3 Reasons Behind our Sleeplessness

College students chronically under-sleep. And they're not alone.

Though human beings have more free time than ever, we still don't get enough sleep.

Check out this quote from NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

It is an overlooked fact that children—from elementary school through high school—get an hour less sleep each night than they did thirty years ago. While modern parents obsess about our babies’ sleep, this concern falls off the priority list after preschool. Even kindergartners get thirty minutes less a night than they used to.

Why do you think that is? Here are some of my theories ...

Trying to do more

I find myself consistently overfilling my schedule. There's always so much to do. And there's a cost to sleeping. The extra hour (or three) I dedicate to get to my optimum sleep rate has to come from somewhere.

Everyone feels the press and pressure to get more done. Maybe it's work. Maybe it's family. Maybe it's entertainment or social media or antisocial media.

Could this be a contributing factor to our sleeplessness?


In her beautiful and robust call for a restoration of Sabbath, Judith Shulevitz talks about a restlessness and what she calls "the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach." For her, anxiety and gloom made it difficult to rest (check out her excellent essay: Bring Back the Sabbath)

The Psalms diagnose this condition as well "In vain you rise early and stay up late, for the Lord grants sleep to those he loves" (Psalm 127:2). Our sleeplessness reveals a lack of confidence that God is at work on our behalf, continually, in the world. What else could we do, if we truly doubted that God worked while we slept, what else could we do but rise early and stay up late? It's on us.

Could this be a contributing factor to our sleeplessness?

Lack of discipline

Here's my last guess: many of us experience sleeplessness because we haven't established stable rhythms in our lives. We don't go to sleep at the same time every day, so we don't feel sleepy at bedtime. We work at our computers or watch TV right up to bedtime (which has been shown to trick our bodies into thinking it isn't time to sleep). We dose ourselves with coffee and sugar to stay awake.

I say "we" but I don't know about you. I find that I do all these things. Even though I know that small changes in routine would help me to sleep more and sleep better, I do not do the good I want to do. What is this but a lack of discipline?

Could this be a contributing factor to our sleeplessness?

What am I missing? What else is causing our sleeplessness?

Mid-Year Resolutions

Lots of people make New Year's Resolutions.

Lots of people break New Year's Resolutions.

Lots of people resolve to avoid making (and thus breaking) New Year's Resolutions.

But what about Mid-Year Resolutions?

One of the things I love about working in campus ministry is that my year has two beginnings: one in January with the rest of the world and one in the middle of the summer when my focus shifts from the last school year to the year that's rapidly approaching. And with this new beginning comes new resolutions.

One simple resolution I've made is to sleep more.

Did you know that for every hour of sleep you lose, you operate as if you had a lower IQ?

I rely a lot on my IQ. So, I need my sleep. I'll write more on this tomorrow (after I wake up from sleeping).

If you could make a mid-year resolution, what would it be?

The Tyranny of the Blank Page

There’s something terrifying about a blank page: a blinking cursor, an empty journal, a note unwritten.

Getting started is the hardest part. Everyone wants to be a writer, but few people write. We all have a great story or a great novel in us, but the tyranny of the blank page terrifies us into surrender. Blank pages don’t go gently into that good night.

A blank page used to be reassuring: a chance to make your mark, a new beginning, a clean slate. And one might think that in our age of internet anonymity and digital disposability, the blank page would submit easily to our creative communicative demands.

But that isn’t the case, is it?

You probably have something you should write.

A report.
An e-mail.
A sermon.
A thank you note.
An apology.
A marvelous work of staggering genius.

Rebel against the blank page. Write something, even if it isn’t what you need to write. Just start writing.

Once the tyranny of the blank page has been overthrown, you’ll be amazed at what you can write.

What’s keeping you from writing right now?

This week, while we're on vacation, I'm hoping to write like crazy, though little will be posted here.


Fiction is full of stand-ins.

The Greek myths stand-in for the uncontrollable forces of nature that seem to reign over the human experience.

In CS Lewis’ famous children’s stories, Aslan the lion stands as a stand-in for Jesus.

I love the stand-in element of fiction. 

It’s one of the reasons I love science fiction. That genre, more than any other, wrestles with real-world issues through intermediaries. Battle Star Galactica wrestles with family and honor. The X-Men films wrestle with societal acceptance of gay people. The Dune books wrestle with the role environment and religion play in the shaping of culture.

Recently, I've been wondering about our cultural fixation on zombies, werewolves and vampires.

What do you think they stand-in for?

Don't Abandon the Basics

What is one of the things you run into over and over again in campus ministry, one of the things that drives us crazy, one of the things that threatens to choke the roots and shoots of growing faith?

It is a desire to abandon the basics.

Now, I understand wanting to move beyond basic tools.

But don't leave them behind.

The more familiar you are with Scripture, the more you need to lean on basic Bible study tools to engage the actual text. Familiarity blinds you to what the biblical text actually says.

How do I know? It happens to me more than I'd like.

I'm familiar with Scripture. I've read the Bible cover to cover. Several times. I've memorized portions of it, sang sections of it, preached parts of it. It's holy ground, but it's well-worn.

And in seasons of my life, I begin to notice that the Bible feels dry, repetitive. The words lay flat on the page. There's no sense of the Spirit hovering over the surface of the text. Everything feels previously read. I reach for the fast forward.

It is here, in this moment of staleness, that we need basic tools. The temptation is to look for new tools, better tools ... to assume the problem is with our tools. But the drying out of our experience of Scripture is the result of a wearying in our hearts. The problem is in us.

And, in the simplicity of these tools, lies their usefulness.

If we want to continue to be nourished and fed by Scripture over a lifetime, we'll need to maintain our grip on basic tools: observation, inductive Bible study, lectio divina. These are tools that can be used at a moment's notice, that can turn the tide in an instant, that are always available and always easy to use. They are basic and that's what makes them beautiful.

What are you doing to strengthen your grip on the basics?

Right Answers

With theological sophistication often comes a subtle theological confusion.

We learn right answers. Answers about life. Answers about holiness. Answers about God. Not just answers, but right answers.

This is where the confusion sneaks in.

Because we know the right answers to some questions, we begin to believe we know the right answers to most or even all answers.

Mystery fades and hearts harden.

How do you preserve mystery in the midst of sophistication?