Sleep and Rest

Rest and sleep are more central to good health than most people realize, and getting enough sleep and rest should be a part of your plan to improve your health.

Prayer for Sleep and Rest

Lord, please help me to sleep soundly and deeply. I understand the importance of resting, and that sufficient sleep is essential to my overall health. Please guide me in taking the necessary steps to make sure that I get more rest and better sleep, so that I may meet my goals and so that I may better fulfill your vision for me.


By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2:2–3

The Bible has a lot to say about sleep and rest. It has many passages about the bad consequences for those who are lazy or who sleep too much. For example, Proverbs 20:13 says, “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor.” Too much sleep is rarely the problem that we face these days, however. Modern life has become extremely hectic and busy, and there never seems to be enough time in the day to meet all of our responsibilities. After tending to the needs of our children and families, work, chores, errands, and the many other demands of life, all too often sleep is the first thing to be sacrificed in the name of getting it all done.

One of the most well-known passages from the Bible, however, reminds us of the importance of rest. As Genesis 2:2–3 (quoted above) says, God himself rested on the seventh day, and he blessed that day and made it holy. How many of us, though, set aside enough time each week to rest? And how many of us even come close to getting the sleep we need each night?

There is little doubt about the importance of sleep to your physical and mental health. Enough sleep is vital to a healthy immune system and to reducing stress, which itself can cause many problems. Lack of sleep can cause problems with concentration, cognitive ability, and memory formation, and it can result in slowed reaction times. During sleep, your body performs important cleansing, repair, and restoration work at the cellular level. Depriving your body of the opportunity to perform this vital maintenance can have very negative effects on your health, especially over the long term.

Sleep is also critical to maintaining your proper weight. According to recent studies, not getting enough sleep affects the hormones regulating appetite in very negative ways – it increases the level of hormones that make you hungry and decreases the level of hormones that make you feel full. This is a terrible combination that can lead to overeating and unwanted weight gain.

Indeed, it is difficult to overstate the importance of proper rest and sleep. And you must recognize that it is a critical element in your efforts to lose weight and improve your health. Although each person’s needs will vary somewhat, adults typically require seven to nine hours of sleep each night.  If you feel that you simply have too much to do to get the sleep you need, it may be worth exploring time management strategies, re-prioritizing your “to do” list, or seeking ways to simplify your life and reduce your burdens. There is no shortage of good advice on these topics in books and on the Internet – links to some of these can be found on the “Resources” page of this site.

Recite the prayer at the top of this page a few times for each of the next few days, then try the two steps below.

Make a plan to get more sleep each night for the next week, and stick to it. Usually this will mean planning ahead and getting things done so that you can go to bed earlier, but if you can take steps to allow yourself to sleep later in the morning, that is fine too. It also may require discipline to turn off the television and computer earlier than usual. It may feel stressful at first, but if you manage your time and priorities well, just about anyone can find a bit more time to sleep. When you see and feel the improvement in your outlook, emotions, and health, you should be inspired to find ways to make the changes permanent.

Observe a day of rest each week. Pick three consecutive upcoming Sundays and cancel any plans that are not aimed at rest. Attend church on those days off, and otherwise spend the time truly resting. Sundays are ideal because you are free to attend church, and for many, it is already a day off from work. (If you must work on Sunday, one of your regular days off from your job can be substituted.) It may sound nearly impossible to set aside a whole day for church and rest, but in these hectic, modern times, it is all the more important. Rest might take different forms, and the goal is not inactivity for its own sake. Rather, the idea is to spend the day in ways that rest and rejuvenate your body and spirit. For some this may mean napping and inactivity; for others it may mean time with family and friends, or engaged in hobbies. Any of these can be restful, and all can be performed in a manner that honors God. After experiencing the benefits of a regular day of rest each week for a few weeks, you should be convinced that it is a habit worth continuing.

Next: Time for more exercise.