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Proverbs 16:4 reminds us that “The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” From the life of the smallest insect to the very path of human history, everything that God creates and sets in motion has a purpose. Even the functions of the human body are thoughtfully crafted—we are the way we are for a reason.

But there’s one function that we, in our contemporary culture, seem to have forgotten has a particularly vital purpose.

Sleep.

God has a plan for sleep. Mentioned throughout the Bible, slumber is far more than simple rest. It’s an opportunity to hear from God, and to heal.

But there’s a problem. The busy schedules, sleep-shaming culture, and rest-destroying electronics which mark our modern lives often keep us from reaping the full benefits of sleep.

The American Cancer Society performed a survey between 1959 and 1960, asking around six million people about their sleep habits. Only two percent reported getting less than six hours of sleep per night. Contrast that with today, where a 2004 National Interview Survey put that number closer to thirty percent.

In this kind of environment, how can we get back to reaping the benefits of God’s plan for sleep?

This is one of the questions posed in Faith Blatchford’s book, “Winning the Battle For the Night,” an exploration of God’s plan for sleep that shows us how we can reclaim our rest from both the natural and spiritual forces working against us.

Let’s take a look at what Blatchford says about some of the most important aspects of God’s plan for sleep, and how you can reclaim each of these benefits.

Divine Dreams

From the very beginning, God has communicated to his people through dreams, granting them warnings, prophecies, and promises as they slept. Think, for instance, of Jacob in Genesis 37: 1-11, wherein Joseph dreamt of symbols which showed him that his family would soon bow to him in respect.

And because Paul, in Hebrews 13:8, tells us that God is unchanging, we know that He’s still doing this in our contemporary world.

But the problem is that we’ve stunted our ability to dream.

There are four stages of sleep, and only one—the final stage—supports dreaming. This final stage is called REM sleep. As the night goes on, we continuously cycle through these stages of sleep, with each cycle taking between 90 to 110 minutes. Our first few cycles have fairly short periods of REM sleep, but they become longer as the night progresses.

When we sacrifice sleep at the altar of productivity, we sacrifice what little time we get for dreaming, cutting off our ability to cycle into longer periods of REM sleep. When this happens, we lessen our ability to dream.

Blatchford emphasizes the importance of dreams in God’s grand design, breaking them up into three categories.

First up are the warning dreams. Blatchford writes that God “has chosen to invite us to work together with him,” allowing us to be His hands on earth. And sometimes, He uses dreams to warn or prepare us to act as those hands in order to avert human suffering, both great and small.

Next are the “wooing dreams.” This kind of dream, writes Blatchford, are visions of His love which draw us closer to God.

Finally, “revelatory dreams” grant us much-needed wisdom at the perfect time. This could be anything from knowledge concerning a big financial decision to sudden inspiration in how to deal with your children’s behavior.

Scientific research supports this, with studies showing that REM sleep stimulates the parts of the brain involved in learning, mentally preparing us for potentially threatening events. During dreaming, our brains can also combine thoughts and ideas from wildly different categories to help us form novel, out-of-the-box strategies. And, of course, some dreams are simply beautiful experiences, giving us comfort.

Dreams are an essential part of God’s plan for sleep, but they’re not the only part. Let’s look at what sleep does not only for the soul, but for the body.

The Health Benefits of Sleep

Blatchford writes that sleep is so important for our health that “when there is a deficit, our bodies will bypass the first several stages and head directly into stages where restoration occurs.”

Because God’s plans for our bodies include quality sleep, we physically suffer when we don’t allow ourselves adequate rest. Our immune systems are weakened, we become prone to injury and accidents, and increase our risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

And that’s only the beginning.

But when we get great sleep, we increase our quality of life. On this, Blatchford writes that sleep can increase our life span, reduce inflammation and disease, and enhance learning, creativity, and emotional stability.

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