Ministry demands never seem to end. There’s always one more person to serve and reach.
If you’re a pastor or work in a church in any capacity, our days often don’t end at 5 pm. Meetings and emergencies can take us into the late hours. Even if nothing specific demands our attention, in our off hours our minds often ruminate about the church.
Unfortunately, this causes many pastors to be sleep deprived. In fact 1/3 of all Americans are sleep deprived. I imagine pastors exceed that percentage.
Take this quiz and discover if you’re sleep deprived. Mentally check below the statements that apply to you.
- After I get up I feel tired most of the day.
- I often hit the snooze button in the morning.
- I wake up a lot at night.
- I often feel mentally sluggish during the day.
- On weekends and vacations I sleep a lot longer than I normally do to “catch up.”
- I tend to load up on caffeine through coffee, energy drinks, or sodas to “keep me going.”
- Within a couple of hours before I go to bed I exercise or spend a lot of time in front of my computer monitor or my iPad.
If you checked at least three, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep.
And when you don’t, your brain doesn’t work at its peak…you increase the stress hormone cortisol in your body which damages it…and you’re more likely to react and be less self controlled when under stress.
Sleep deprivation does NOT help us become more productive pastors, even though we may think that extra hour of work that we get each day from sleeping an hour less helps. This Harvard Business Review article paints a compelling tie between decreased job performance and sleep deprivation.
So why is it such a problem for pastors? I have a few hunches.
- Perhaps we’ve over emphasized productivity. What pastor hasn’t read or memorized Proverbs 6.10.A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (NIV)
- Perhaps we’ve too often compared ourselves with uber-successful pastors or famous leaders and have heard how they got by on little sleep.
- Perhaps we’ve gotten used to being sleep deprived and don’t know what it’s like to get adequate sleep.
What can we do about it?
- If you are sleep deprived, admit it. Admitting a problem is the first step toward victory.
- Realize that sleep and rest is biblical. We see this in the creation account and God’s establishing Sabbath rest as a principle. We see this in Jesus telling His disciples to pull away from ministry and rest (Matt. 6.31). And we see Jesus sleeping, even in a storm (Matt 4.38).
- Re-adjust your schedule to get more sleep. Get an accountability partner to hold you accountable. It may not be easy.
- Go to bed earlier. This is a very effective way to regain that sleep.
- Ask your leadership to limit evening meetings.
- Give yourself some grace if you are in a season with a new baby. Most babies don’t respect your need for sleep. Give it time and this will pass.
What has helped you get adequate sleep?