Sleep for Lent

By Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor

I have always thought sleep was a waste of time. Albeit necessary by God’s design but nonetheless so terribly unproductive. Just being honest. I was rather stunned and deeply challenged the first time I heard Dallas Willard say, “one of the most important spiritual activities is getting adequate sleep.”

Because Lent is a time for self-examination and spiritual growth, I want to talk about sleep as an essential spiritual activity.  First, why did God create us with the need to sleep? The obvious answer involves the physical need for rest and renewal. The less obvious answer is God created us with the need for sleep to ensure we come to know we cannot run the universe 24/7/365. We are, by virtue of our need for sleep, dependent upon the God who never slumbers or sleeps. (Psalm 121).  Dallas Willard says we need to be reminded that God is God and we aren’t God. The most poignant reminder is the need to sleep and give up control.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to take one day each week and sleep until you cannot sleep any more and see how it effects your soul. Sleep deprivation does not honor God and certainly does not help people.

Thirdly, I recently read an article titled, “Brain May Flush Out  Toxins During Sleep.” A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.

“Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.

For centuries, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Only recently have scientists shown that sleep is important for storing memories. In this study, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues unexpectedly found that sleep may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules.

Their results, published in Science, show that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system may open, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. Dr. Nedergaard’s lab recently discovered the glymphatic system helps control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Lent is a great opportunity to focus on getting adequate sleep. And as you sleep, please remember, God is very able and willing to run the universe so we can rest and renew.

– Jeff

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