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Sleep, Insomnia and Rest

By Jo Etheridge

Like many other families, back in March life was pretty bonkers for the Etheridge’s! Our 3 different children were going to 3 different schools (don’t ask!) and I was teaching in 2 more. We had the usual church groups, cubs, beavers, various football clubs, swimming lesson to fit in which we all enjoyed and somehow managed, we worked hard (the kids played hard) and we slept hard…and then came lockdown.

The initial few weeks were rather a blur, there was a wave of communication from schools, church, work, clubs and even the library (!?) that needed to be attended to. Tim was starting his new job and home learning needed to be set up both for my own children and my class. At the same time we were all slowly processing the fact that we were in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. But the sun shone and family adapted to this new way of living.

Lockdown was a time that I will never forget, for us, our days were simplified, my work halved and social lives cancelled (that’s what it felt like didn’t it!) …and I started to experience insomnia.

Sleep has never been an issue for me before. Normally I go to bed and a few moments after my head has snuggled into my pillow, I’m asleep. Well that’s how it used to be, but in lockdown it was a whole other story. I found that 2 or 3 nights each week I just couldn’t sleep, at most I would get about four hours a night. In my ever practical way I tried to work out why. Was it something I was eating or drinking or just the fact that our days were quiet and I hadn’t actually tired myself out? After all back then the highlight of our day was delivering the newspaper to Granny and Grampy, or walking to the bakers for an iced bun! Whatever it was my insomnia was making me feel exhausted and I couldn’t understand it, the amount of work I had to do had been hugely reduced and yet I just could not find rest.

About 2 weeks after this began I received the weekly e mail from Bev with the title ‘What to do when you are exhausted’. This caught my eye and I read on eagerly. In her usual ‘to the point’ way Bev started by saying what I already knew and was longing for…”we all need rest”. But she then reminded us Rest is different to relaxation. Rest is spiritual. Rest is of God. The email directed us to Psalm 62.

As I began to meditate upon the words in this psalm I recognised that what I was seeking was just sleep, a way to recharge my battery so that I could function the next day. This was my mistake, I didn’t need to be anxious about my insomnia as long as I looked at it from a Godly perspective, which meant finding true rest. The psalm starts ”Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him”. The writer is reminding us where to go when we seek rest, not power-napping, not to our beds, not to sleep, but to God.

The psalm continues and reminds us that our Loving Heavenly Father is our rock, our fortress, he is the safe space that will not be shaken despite all the turmoil that goes on around it. These wonderful words paint a beautiful picture of the refuge and relief we can find when we stop trying to stand firm and fix things on our own and instead turn to him and allow our Saviour’s protection to be all around us. Verse 8 pleads with us to “trust in Him at all times…pour out your heart to Him for He is our refuge”.

This became my new routine. In those nights during lockdown when sleep failed me, instead of trying out different combinations of warm milk, social media, camomile tea, relaxing music and sudoko (my plan had been that I would get so bored I’d drift off to sleep!) I started using the time to remind myself of the wonderful refuge that God offers us through his salvation and also seeking his strength, peace and true rest.

The conclusion of the psalm reminds us why it is that God can be trusted “You O God are strong and you O Lord are loving…” Those quiet, still hours (which are very rare in our home!) became precious moments when I remembered God’s goodness, his promises and the unending love that he has for us and whilst I didn’t always find sleep coming my way I really did know the closeness of God’s presence and his true rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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