Why God Created Sleep
Enjoy your naps and bedtime rest.
God is refreshing your body and brain.
A special edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented some of the latest findings on the science of sleep. Given that we spend one third of our lives in that subconscious horizontal position, it’s worth understanding why we need it. Our Creator provided for our needs by using the night darkness for a time of refreshment, consolidation and repair.
Introduction: The functions of sleep: A cognitive neuroscience perspective (Simon, Nadel and Payne, PNAS 24 Oct 2022).
In the last few decades, technological advances have supported the updated view that sleep plays an active role in both cognition and health. However, these roles are far from understood. This collection of articles evaluates the dynamic nature of sleep, how it evolves across the lifespan, becomes a competitive arena for memory systems through the influence of the autonomic system, supports the consolidation and integration of new memories, and how lucid dreams might originate.
Predictive coding, multisensory integration, and attentional control: A multicomponent framework for lucid dreaming (Simor et al., PNAS, 24 Oct 2022). Why do we have lucid dreams (LD)?
We propose that LD is associated with prediction error signals arising during sleep and occurring at higher or lower levels of the processing hierarchy. Prediction errors are resolved by generating a superordinate self-model able to integrate ambiguous stimuli arriving from sensory periphery and higher-order cortical regions.
Contributions of memory and brain development to the bioregulation of naps and nap transitions in early childhood (Spencer and Riggins, PNAS, 24 Oct 2022). Why do babies need so much sleep?
The transition from multiple sleep bouts each day to a single overnight sleep bout (i.e., nap transition) is a universal process in human development. Naps are important during infancy and early childhood as they enhance learning through memory consolidation. However, a normal part of development is the transition out of naps. Understanding nap transitions is essential in order to maximize early learning and promote positive long-term cognitive outcomes. Here, we propose a novel hypothesis regarding the cognitive, physiological, and neural changes that accompany nap transitions. Specifically, we posit that maturation of the hippocampal-dependent memory network results in more efficient memory storage, which reduces the buildup of homeostatic sleep pressure across the cortex (as reflected by slow-wave activity), and eventually, contributes to nap transitions.
An Unhealthy Trend
Transgender youth, teens more likely to have sleep disorders (University of Michigan, 17 Nov 2022). This article finds that transgender youth are four times more likely to have sleep disorders than ‘cisgender’ (i.e., normal) youth.
Reports on transgender youth and adults have shown a high prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms, which are known to affect sleep quality and health. Researchers suspect suboptimal mental health may contribute to the association between transgender and gender-nonconforming identity and insomnia.
But then it claims that “gender affirming care could be protective against worsening sleep health brought about by psychological stressors from prejudice and discrimination against the transgender community.” Why not work on the symptoms of depression and anxiety up front, rather than making potentially life-long, regrettable changes to the body? See interviews from Tucker Carlson’s documentary, Transgressive: The Cult of Confusion that reveal the regret of those who opted for “gender affirming care” and now regret it. The film also reveals the horrors of sex-change surgeries. Would not those with gender dysphoria sleep better if doctors addressed the root mental health issues that lead to depression and anxiety? See the trailer for this documentary.
Science still does not understand all the good things that go on during sleep. Memories are being consolidated. Bad memories are being archived far from the conscious mind. Organs and tissues are given rest and refreshment. And at the cellular level, DNA damage is being repaired. The autonomous nervous system takes over, keeping your lungs breathing and your heart pumping. A lot is happening during sleep while the conscious mind takes a break and enters dreamland for 8 hours.
Dreams are amazing; your mind creates lifelike episodes of things that never happened. I could have sworn one night I was swimming in the air over the heads of people. It seemed so real and normal. When reality hits at dawn, sometimes it’s disappointing; other times it might be a big relief: “it was just a dream,” you realize. Science can see the rapid eye movements (REM) and other phases that indicate you are dreaming, but how can a scientist ever experience the lifelike color visions you saw in your mind’s eye, and the sounds you heard? You can talk about it, but no other person will truly share your inner experiences. There are some things that science cannot do. That is a deep philosophical question, the “hard question” of consciousness. The qualia of our mental experiences cannot be derived from reference to material neurons alone.
Learning to fall asleep quickly and get up quickly are two habits I trained myself to do. Having a set time to retire is helpful but not necessary. I used to take all my concerns and emotions and “list of things to do” with me to bed. Then I would toss and turn for an hour. When I read a few Bible verses, I realized that I didn’t have to stew over those things; God would take them over for the night, and He never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4). If you are a Christ follower, I encourage you to memorize these verses and recite them when you first lie down:
- Psalm 55:22 – Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
- I Peter 5:7 – casting all your cares on him, because he cares for you.
- Romans 5:1 – Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank God for whatever good things happened during the day: a good meal, a conversation with a friend or family member, a job completed, something learned, an answer to prayer, the beauty of nature. Feel the comfort of the bed, the quietness, the warmth, the calm, the darkness. I ask God for righteous dreams—dreams without stress, grief, anger or fear, dreams that contribute to my sanctification. Get into a comfortable position. Breathe in God’s spirit, and breathe out your cares. Relax your body from toes to head and face. Practice this for a few weeks, and before long you will be sound asleep in minutes.
Then, when alertness comes in the morning, get up! Start the day with joy, gratitude, and anticipation of a good day, knowing that “he cares for you” all day long.