SOMNOLENCE: (noun) the state of being drowsy, drowsiness, sleepiness
Sleep goes by a lot of common, familiar names, such as cat nap, shut-eye, snooze, forty winks, Z’s and many more. “Somnolence” brings on a state of drowsiness, giving us a gentle nudge to let us know that we should break off what we are doing and go to sleep, but sometimes we work past this point of sleepiness, ignoring the body’s signal.
Sleep gets a lot of attention these days. Articles on the topic abound in magazines and books. It’s as if the writers know something about us and are capitalizing on it, thus giving us a wake-up call. And indeed they should, because sleep deprivation affects one-third of all Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty percent or 40.6 million American adults sleep 6 or fewer hours each night, the research states.
Are we, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “murdering sleep”? In Macbeth’s case, his conscience wouldn’t allow him to sleep because he had committed an actual murder, the killing of King Duncan. For us, however, it could be the driven pace of our lives that is destroying our sleep. Macbeth hadn’t counted on the lack of sleep as a consequences of his dreadful act. In one of the most famous passages in Shakespeare’s dramas, we have a descriptive analysis of sleep as Macbeth laments in his conversation with Lady Macbeth:
“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life,
Sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds,
Great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
To Macbeth, sleep is far more than a mere necessity of life. In poignant language, he tells us that sleep sustains life; it makes life worth living. Indeed, sleeplessness robs an individual of the joy of living.
Plagued by sleeplessness, many of us try to find relief in a variety of ways. I stopped in at the well-stocked Nutrition Center in our city to find something to help me get my quota of 8 hours of sleep each night. The pleasant young woman who waited on me gave me a booklet written by Vernon Dasser. The opening sentence in the booklet says, “Chronic sleep deprivation is one of today’s most critical health issues. ” The author likens sleep to the time at night when the Disney theme park in Orlando shuts down and the clean-up crew takes over and cleans up the place, making it fit and attractive for use the next day. Sleep, he says, allows the clean-up crew in our bodies to get to work on removing toxins, replenishing nutrients, and repairing cells so that our bodies can be fit for useful activity the next day. If we don’t get enough sleep, we impede this much-needed clean-up activity.
Dasser identifies unhealthful lifestyle practices, such as alcohol consumption, drugs, caffeine, and lack of exercise as hindrances to sleep. On these points, he is right, but Scripture puts a finger on the problem when the Psalmist says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows” (Psalm 127:2). Our Lord values us and wants us to sleep well. The Psalmist notes, “so he give his beloved sleep.” As we endeavor to get ahead in our work life, we are often driven to the extent that we overwork, ignoring the nudging of somnolence. But if we slow down, work at an acceptable pace, and maintain a thankful attitude, we will find that our sleep “will be sweet” (Ecclesiastes 5:12).
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”