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Why Can’t I Sleep?

My energy was low the other day due to not sleeping well. Why do our problems and concerns seem to magnify at night?

I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and began thinking about an issue involving our 11-year-old son Noah. It was nothing major, just some ongoing growing pains with our tweener. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to worry, feeding the issue and before long, it grew to Noah dropping out of school and making license tags behind bars with “mom” tattoo on his arm under a skull with crossbones.

I finally fell asleep and when I awoke in the morning, it all seemed frivolous but it had left me robbed of much needed sleep and an unproductive day.

Pete Wilson’s new book Empty Promises, shares how the ancient Hebrew mindset saw the beginning of the day starting at sunset. Even in the Creation Story in Genesis 1 illustrates this, “Evening came and then morning – that was the first day.”

He points out that our culture sees the beginning of the day at sunrise, the time that we begin doing. However, based on the Creation story, it appears God sees the beginning of the day when we’re resting and He’s on watch.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that we’re in the middle of a sleep-deprived epidemic. We pop pills to go to sleep and chug expensive drinks to stay awake the following day.

I’m not a good sleeper and after my sleepless nights, I’m a walking zombie, failing to emotionally connect with people or God.

“Uh mom, you haven’t blinked in 5 minutes.”

“Oh, sorry! I must have dozed off with my eyes opened.”

There are many theories to our struggle to sleep – artificial light, diet, lack of exercise/movement, too much screen time, hormones, etc. – and I’m guessing most of these theories are true. But I fall asleep okay; it’s the middle of the night and my worry-athons that steal my slumber.

I began to wonder if Pete has a point – am I invading God’s watch? If He is my refuge, my place of safety, why can’t I rest? Perhaps I’m preparing for the day a little too late by waiting until sunrise to put on my spiritual armor.

When I was a missionary in Russia, I went through a period where I had reoccurring nightmares. An older member of my team believed it to be spiritual in nature.

She advised me to pray on God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10), not just in the morning but also at night (the beginning of the Hebrew day). She shared, “Satan will have a hay day with your mind when you sleep unless you cover it with prayer.”

I was reminded of this after reading Empty Promises. Last night, before I went to sleep, I prayed on God’s armor. At 2:00 I woke up again, but instead of worrying, I passed my concerns back to God and thanked Him for keeping watch over us.

You know what, I slept the rest of the night. Thank God He’s got my back.

Do you struggle with sleep?

How do you handle anxious thoughts at night?



3 Questions I Ask Myself When I Can’t Fall Back to Sleep

Growing up my mother regularly told me, “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.” It didn’t take a rocket scientist, or someone smarter, like a blogger, to know she was only trying to keep her “wild child” safe. She didn’t want to receive a phone call at three o’clock in the morning with bad news. As a mother myself, I now get this. But I’ve learned over the years that this is not a principle that can be carried into all areas of our lives…especially our spiritual lives.

What, or Who, is waking me up at night?

Why is it always 3:00 a.m.?Years ago I tossed and turned in my bed. I looked to my clock and it was 3:00, in the morning (Nope, this was not my nap time). My mind was awake, worrying about frivolous things and going through my “to do” list for the next day. It was then I felt a nudge, telling me to “get up!”

Mark was still snoring so I knew it wasn’t him. In frustration, I got up thinking I could at least work on my Bible study lesson and cross that off my “to do” list. That time in study was awesome. God gave me much clarity on the anxieties that had awoken me in the first place.

God has a habit of waking people up

A while later, I was working on another study on Samuel, when he was still a young boy  (I Samuel 3). In the middle of the night Samuel heard a voice, three times, calling his name. Once he realized it was the Lord, he received a great message from God and it was from here his own personal mission began.

After this I began to notice other times God awakened people with a powerful message. He told Gideon to get up in the middle of the night to go into battle with the Midianites (Judges 7:9).

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to get up and to escape to Egypt with Mary and Jesus (Matthew 2:13).

My favorite is when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with three of his disciples. He asked them to keep watch with Him as He prayed but instead they fell asleep. When He returned to them He woke them saying, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Makes me wonder if they would have responded differently during Jesus’ crucifixion if they had stayed awake and prayed.

Are there times I lie awake at night thinking, worrying, planning but God is actually trying to speak with me? A great bulk of my book came from journal entries that I wrote in the early hours of the night – times that God had spoken to me. Why had I forgotten this?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m awake a lot in the night. I’m a horrible sleeper. However, I do think there are times that I’m awake not because of stress, electronics, hormones, etc., but because God Himself is waking me to instruct and help me deal with the concerns of my life.

So when do I get up and when do I stay in bed? I ask myself 3 questions to help decide… 

1. Is it a quick fix?

I’ve found that if it’s an email that can be sent quickly or a backpack placed by the door – most of the time it’s best for me to get up, do it and promptly return to bed. For me personally, having it done allows my mind to rest and return to deep sleep. Others find that writing it down helps them but this is not enough for my wacky mind.

2. Is it my burden?

In my blog last week I touched on this. Often we carry burdens that are not ours to haul around. To determine this, I pray through each burden, visualizing me pulling them out of my backpack and handing them over to God to place in His backpack. Through this process I can quiet my mind and return to sleep. However, there are times it’s a burden that can’t wait.

3. Does it need my attention now?

There are times that God has called me to get up and go before Him right away. One time I had an issue involving my son and a video game. I stayed in bed praying about it but my anxiety increased so finally I got up. Once out of bed I was more focused and kept my mind from magnifying the problem. The house was quiet with no distractions.

It was during this time God gave me the solution of my son writing a proposal that I shared in a previous blog. By the way, this is still working and there have been a number of times we’ve referred back to it without fight. I’m SO thankful for God’s help on this issue.

I’m a big believer in sleep because it’s important for all areas of our health. But I’m also a believe there are times God is waking us up, inviting us to some personal one-on-one time with Him.

I’ve found when I’m obedient and get up, the freedom I receive from having my burdens removed or my problem resolved, allows me to return to quality sleep that gives me the energy needed for the next day. But, the best part is connecting with God in such a personal way. There’s nothing like realizing He sees my struggles and wants to help me work through them. Oh yeah – thank you Jesus!

So next time you struggle with sleep, ask God if it’s Him calling. If it is, follow Samuel’s example and say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Sam. 3:10) If He answers, be sure to get up.

Have there been times God has awoken you at night? If so, I’d love to hear your story.

What tools do you use when you find yourself away at night?





How I Calm My Mind So That I Can Sleep

I’ve never been a good sleeper. As a child it was a chore for my parents to calm me, the wild toddler terrorizing their house. I didn’t have time to sleep. There was a couch to jump off of, a pot to bang or some dirt to inspect. I still struggle with sleep.

The holidays are upon us and God knows we’ll need our sleep more than ever. How else will we be able to overlook Uncle Bubba’s constant belching or ignore Aunt Bertha’s critique of our dry turkey without backhanding her? We’ll need to be rested and sharp as we prepare for battle, I mean, dinner.

I thought I’d do a couple of posts on sleep. I’ve read a lot on the subject and have posted about it in the past and unfortunately, there’s nothing much new under the sun (or moon). But I do have an exercise that has helped me in the past as well as a spiritual application (and practice) that I’ll share in my next blog.

Oh no! I’ve passed this down to my daughter…

blog photo - calming mindA while back my daughter was having trouble sleeping and wouldn’t you know, it was on a night my body and mind were craving sleep. I noticed a light on so I got up and found her sitting on the couch, trying to read herself to sleep.

We talked about what occupied her mind and she shared a minor quirk that happened between her and a friend that day. As we sat there, she began to share more issues that were stressing her out and I asked her if she had prayed about it.

“Yes, but it’s not working! I keep praying but I can’t stop worrying about it.”

To be honest, I was tired and a huge part of me wanted to tell her, “Get over it! This is so minor. Go back to bed!” But I felt a nudge, as if God was telling me this was a teaching moment. God, if you want me to teach at 1:00 in the morning, You’re going to have to do it. My mind is not here.

I told her how God wants us to bring our burdens to Him and then shared the illustration yoke and oxen in the Bible. (Matthew 11:28-30).


She had no idea what I was talking about – “Oxen??? What’s a yoke?!” How could I put this in a modern day analogy that she would understand?

Here it goes…

We all go through life wearing backpacks. The purpose of a backpack is to carry things that we need for our day. The problem is that we, or others, put things in our backpack that we don’t need or aren’t meant to carry and it begins to wear us down. It fatigues us physically, mentally and emotionally.

God too is wearing a backpack. However, He wants to carry the excess for us and purge anything that is not from Him. (God is obviously not a hoarder.) He will only give us what we need to carry in our backpack. Everything else we are to hand over to Him to haul, or purge, for us.

Here’s the practice I learned from this that helps me nightly.

Each night I visualize what is in my backpack. What am I carrying with me to bed? Is it part of my “to do” list. Is it an issue with a child? Does it have to do with work, etc.

If it’s something that I can do now and needs to be done, like talking to my child or husband, then I do it.

If not, I close my eyes and visualize myself taking each thought, issue, worry out of my backpack and pray:

“Lord, I can’t carry this to bed with me. I’m giving this to You to carry for me. If I am to carry this tomorrow, I trust that You will give it back to me. If not, thank You for carrying or purging this for me. Please help me not to steal this back from You.”

Word of warning…this is not a magical fix-all prayer. It is a practice, and it takes practice. I haven’t perfected it but it has helped me to fall asleep or fall back to sleep at 3:00 in the morning when I wake up worrying.

I hope this will be of help to you. If any of you have any other tips or practices to getting good sleep and not worrying, PLEASE share. I need all the help I can get!

Here’s to good sleep!