Do Sleepless Nights Have To Be Restless?

©Glowimages - model for illustrative purposes only

©Glowimages – model for illustrative purposes only

Someone’s trying really hard to get you into bed – for the sake of your health!

They’re called The Sleep Council. They’ve been checking on Britain’s snoozing habits and the results are anything but restful and refreshing.

The survey’s findings, released today, confirm “millions of people are caught in a vicious cycle of stress and sleepless nights”. Unfortunately, it will only get worse as the long winter nights set in during so-called “Stresstember”.

“In our experience September is the beginning of the Stress Calendar: the kids are back at school, the summer holidays are officially over, the weather is starting to change and we have to wait until Christmas for the next public holiday,” said Neil Shah. He’s the director of the Stress Management Society which is backing The Sleep Council’s campaign “to highlight the problem of stress and sleep”.

With stats showing a quarter of us believing a good night’s repose is the best way to relieve stress, the campaign will undoubtedly boost autumn bed sales.

But it’s not just bed-sellers who want us to sleep better. It’s a key aspiration of the popular Third Metric campaign aimed at bedding in a better work-life balance as an essential factor in measuring success.

Addressing Columbia’s Business School, Third Metric champion Arianna Huffington said that bragging about how little we’ve slept was akin to “congratulating someone for coming to work drunk”. According to the media and lifestyle icon a case in point was five-hour-a-night sleeper President Bill Clinton, who’s on record saying: “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.”

All this points to our need to solve the problem of weariness at work. But is better sleep the only option?

It used to seem that way to me. I regularly slept the “normal” eight hours. If I didn’t, I paid the price.

But then a new, spiritual perspective enabled me to glimpse the body wasn’t the independent player it seemed to be. Instead it reflected the beliefs I entertained about it. The spiritual discipline I was looking into – Christian Science – offered a basis for identifying and challenging those beliefs understood to lead to discord and disease.

The idea of identifying and challenging beliefs is an approach to health increasingly being echoed in areas of the medical profession, recognising that physical ailments are often the outcome of mental factors that need adjusting. On the other hand, the medicine of divine Mind I was looking into works on the basis that neither a sick body nor the thoughts that might make it so are an accurate measure of what we spiritually are.

As I dug into these ideas I found my emotional outlook calming. Interestingly, my body followed suit. Many aches and strains I’d grown uncomfortably used to fell away.

This didn’t immediately impact my nightly sleep patterns. But then I read about a Christian Science practitioner who sacrificed all sleep on two consecutive nights to help people requesting his healing prayer.

Remarkably, he didn’t experience a hint of tiredness during the daytime either.

Initially, I found that kind of mind-blowing, even though this was clearly an exception and not the rule for this individual. But as I thought about what it proved, it dawned on me that although rest is indeed essential we can question the “rest = sleep” equation. Sleep is, of course, a part of our lives. But there are also other options for experiencing a revitalising rest.

One alternative possibility is set out in “the Christian Science textbook”, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. Talking of Truth – used as a synonym for the divine Principle, God – its author, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: “The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness.”

A poignant illustration of this is found in Jesus’ life. After a night awake on a mountain, he returned energised to embark on a prodigious workload. He appointed an “executive team” of twelve Apostles from a “workforce” of disciples and then invested quality time in the operation’s core business – healing “a multitude” of people, as the Bible puts it.

Finally, he delivered “the Sermon on the Mount” – a talk so inspirational that 2,000 years later it’s still motivating hundreds of millions around the world today.

Was there any common denominator in the sleepless nights of Jesus and the Christian healer humbly striving to follow in his footsteps two millennia later?

Yes! The Bible says Jesus spent the night in prayer. So, too, did the practitioner.

So as attention is drawn to “Stresstember”, we have a choice. Just as we can choose whether to resign ourselves to a gloomy month or relish the thought of crisp “Indian summer “days and the first appearing of autumn’s rich parade of leafy hues, so we have a choice as to what beliefs we take on board about both stress and sleep. Do we just resign ourselves to the one and accept our dependency on the other?

Or will we find moments to go into our own “mountain top” experience of humbly listening for the divine reassurance that “rest” can actually be an active function of living a full life.

This blog first appeared on The News Hub, entitled “As ‘Stresstember’ Looms – Is A New Bed The Only Answer To Sleepless Nights?”