Sleep is important to us for our physical wellbeing. It’s the time when the body rests and refreshes itself. A lack of sleep can create huge issues. For example, a man suffering from “sleep apnea” finds it much more difficult to handle the challenges that the new days brings. When that is prolonged then depression and mental breakdown are often the consequences. Sleep is a gift from God, as some translations of Psalm 127 make clear, “He (God) grants sleep to those He loves.”
There are sleep disorders of various kinds – a reminder that in our fallen world even sleep has become tarnished by sin’s effects. I recall a neighbour’s child who used to be up reading and playing until midnight. Even as a baby he slept very little. He would play in his playpen while his parents went to sleep. At midnight they would get up and tuck him into bed. He would be awake again at 6 in the morning.
As we get older there are other problems so if you like sleep and your bed… make the most of it. The day may come when it won’t be such a happy experience. I’ve transitioned into a stage of life where bedtime has become problematic. Some degeneration that comes with age has led to a pinched nerve in my neck. I’m thankful if I sleep soundly until about 3 in the morning – after that, on most nights, it becomes a restless routine of trying to find the most comfortable position. Others my age and older have other reasons for interrupted sleep.
However the purpose for this blog was not to have a whinge about personal problems or the difficulties that age brings with it. It’s rather that to pass on some information I came across this past week.
The University College of London released the results of some tests that were done with children researching their sleep habits. Their studies showed that when 3-year olds have a regular bedtime they performed better in cognitive tests that were administered at age 7. Children who’s betimes were not regular, performed less well. This simply confirms what many wise parents have known instinctively for a long time that it’s good for children to have regular bed-time habits. The report of the research indicated too that school-age children up to grade 8 should be getting somewhere around 10 hours of sleep a night.
The report indicated that the research also confirmed something that many of us have learned from experience. If we go bed after a period of intense mental activity we find it difficult to get to sleep. The research showed that children need at least 15 minutes to transition from a state of mental alertness to a quiet state where sleep happens. This means that for a child to be playing a computer game until bedtime is probably not a good idea. Experts have recommended that parents start early to ensure those 15 minutes to prepare for sleep.
In an Internet Blog Albert Mohler made a very pertinent comment. “Of course, that is what many parents have done for years. This is the secret power of bedtime stories and the emotional closeness between parent and child as the day comes to an end. This is the perfect time for Christian parents to assure their children of God’s love and care, encourage them in the Gospel, read them a Bible story, and end with a prayer together. The gift of this kind of parental care and teaching is priceless – the perfect transition to sleep.”