By Reagan Cool
If you give your sleep to God, He’ll give back to you.
I know because it works. I used to pull at least a couple all-nighters a semester, finishing the third paper of “hell week” at 5:30 a.m. or running through the stack of titles and dates a few more times before the 8 a.m. final. In the desperate hours between dusk and dawn, it is easy to let our obligations overwhelm us.
I finally asked myself one night as I nodded off around 1 a.m., “Is this exhaustion worth it?” I decided it wasn’t, and I discovered that sleeping didn’t cost me my grade. Sleeping more helped me to finish all my work on time. I was also able to work-out, and pray, and sustain conversation, and be present to my friends and professors. Miraculous.
The truth is that we do not work as well when we are sleep-deprived. Even if it feels like I am busy, my rate of productivity dwindles and my judgment flounders as I trespass on the time reserved for rest. The work that takes me four hours at night requires just one or two in the morning when well-rested.
The Bible frequently reminds us to tithe, and I frequently remind the Bible that I can’t. Consider the poor widow in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus watches her drop two small coins into the treasury, then calls his disciples: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living,” (Mark 12:43 – 44).
What more precious thing do we have to offer as students than our time? Sleeping honors our bodies. We are able to be more fully the men and women God crafted us to be when we are rested. No longer just enduring the day, we are free to enjoy it. We were created for adventures far more thrilling than survival, yet we subject ourselves to this dull experience of reality when we refuse our body’s needs.
Sleeping is also an act of faith. By tucking myself in at night when there are items left unchecked on my to-do lists, I promise God: “I worked earnestly today, and I trust that you will provide the restoration and the time to complete what I must tomorrow.”
And it never fails. I wake up restored instead of frantic, and the time away from my work gives me a better understanding of what the important things are. The condition, of course, is honesty. Sleeping more doesn’t help me accomplish my work if I wasn’t really working to begin.
As college students preparing for and dreaming of the vast future ahead of us, it is easy to adopt a dauntless attitude, certain that we’ll live for at least another century. One of the unexpected beauties of sleep, however, is that it is a good practice of memento mori, reminding us of our death and the importance of what’s to come. Professor of English Patricia Bart says that sleep is good practice for death. Man’s will pushes him forward all day. Choosing to go to sleep is a surrender of his will, of not getting everything he wants. So it is, too, at the end of our life, when we surrender our will to that which we cannot control. When we go to sleep each night, we offer our day, and when we will go to sleep some day, we will offer our life. The preparation for death, which is living well, helps us in turn to die well.
Live well, tired classmate. Your work is important. Go to sleep.
Reagan Cool is a junior studying philosophy and religion.