Do you remember when you last felt exhausted? When did sleep beckon so loudly that it shouted over all other activities?
Exhaustion recently overtook me after back-to-back red-eye flights to return from an overseas mission. A mere conversation required every ounce of energy. I’m pretty sure I babbled. All I wanted was to crawl into my bed and collapse onto my pillow. Over the next few days, bedtimes came early as my body gradually recovered.
I was acutely aware of the impact of mental and physical fatigue. Without sleep, cognition suffers. A recent study on mice suggests that chronic sleep loss can lead to irreversible damage and loss of brain cells. Not good. I need all of my brain cells!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep daily. Naps do not add into the overnight totals. They reduce that sleepy feeling but cannot replace the benefits of extended pillow time. Check out this online questionnaire to evaluate your need for more zzzz’s.
Fatigue may result from lack of sleep, overwork, or even heightened anxiety. Our muscles cannot do the things they usually can do. Mental fatigue manifests in difficulty concentrating and making decisions. While in some cases fatigue can be traced to an underlying medical condition, for the vast majority of us it is due to personal choices and routines.
We all experience being overtired at times in our life. But when exhaustion becomes the norm, it impacts our life as a follower of Christ. How? Exhaustion trumps courage! Our calling to “be strong and courageous” struggles to emerge when listlessness and lethargy inch us through the day.
Courage requires action. Action requires fuel. Exhaustion is an empty tank. We are unable to move. Yes, I have seen the Lord work miracles amidst impossible settings. He does indeed give strength to the weary. But we dare not forget that He also created our bodies to require food and rest for the lifelong journey.
We must rest. Gospel-writer Mark notes that amidst a very full day, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:31) David and his fellow psalmists call us to rest as well. “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) See also Psalms 116:7 and 127:2.
American football legend, Vince Lombardi, said “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” This is not the image of a courageous life. Spiritual, emotional or physical exhaustion are paralyzing. All prevent a courageous live.
Practical Tips and Tools
For ONE whole week, get eight hours of daily sleep. Evaluate how you feel following your week. I’d love to hear how it goes!
Want further reading on the surprising benefits of sleep? Check out the blog post: What Everyone Ought to Know about Performance Enhancement Drugs