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Sleep: The Neglected Gift

As a pastor, I learned I needed to embrace God's gift of sleep.

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, high blood pressure, and severe sleep apnea, I changed my diet and began to exercise. In a year, I lost 27 pounds, resulting in a decrease in pain and 2 dress sizes. But I still dragged through each day as if there were a weight on my back.

Being a workaholic mother, wife, grandmother, speech-language pathologist, church planter, college professor, and senior pastor who refused to stop until the task was completed, I have been tired for decades. Tired of being tired, I talked to my doctor. He helped me realize that although I was eating better and exercising, I was neglecting the third pillar of optimum health—sleep.

A Public Health Problem

I found I was not the only one sleepy and tired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared insufficient sleep to be a public health problem. The National Sleep Foundation found that “50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems.”The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drowsy driving causes approximately 1.2 million car crashes each year, killing 8,000 people. Sleep deprivation also contributes to an increase in accidents in industries and hospitals.

Chronic sleep deprivation (five or less hours of sleep a night as a life style) is associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, increased colds, and Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep impacts emotional well-being, causing anxiety, depression, flared tempers, and poor decision making.

Being in ministry and working for the Lord does not protect one from the effects of sleep deprivation. Our need for sleep must be respected, no matter our vocation.

There are many reasons why ministers (male or female) lose sleep. Declining church growth, unsupportive staff, balancing ministry and family priorities, criticism, financial challenges, and unreasonable demands of the congregation can keep the pastor up at night.

Women (in general) face additional sleep stealers. The National Sleep Foundation found that women need more sleep than men because they multitask more and use more of their brain. In addition, women’s sleep can be affected by worry, pregnancy, menopause, being woken up and moved around on the bed by the partner, and waking up to tend to children.

In addition to these many reasons that could contribute to sleep deprivation, women in ministry often have to deal with gender bias, which can cause stress, emotional turmoil, and additional work.

August24, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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