Heath Lambert: I’m honored this week on the podcast to be joined by Dr. George Sanders, an ACBC certified counselor and a board-certified Medical Doctor in Southern California. We are happy to have you, Dr. Sanders, and to talk about a very important topic that I bet a lot of people don’t realize is as important as it is; it’s the topic of sleep and the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Why is it important for somebody to do that?
George Sanders: You know, they say that the world is run by tired men and women, so I suspect that they need to be listening this morning. Why is sleep important? Well, for one thing, it allows us to repair and revitalize our bodies. In our brains, there’s a substance called adenosine and when that substance is charged up, it becomes ATP, which is the energy molecule that our brain uses. As we are growing tired, as a day passes, more and more adenosine is accumulating in our brain and sleep allows us to recharge that into ATP, and that sort of clears away the fog in our brain. So that’s an adenosine fog that you’re experiencing as you grow tired as the day passes.
Also, growth hormone is produced at night when we’re sleeping. So that our mothers probably knew what they were talking about when they said, “if you don’t sleep, it will stunt your growth.” Also, sleep prevents and heals diseases. If you sleep under six hours a night, you are four and a half times more likely to come down with a cold in a particular week than someone who sleeps over seven hours. Also, someone sleeping under six hours has an increased mortality over someone who is sleeping seven hours and more. We see the sovereignty of God in that, but just in terms of what science tells us, these things are true. Also, sleep aids in memory and learning. It used to be thought that our brain cells or neurons really didn’t change much as the years went by, but we now know that’s not true. They changed significantly, their connections change, and sleep aids in that process and that particular process is very important for memory for learning. So for all those reasons, sleep is vitally important. In fact, If you do not sleep as a human, you will die; it’s that important.
Heath Lambert: It’s so important. We need it, but a lot of people don’t get it. Why is it that so many people don’t get a good night’s rest.?
George Sanders: There are six major sleep disorders that we can characterize, the most common is insomnia. Insomnia is when you can’t fall asleep or when you can’t stay asleep, either waking up in the middle of the night or you can’t sleep late enough in the morning to get an adequate amount of refreshment. Also, there is sleep apnea, where you will awake hundreds of times per night because you’re basically stopping breathing. So, even though you may stay in bed for 10 hours, you’re not getting an adequate amount of quality sleep. So, it’s not only quantity, but it’s also quality of sleep. There’s also restless leg syndrome, where your legs are either painful at night, you move them around, that makes them feel better, or you just lie down at night and your legs feel like they need to need to move and that can be very disruptive to your sleep as well as to the sleep of the person who happens to be next to you. There are circadian rhythm disorders, things that have to do with your body’s internal clock. Say, you’re alternating working nights and working days, or if you’re traveling to a different time zone, that’s going to foul up your sleep as well.
There are things called parasomnias, things like sleepwalking, sleep talking, or even bedwetting. The sixth major category is narcolepsy and this doesn’t have to do with not enough sleep but it’s too much sleep, being sleepy during the day.
So all of these six categories are categories in which people are having problems with sleep. Insomnia, about 60% of people have insomnia to some degree, about 10% with sleep apnea, and about 10% with restless leg syndrome. So, you can see, as you start to add up those numbers, you’ve got a very, very significant part of the population of this country who are having sleep problems.
Heath Lambert: So, we want to address those problems. There’s people listening to this right now who have sleep problems. What would we say, as people who are committed to the Scriptures, what would we offer someone with sleep problems that’s better than they could get somewhere else?
George Sanders: Well, the sleep disorders that we spoke about, sleep apnea, you treat that with a mask. Restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, you treat with medication. But when it comes to insomnia, insomnia is really the area where both secular psychologists and biblical counselors tend to focus, and the major cause of insomnia is stress and worry. Now, if you are a secular counselor or a secular physician you might say, “Okay, well, this person needs to be on sleeping medication”, or maybe they would send the person for cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia, CBT-I, those are both popular and they worked to some degree, but as biblical counselors, we have a great deal more to offer, something that I like to call biblical sleep therapy. It’s not so much a program as it is a worldview if you will. It’s a way of life and it would involve a series of four things.
First of all, you need to have a biblical mindset. You just seek wisdom, God’s wisdom, which is found ultimately in Christ and contained within Scripture. You need to guard your thought life; stay away from the violent movies from things that are going to produce troubling thoughts. You need to pray in a grateful way, Philippians 4:6 tells us that we are to be anxious for nothing and everything, and with prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God and that God will guard your mind. He will basically take away your anxiety, which is certainly going to produce sleep.
So, a biblical mindset and also a fear of God. God is on the throne, and if God is on the throne and if He is in control of all things, then why are we anxious about it? The third one would be obedience, obedience to the Scripture. We have a conscience and our conscience is an active force in our lives. If we are disobedient, we’re going to be troubled by our conscience and a troubling conscience is certainly an impediment to a sound night’s sleep. Fourthly. We need to be content. We shouldn’t covet another person has we shouldn’t lust for things that we don’t have, shouldn’t wish for things that are not ours. God will provide what we need. If you combine those four things, you’re going to have what I like to call, Biblical Sleep Therapy.
However, if you read the Psalms, many times, the psalmist is not sleeping at night. But what does the psalmist say? “Oh my goodness gracious. This is a terrible thing”, no. The psalmist says this is an opportunity for examination, for me to look at my own life, to look at my heart. Am I right before the Lord? The psalmist says, ‘”try me, O Lord and know me, you know, my secret faults. Point these things out to me.” Also, you would want to take time for meditation. Meditation on the Scripture at night, it’s quiet, there’s no one else around. What a wonderful opportunity to meditate on Scripture. Perhaps you’ve read something before you went to bed that night in Scripture, what a great opportunity to meditate upon it and also a wonderful opportunity for prayer, both for yourself, as well as for others.
So, if you find yourself having gone through a sleepless night or at least a night without adequate refreshment, you’re going to say, “you know, that night was not wasted, I was able to profit from it”. So if you combine those four things and then understand it, even if we’re not sleeping well that there is profit to be had from it. In fact, the psalmist often speaks of how God held his eyes open so that he would have opportunity to examine to meditate to pray. Then we have a very powerful weapon in our arsenal, as we seek to comfort those Christians who are having difficulty with sleep.
Heath Lambert: I am so encouraged to hear you say that because it just underlines that those problems are common to all man, and probably a lot of people laid in bed last night and they just thought, “oh, there’s nothing to be done”. I am so thankful for the wisdom of Scripture that says, “Hey, the Bible has stuff to say about your sleep”. That’s just so encouraging. We’re glad you’re here with us.