Sweet Dreams?

Posted by


Don Colbert, MD

If falling asleep is a nightmare for you, here are some
tips to make the thought of going to bed less frightening.

Almighty God, who created the universe with unparalleled
wisdom, also created your body to need rest. In His wisdom God made rest a
foundational principle for life on Earth.

The Bible says, “On the seventh day, having finished His
task, God rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and
declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from His work of
creation” (Gen. 2:2–3, NLT).

If you are suffering because of not getting enough sleep,
rest assured. God has provided wisdom to help you to gain a better
understanding of the reasons for your fatigue so you can begin feeling better

Many professions in today’s stressed-out world create
fatigue and encourage sleep disorders. It is believed that a century ago the
average person slept about eight or nine hours per night. Today, the average
person sleeps seven to 7 ½ hours a night.

Our modern lifestyles are so full there’s never enough time
to get everything done, and consequently we tend to short ourselves on sleep.
We end up paying for our many activities with drowsiness and fatigue.

A good night’s sleep is just as important as a healthy diet
and regular exercise. But our modern lives, often filled with worry, stress and
many different pressures, can also lead to many types of sleep disorders.
Insomnia is the most common one of these.

The Nightmare of Insomnia

As you start to doze off, a million different thoughts flood
your head. The clock ticks more and more loudly as you wait to fall asleep.

Finally you get out of bed and drink or eat something, only
to be confronted by the same sleeplessness when you return. By the time the sunlight
breaks through the window, your eyes are burning, your brain is cloudy and you
begin to panic over how you’ll ever make it through the day at work feeling as
you do.

More than 50 percent of adults in the United States
experience insomnia at least a few times a week. This simply means that you
have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, or you wake up too early in
the morning and are unable to go back to sleep.

Insomnia has many different causes: medical problems such as
chronic pain (especially arthritis), fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease
and any other painful medical condition.

For women, menopause can be the culprit. Its trademark hot
flashes in the middle of the night commonly cause insomnia. Women who suffer
with painful menstrual cramping can experience bouts of insomnia as well.

Other health problems commonly associated with chronic
sleeplessness include asthma, heart disease, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s
disease and headaches. Heartburn can be another culprit.

Medications are also another common cause of insomnia. Here
are some well-known culprits:

  • Decongestants
    and other cold medications
  • Appetite
  • Certain
  • Corticosteroids
    such as Prednisone
  • Estrogen-replacement
  • Thyroid
  • Some blood
    pressure medications
  • Pain
    reliever containing caffeine

Psychological problems are a major factor in insomnia.
Individuals suffering with anxiety often have difficulty getting to sleep and
staying asleep.

On the other hand, those who are depressed usually have
trouble staying asleep. They often wake up early and have trouble falling back
to sleep.

However, I believe the most common cause of insomnia is
excessive stress and tension.


Are You Losing Sleep Over Stress?

We live in a fast-paced society with less time to complete
more and more tasks. When you combine normal, everyday stress in the home with
an unexpected illness, accident, divorce, job less, problems with children or
financial struggles, life can get pretty overwhelming.

But all is not lost. Dealing with stress and pressure
through exercise and a number of valuable lifestyle changes may be all that’s
required for you to enjoy once again the refreshing rest you need.

Exercise. Adding some form of exercise to your
schedule is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Aerobic
exercise helps you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Those who exercise regularly also spend a greater amount of
time in the most restorative, repairing stages of sleep. Therefore, they awaken
more refreshed and have much more energy throughout the day. But don’t exercise
within three hours of bedtime, for this can actually cause insomnia.

You don’t have to join a gym. Simply take a brisk walk,
cycle, go dancing or get involved in any other aerobic activity that elevates
the heart rate for about twenty to thirty minutes four times a week. This will
help you to lose weight, reduce stress and improve your sleep.

Choose an aerobic exercise you enjoy, and you won’t become
bored with it. Get a partner—a friend or your spouse—and if you choose walking,
vary your experiences by going to different parks or malls for a change of

Walk slowly enough so that you can carry on a conversation,
but quickly enough so that you cannot sing. Over time, you should notice that
your sleep improves dramatically.

In addition to getting exercise, making some changes in your
environment will also help you to sleep better.

Plan Your Sleep Environment. Limit your bedroom to
sleep. Don’t study, eat, work on a computer, watch television or do any
activity in your bedroom other than sleep.

Most patients claim that watching television does not cause
insomnia, but some patients are aggravated by it. Reading the Bible or a novel
may help you to fall asleep—or can keep you up. Therefore, read only if it
helps you to fall asleep.

Keep your bedroom uncluttered. Try to keep your
bedroom uncluttered as much as possible to avoid stressful distractions.

Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you’re not
sleepy when bedtime comes, try taking a warm bath, reading the Bible, having a
massage or doing any other activity that helps you to wind down.

Keep your bedroom dark. Make sure your bedroom has no
light shining into it from the street or from a nightlight. You might need to
cover your digital clock since clocks are usually lighted.

Remove noise. Your room should be free from
distracting noises, ringing phones, honking horns, sirens and other sounds that
could disrupt your sleep. If you cannot control some of the noise, get a
machine that reproduces sounds such as ocean waves, raindrops or even white

Is the temperature cozy? Keep your bedroom at a
comfortable temperature. The key is that you should feel neither too hot nor
too cold.

Get rid of the Goldilocks complex. You are going to
spend approximately one-third of your life in bed. Make sure your mattress and
pillow enable you to sleep comfortably.

By creating the right atmosphere for sleep, many people
eliminate their insomnia. Ultimately, it’s not just how much stress you
encounter that determines how well you sleep. What’s important is whether or
not you are choosing to rest in God.

Rest Assured

One person’s life can be full of stress-producing events and
situations, and yet this person will be at rest. Another individual’s life can
be comparatively stress-free, and yet this individual might be filled with
tension, turmoil, panic and distress.

Peace comes from abiding in Christ (see John 15:1–17). This
simply means giving Him all your cares and concerns and receiving His wisdom,
peace, power and love.

If you react to stress with rage, fear resentment or any
other deadly emotion, you’re liable to lose a lot of sleep. But if you react
with faith, trust and reassurance that God is in control, you’ll continue to
sleep like a baby through every ripple and wave you encounter.

Today we live under the grace of God that was purchased for
us by Christ Jesus. We must refuse to carry around the weight of the daily
tension, anxiety, fear and stress of the world.

Living wisely includes enjoying the benefits of refreshing,
restoring sweet sleep. Dragging through your days fatigued and tossing through
your nights awake is not healthy or wise. With sound wisdom and God’s help, I
believe you can begin to put those endless nights of sleeplessness behind you.

God promises to bless you with the gift of rest. Proverbs
3:24 assures us, “You can lie down without fear and enjoy pleasant dreams”

Don Colbert, M.D., is board-certified in
family practice and anti-aging medicine. He has also received extensive
training in nutritional and preventive medicine. Colbert is the author of the New
York Times
best-selling book The Seven Pillars of Health, as well
as best-sellers Toxic Relief, The Bible Cure series and Eat
This and Live
. His most recent book is Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This”

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