Eight Hours of Sleep

A colonel I knew said that when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a battalion commander, he made sure to get the best sleep of anyone in his unit. That seemed odd—shouldn’t he have worked longer and harder, sacrificing his rest for the sake of his soldiers? But he had an explanation for that. His job meant making daily decisions that put others’ lives in harm’s way, so he chose to prioritize the single greatest factor that would affect his ability to make good decisions: sleep. 

Science agrees with the colonel. A study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis of students who stayed awake 35 hours straight—the typical college all-nighter—showed that their brains’ reaction to unpleasant stimuli shot up by 60 percent. Without the necessary eight-hour nightly reset, they were in no shape to handle normal daily stress. Another study by Dr. David Dinges, an award-winning sleep researcher, limited participants to only six hours of sleep per night. At the end of two weeks, Dr. Dinges concluded they were effectively drunk. (Barker, Eric. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.)  

How much sleep does the average American get? Gallup says 6.8 hours per night, which makes it likely you’re pretty much wasted as you read this. 

The kind of sleep we get is as important as the amount. I recently talked with a man who took a sleep study and learned he’d been waking up 70 times an hour. No wonder eight hours “sleeping” in bed had left him exhausted. His body never got a chance to move into the deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that restores our brain each night. 

Quantity and quality. If that’s what our body needs to function as designed, what does our spirit need? In Scripture, being spiritually asleep is never a positive. But the purpose of physical sleep—restoration—holds very much true for the spirit. And God is all about restoring us as we come into His presence. 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. 
Psalm 62:5,8 

My family once fostered AJ, a seven-year-old with severe reactive attachment disorder. His parents were addicted to drugs, and he was neglected and rarely held as a baby. This affected his ability to relate with others. In trying to re-create the attachment he’d missed, we offered to “play baby” with him. AJ loved that! He became like a newborn in my arms as I gazed into his eyes, murmuring endearments. Along with the bottle of milk I fed him, he was obviously drinking in much more profound refreshment: security, nurturing, comfort, protection, acceptance, a sense of belonging. 

During these times, I felt the Lord ask, “Marie, what is your attachment level to me?” Without even knowing it, I had become “spiritually wasted” through lack of time and depth in His presence. I needed to learn how to crawl into His arms, get “face to face” with my Lord, and receive His comfort, nurturing, joy, peace, strength, protection, truth, and guidance. 

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”
Psalm 16:5

After spending 40 days in God’s presence, Moses’s skin shone (Exodus 34:29-30). Have you experienced that “shine” when you’re around someone who has spent time in the Lord’s presence? My kids and husband know when I have—and when I haven’t. I’m a different person when I’ve had that restorative reset with Him. 

How much time in God’s presence is the spiritual equivalent of eight hours of sleep? I don’t know. But I do know I need them both. 

Picture of Marie Hatch

Marie Hatch

West Division Deputy Director Military Mission
West Division Deputy Director Military Mission

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