One of the subjects I write about at some length and all too frequently, and something I would like to be able to write about less, is my troublesome sleep life . During the course of my life, I have tried everything from drinking a small bit of wine before bed to trying a wide variety of herbal sleep aids (some of which, sadly, I have found myself to be allergic too, thankfully not recently), to rubbing my feet and temples and back of the neck with essential oils. Most of these have offered some success, but have not solved the essential nature of the problem is that my mind just not conducive to enjoyable sleep. Given that one is unconscious and not particularly in control of one’s mind during sleeping, where it wanders where it may, this is a rather alarming reality to face, but one that I simply have to deal with. When I sleep, my mind has so much unpleasant material to go over, whether with memories or with more nebulous concerns, that it will come upon something disturbing enough to jolt me from peaceful slumber fairly regularly.
This week, for example, I do not think I had more than one sleep that was uninterrupted by something. I tried to avoid eating too close to sleep, tried finding encouraging material to read, was exhausted from working more than 50 hours (not including last Sunday’s work or the possibility of work this Sunday), but I could not still the mind while I slept from wandering into all kinds of unpleasant areas. These were not the dreams of natural disasters or violence that tended to occur when I was young, sometimes leaving me frozen in panic attacks yet totally unable to sleep, but were instead more insidious foes to peaceful sleep, the immense dread and suspicion that I face in certain contexts, or the intensity of something that in better contexts might not be problematic at all, even things as simple as hanging out or going to church or having a conversation. No, instead of finding such matters to be harmless and enjoyable, in my sleep-addled mind they become the subjects of intense concern.
There is a larger issue here. After all, it is as I write this (though not necessarily when you read this) a day of rest and relaxation, and yet as I write this I find it difficult, if not impossible at times, for my mind to rest peacefully. And I would dearly like to rest, although I am at a loss as to how to get my mind to rest and keep it there. I suppose, if I were to be honest, that I would need to do a better job at remaining calm and finding peace in the waking life, in the hopes that this would eventually help my sleep life to improve. But how to do that is a vexing question as well, as knowing peace and comfort in life has been an immensely elusive quest as well given the sorts of anxieties and concerns that attach themselves to my life without any desire or any conscious action save being friendly and getting involved in every way that is open to me. There is much to ponder here, but little to comfort, unfortunately.
The Bible itself talks about the comfort of sleep in several passages. Jacob bemoans his lack of sleep to Laban in Genesis 31:40: “There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.” Elijah taunts the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27: “And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” A sleepless night for the King of Persia in Esther 6:1 leads to the rise of Mordecai and the salvation of the Jews from the plotting of the wicked Haman: “That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.” My sleep life, sadly, is much like that in Job 4:13-14: “In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake.” So, if sleep is something I struggle with, at least I have good company in that struggle. Now, how to improve matters, that remains a task to accomplish.