What the Bible says about sleep and anxiety

Last updated on February 22, 2021

Have you ever been too anxious to sleep? Too stressed? Too worried? Thoughts of the past day or the day ahead (or both!) swirling around in your head and you can’t settle down and drift off to sleep? You’re not alone! Lots of people experience this problem and it is nothing new to the modern world. Let’s see what the Bible says about the connection between anxiety and sleep.

Connection between anxiety and sleep

Psalm 127:1-2 says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain; unless the LORD protects the city, its watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for bread to eat— for He gives sleep to His beloved.
One of the sources of anxiety that keeps people up at night is the fear that they won’t have enough money, food, or other things that they need in life. It is the fear that “everything will go wrong.” The good news is that God knows our needs and He is able to take care of us. God created 24 hours in the day and He created us with the ability to accomplish all that we need to accomplish in those 24 hours. If we feel like we need more time than that, we are either squandering the time that God has given us in doing unnecessary activities, or we are failing to trust God’s ability and willingness to care for us as a good father does. Regardless of what the case may be, the first thing we need to do is pray.

In Philippians 4:6-7, the Apostle Paul counsels us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Tell God about our needs and anxieties

When we are anxious, the first thing to do is to tell God about our needs and anxieties, and thank Him for all the times He has helped us in the past. This exercise of remembering God’s past provision can give us increased confidence that God will provide for us going forward. That increased confidence in God’s willingness and ability to help calms our hearts and eases our anxious minds.

Think about something else

In addition to telling God about our needs and anxieties, and giving thanks, it can be really helpful to make a concerted effort to think about something else, other than what is worrying us. So, if worries about your job or relationships are bothering you, think about something else. Again the Apostle Paul has some advice for us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). This bit of advice comes right after the verses above about giving everything over to God in prayer and giving thanks. If you’re up at night thinking about this or that, then make a decision to think about something else. Open the Bible or a really good book and read for a while. Write a letter to a friend. Clean your house. Organize the utensils in your kitchen drawer. Think about funny jokes you’ve heard. If there is anything good and worthwhile that you can occupy your mind with instead of those worrisome thoughts that are keeping you up, then think about those things.

Try Paul’s counsel

Sometimes there are other things besides anxiety or worry that keep us from sleeping, but if you are looking for a peaceful mind to get some sleep, try Paul’s counsel about prayer, thanks, and re-directing your thoughts. You may find that before long, you are enjoying the sleep that God grants to His beloved.

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