A Sabbath Spirituality of Sleep
“Sleep is the prayer of a creature secure in God’s love.” - Unknown
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. - Exodus 20:8
After taking an informal poll of students on campus, it seems some of them are not sleeping as much as they should, either because of extracurricular activities, homework, digital time, or other activities.
However, children need sleep to help them develop appropriately. Studies show that children who don't get enough sleep find it easier to fall asleep or zone out during class, have a harder time concentrating, have lower overall grades than their peers, and have a harder time remembering schoolwork or retaining memories. Especially for children, lack of sleep may also lead to an improper diagnosis of ADHD. Many children who don't get enough sleep become hyperactive, making it hard to accurately diagnose ADD or ADHD instead of just lack of sleep.
Physically, sleep releases a growth hormone that helps tissues grow properly, forms new red blood cells, helps deliver oxygen to the brain, and helps in promoting bone growth. Sleep also rejuvenates the body after physical exertion, and it restores our mind after mental exertion (especially needed for children with demanding classwork and homework!).
Spiritually, sleep is part of living out the Third Commandment (quoted above). When God asks us to keep holy the Sabbath, he is not just talking about regular Mass attendance (as important as that is). We are called to give equal time to our God, our family, our responsibilities, and our full self: body, mind, soul & spirit.
When we follow through on the full implications of the Third Commandment, we come to realize that God calls us to take care of ourselves. And part of that care is sleep.
The deeper issue, however, comes to our priorities—where we put the emphasis of our lives.
Most Americans spend much of their waking lives working. In and of itself, that's good. We work to provide for our families, to ensure our survival, and to have the means to help others. However, according to the US Census Bureau, Americans work an average of twenty more days per year than we did 25 years ago. And according to numerous studies, almost half of all employed Americans don't take any vacation time each year. We've become a nation of workaholics.
In the midst of this, God calls us to peace and rest. God challenges us to let go of our fantasies: that we're in charge, that we're indispensable, that our work is more important that our families or our health, that rest equals laziness, and that money is more valuable than time.
Only in letting go of these power trips can we let the grace of the Spirit into our lives. And part of that letting go, as simple as it sounds, is in getting enough sleep.
When we sleep, we're no longer in control—we can't make decisions, send email, or give orders. The rest of the world goes on without us. We learn to let go. As the first quote states, we learn to trust in God, to have faith that the God who works behind the scenes during our waking life is also working behind the scenes as we sleep.
My prayer for our whole OLS community is that, contrary to our American mind-set, we sleep more, relax more, unwind, calm down and slow down, so that when we do, the freedom of Christ will rule our hearts, and we will no longer be held in bondage by our watches, cell phones, calendars, or planners.
How Much Sleep Should My Child Get?
The following are rough guidelines on the amount of sleep children need (the listed amounts can vary by up to an hour more or an hour less needed sleep for different children). The amount of sleep needed may also vary depending on physical or mental activity, time of the year, emotional strain, and other factors.
Age Range / Sleep Needed
0-1 / 13-17 hours
1-3 / approx. 13 hours
3-8 / 10-12 hours (day-time naps "count")
8-12 / approx. 10 hours
12-15 / approx. 9 hours
15-19 / 8-9 hours
19+ / 6-8 hours
Help for Getting Kids (and Adults) to Sleep
The following tips may help children and adults who have trouble turning in for the night:
- Establish a bed-time ritual. Include time to wind down, and give your children “bedtime alerts” a 1/2 hour and 10 minutes before it is time to go to bed.
- Choose and stick to a bed time—it’s easier to fall asleep if there is consistency in the routine.
- Create a comfortable bedroom—dark, cool & quiet are three great keywords to help induce sleep.
- Engage in exercise or some form of physical activity in the late afternoon/early evening to help the body wind down by bed time. Don’t engage in physically strenuous activity right before bed time.
- Limit drinks before bedtime. Drinks with caffeine (and alcohol, for those over 21) should be limited (or not taken at all) after lunch.
- Avoid large meals close to bed time. However, try not to go to sleep without eating anything at all—some yogurt, fruit, or other nutritious snack before going to bed will help ward off the midnight munchies.
- Keep the whole house quiet at bedtime—it’s hard for kids to fall asleep with loud music playing or a loud TV blaring.
- Limit screen time (phone, tablet, laptop, computer, TV) before bed-time—bright lights signal the brain to wake up, not fall asleep.
- Limit napping during the day.
- Try and keep the same sleep and waking schedule during the weekend, especially for younger children—having to adjust and re-adjust sleep schedules is hard. If you must adjust, do not adjust by more than 1 or 2 hours.
- Set consistent homework/study time every evening, so that children (especially older ones) don’t have to stay up late and cram for tests the night before.
- Assess the amount of time spent on extracurricular activities—if it’s taking time away from study and sleep, consider cutting back, especially if children are involved in more than one after-school activity. Stress and over-stimulation are not conducive to restful sleep.
Keep in mind that bed time is the time that sleep actually occurs. If it takes your child 20 minutes to fall asleep, adjust his or her bed time routine so that it starts a little earlier and gives the proper amount of sleep.
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III