“Early to bed, early to rise.” Many have heard this quote by Benjamin Franklin; however, Franklin probably didn’t know as much as we know today about how sleep impacts health. Today we have plenty of evidence that proves that sleep impacts not only our body’s energy levels but also our physical and mental well-being. Here are some examples:1
• Lack of sleep is associated with many physical illnesses: cardiovascular disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and decreased immune function.
• Lack of sleep affects hormone levels, increasing the risk for diabetes and obesity, particularly in children and adolescents.
• Lack of sleep is associated with mental disorders
such as depression and memory loss.
In our fast-paced, agenda-driven society, it is very easy
for us to stay up late getting things done. Sometimes we
may do chores around the house or study for exams. Other
times we may watch television or surf the Internet. And
sometimes we as elders and church leaders may stay up
late to prepare for a church committee meeting or to work
on a sermon, not realizing that, as a result, our actions may
negatively impact on our health.
When we develop this habit of staying up late, we
change our natural circadian rhythm to one that is less than
optimal. Some people think they work better at night than
in the morning, not realizing that this is unnatural. The truth
is that most people can reset their circadian rhythm to a
healthy function. While it is true that some people may have
difficulty sleeping 7-8 hours a night, these people are the
exception, not the rule. Most people can learn good sleep
habits that will help to reset their circadian rhythms.
Here are five tips to promote restful sleep:
1. Go to bed early before 10:00 p.m. and lie still with your eyes closed—even if you don’t fall asleep right away.
2. Keep your sleeping room cool and completely dark.
3. Avoid caffeinated foods or drinks during the day.
4. Avoid exercising late at night; exercise in the sunlight is preferable.
5. Allow at least three hours between your evening meal
The more connected we are to God, the clearer He speaks
to us, showing us “the path of life” (Ps. 16:11). He says,
“Walk here.” Why should we keep late hours working on projects
or participating in evening meetings? It may be acceptable
once in a while, but it should not be the norm. Ellen G.
White says, “By keeping late hours . . . we lay the foundation
for feebleness. . . . By overworking mind or body, we unbalance
the nervous system. . . . The opportunity of blessing
others, the very work for which God sent then into the world,
has by their own course of action been cut short . . .”2
How intentional are you in practicing “early to bed, early
to rise” in your own life? As a church elder, you are an
example to others. Are you doing all you can to ensure that
church programs, meetings, rehearsals, and committees
do not keep people out late on a regular basis unnecessarily?
Getting to bed early is choice—a choice for a full life. If
anxieties fill your mind and racing thoughts keep you awake
at night due to stress or worry, perhaps you can repeat the
verse that my dear grandmother taught me to recite every
night at bedtime: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for
you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). This
same God says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11).
1 A. Shankar, S. Syamala, and S. Kalidindi. “Insufficient Rest or Sleep and Its Relation to Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity in a National, Multiethnic Sample,” in PLoS One, 30 Nov. 2010; 5(11):e14189. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014189. (Cited in Health Unlimited, August 2012.)
Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 346:4.
Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries
Department for the North American Division.