying new things and testing new strategies. This might involve a call to the doctor for a medication adjustment, it might mean a step back to reconsider which potential issues might be contributing, it might demand a creative new approach to tag-teaming, scheduling respite staff, booking a night away for the sole purpose of sleep, or putting out a call for help. Asking for help is the hardest adjustment. It’s our last resort. And there usually isn’t help available. But we are learning that it is important to ask. People need to be aware of your need.
On the occasion that someone can give you a break for a nap, or a whole weekend to rest up for a wedding, it will mean the world and more!
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:4
Readers, let’s pray for each other. Sleep is spiritual war. Yet, alas, we have spiritual weaponry for the battle.
Lord, help me honor you with my MIND, BODY, EMOTIONS and CHOICES. You died and raised to life for me!
RELATED: Trusting God in the Sleepless Nights of Motherhood by Sara Wallace