As students, I think we can all agree that sometimes, basic human needs take a backseat in our list of daily priorities. Juggling classes, homework, jobs and socializing becomes overwhelming, and eating well and sleeping well become annoying things we have to get done. Many of my school days have been fueled with only a granola bar for breakfast, and while I am usually an eight hours of sleep kind of person, many times I have felt like sleep is a waste of time and wondered why it’s necessary. There’s only so many hours in the day, and it’s so easy to resent those eight hours where I’m not being productive.
However, no one can disagree with the fact that we do need sleep to survive, and more importantly, to thrive. There are so many practical tips out there on how to prioritize sleep, but first, we need to change our attitude toward sleep before those tips can work. As you think about how you can begin to prioritize and value sleep, here are three important truths to recognize:
1. Sleep impacts all areas of well-being
At Student Wellness, we emphasize six areas of well-being: physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, relational, and cultural. Each of those addresses how our faculties relate to ourselves, our work, God, and others. And our faculties — our minds and our hearts and our bodies — rely on proper rest in order to function properly. Because of my exhaustion or sleep deprivation, I have not been able to show up fully present to the work I have to do and the relationships with those around me. Sleep is truly the first step toward embracing holistic wellness in every aspect of your life.
2. Learning what to prioritize requires wisdom
Sometimes when an assignment is causing me anxiety and distress, I ask myself, “in half a year, will I even remember this?” Usually, the answer is no. This has helped me multiple times to remember to prioritize my own well-being and accept that sometimes doing my best isn’t going to be as good as other times, and that is okay. Of course, there are tasks we have that we do need to prioritize. We shouldn’t just flippantly throw away anything that takes up our time, and this is where wisdom comes in. On those late nights when you’re up studying for an exam or finishing an essay and you start to feel your body shut down, you are free to give up control and take care of yourself before anything else. Maybe you won’t get as good of a grade, or you’ll submit an assignment late, but those things are temporary. Your body and your well-being matter just as much as the work you do, and putting sleep higher up in your list of priorities will help you cultivate a lifestyle of wellness.
3. Sleep is sacred
Finally, we have to realize that our bodies and the way they were created, including the mundane everyday needs, are sacred. Resting was not a result of “the fall,” but rather, it was part of God’s original design for a perfect world, as seen in the way that he rested on the seventh day of creation. This should not be a burden for us, as it can make us feel compelled to sleep. Rather, it is a gift that we can let go and recognize that what we have done in a day is enough, and we are free to rest. Psalm 127, a psalm about God’s blessings, contains one of the most popular passages about sleep:
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
(Psalm 127:2, NRSV)
Maybe we can’t prioritize sleep every night. Maybe there are times we have to sacrifice certain aspects of our wellness in order to be faithful to all the other responsibilities we are given in life. But what we can do is recognize God’s infinite wisdom in how we are created, and work on living in his gift. As we celebrate sleep this week, look for resources on campus and on social media to help you do just so, and may we all move toward becoming people of wellness every day.