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5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep

Do you struggle to sleep at night? Maybe you have difficulty falling asleep or even full-blown insomnia. My issue is that I often wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall back to sleep. There could be a million reasons why relaxing rest eludes us and an equal number of suggestions for resolution. Today, I want to share 5 habits I have been working to hone, which seem to be making a difference for me.

I am going to add the caveat right here that I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and that when I accepted Him as my Savior, He gave me His Holy Spirit to dwell inside me. Read more on that here. I genuinely do not believe satisfying sleep is a reasonable expectation outside of the peace that comes from knowing God.

But even with the assurance that He has the chaos under control and cradles me in the palm of His hand, I sometimes find myself awake when I want to be asleep. As I’ve prayed for the wisdom to address it, I’ve adopted five habits which have been highly effective for me. I’m sharing them in hopes they might resonate with you as well.

5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep

Tune out

Life is hectic! My brain doesn’t have time to take a break. Or so it likes to think. (Pun intended.) After all, if I stopped controlling things, it would all come crashing down, right? Not even close to right! In fact, if I don’t stop trying to control things, and let my mind rest, I’m much more likely to make mistakes and missteps that will cause everything to come crashing down.

So, I need to tune out. Shut down. Let go. I do this nightly by watching a Hallmark movie or something equivalent. There is science to show that the brain slows significantly when we watch TV, and I am pretty sure a Hallmark movie requires the least mindfulness of anything out there. It is completely predictable with idyllic settings and… I’m getting sleepy just talking about it.

Some people tell me to pray before bed – to give it all to Jesus and walk away. I would never tell anyone not to pray. I know this is a tried-and-true method for many. It does not work for me because praying engages my mind and my emotions. I have to say my ‘bedtime prayers’ before I tune out. My goal is to not be thinking about anything important when my head hits the pillow.

Exercise

I toyed with the order in which I wanted to present these 5 habits to you. I obviously did not choose to put them in chronological order. But stay with me as I work a bit backwards here.

My biggest hurdle is getting my mind to rest. When I have tuned out and my head has hit the pillow, it needs to have a few things neatly wrapped and tucked away. One of those things is the knowledge that my body is tired.

I sit quite a bit at work and writing does not get me moving either. I need to be intentional about exercise. This is a habit I must commit to accomplish early in the day. I’ve mentioned that I’m a distance walker and that I’ve curiously started running again.

If I am physically tired, my mind will be at ease about my body’s cooperation to sleep. It is always worth it – not just for sleep but for overall health as well.

Food

This one has taken some experimentation. I have discovered that carbohydrates at night do not agree with me. They make me feel bloated and uncomfortable and are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. I have basically cut out all carbs, even healthy ones, after 4pm. I have also lightened up on my protein in the evening. Don’t worry – I eat plenty of both, earlier in the day.

Kale salad: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Kale salad, a frequent dinner menu item.

Dinner for me is comprised of mostly vegetables and healthy fats. I eat early so I can go to bed early because I get up early. Eating foods which agree with my digestive system, and timing it so those processes have time to work before I lay down, has been game-changing for me.

This may seem obvious, but I stopped consuming caffeine late in the day. I used to feel immune to the caffeine because I could drink a cup and still fall asleep. But I do think it hampered my ability to fall back to sleep if I awoke in the middle of the night. And any beverage consumed late increases the chances of needing to get up in the middle of the night. I’m better off without it.

Conscience

Ah this! When I have tuned out, worked out, and cut out, but still wake up at 2am unable to go back to sleep, it can be due to a guilty conscience. Sometimes it is legit and other times it is not. I have tried to just ignore it and go back to sleep but it doesn’t work. My only way around the obstacle of my conscience is to engage.

Fox with ears alert: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Petr Ganaj on Pexels.com
When God speaks, even in the middle of the night, I want to listen.

It seems counterintuitive to purposely start my mind thinking, but remember, the one most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. There is no peace in a guilty conscience. If the conviction I feel is legitimate, I need to confess it to God and repent. I need to receive His forgiveness and resolve to make it right with anyone to whom I may owe restitution. Then, my peace returns. When I feel that harmony with God, I can sleep again.

If the shame I feel is not legit, I need to preach truth to myself and let it go. A good dose of truth brings a rush of peace.

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”

2 John 2:3

Pray

I know some of you are wondering why a Christian would leave prayer for the last bullet point. Is prayer a last resort for me? NOT AT ALL! I rely on constant communication with God to guide my steps and steer my decisions.

Prayer gets its own section because there are still times, when I’ve done everything I’ve learned to do for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep, but I still wake up.

Alarm clock: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Sometimes I’m supposed to be awake at 2am.

In these instances, I know God has purposed that I should be awake to pray. I have a list of people who get prayed for every time I am awake in the middle of the night. Maybe one of them is in trouble and I have been awakened specifically because I will pray for them. Prayer releases the power of Heaven and if sacrificing a few minutes of sleep will send that assistance to a loved one who needs it, I’m in!

If I go through my usual list of people and I’m still awake, I start praying for anyone else whose name or face pops into my head. Eventually, I figure I’ve covered everyone for whom I was tasked to pray, because I fall back to sleep.

Even if I’m wrong – if nobody needed my prayers at 2am, my efforts have covered them with God’s presence and that can never be a bad thing. But I honestly believe it is a ministry. The Holy Spirit knows I am available and willing to serve in this capacity in the middle of the night.

Ironically, my habit of intentionally clearing my mind so I can fall asleep and stay asleep makes me a ripe prayer warrior to call upon in the wee hours. And there is a reward. The sleep that comes after being awoken for this purpose and fulfilling it, is the most satisfying of all sleeps!

Kitten asleep: 5 Habits to Hone for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Sleep induced by prayer for others is oh-so sweet!

Well, there they are. Those are the 5 habits to hone for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. At least, they are the tricks that have been the most beneficial for me lately. There are others, and if you’d like me to post about them, let me know.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Do you have trouble sleeping? Is it a struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep or both? Have you found any helpful hints that you’d be willing to share? Do any of mine ring true for you?

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Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1

Has anyone seen the end of September? I think I misplaced it. How is it October already?

Unpopular truth bomb: I’ve never been a fan of October. I’ve entitled this series “How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens”. It is for two kinds of people: those who are like me and those who aren’t. Do you FALL (pun intended) into either of those categories? Great! You’re just who I’ve been expecting.

I know it isn’t popular opinion, but I will quickly explain my position. I feel that taking part in festivities which, even loosely, pay homage to the sworn enemy of my Savior and Lord should be completely out of the question. Witches, demons, violence, fear, and the horrors of Hell are all very real and dead-set against my King. Courting them feels like treason to me.

Halloween porch decor: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

I’ve held this position my whole life, so I’ve always seen October as a month through which to endure. My neighbors put out their creepy decorations and the stores have aisles of grotesque things which cackle and frighten the kids (and me) as we are forced to pass by. November 1st dawns new and beautiful, because Halloween is over, everyone turns to giving thanks, and candy is 50-75% off!

These past couple of years have been different, though. God has been showing me some ways to appreciate Him as well as maintain a healthy hope and happy heart as Halloween hastens toward me in the rush that is October. I plan to share 1 each Sunday as we count down to the 31st.

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1

The Halloween season reminds us to be on our knees.

Our prayers have the power to overcome darkness with light. With Halloween décor, we are literally inundated with visual reminders of what goes on in the spiritual realm and it should remind us to pray. We might be able to use the excuse that it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ the rest of the year, but not in October. The gory, horrific, lure of evil is front and center and should drive us to our knees with prayers of both petition and praise.

Petition

As much as humans can contrive of scary things, we cannot conceive of the fright with which hell is fraught. We all know people who are headed there. This season, as we get a glimpse of what is in store for them, we should be on our knees in petition for their souls. Satan woos them, not because he cares at all about them, but because he hates God. He only wants them so Jesus cannot have them. We need to fervently pray for their eyes and hearts to be open to the truth.

Spider web: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Its a Trap!

Praise

At no other time in the year can we be more aware of the contrast between our salvation and that to which we were doomed before we were saved. Jesus died an excruciating death and bested evil so we could live free! Even when they’re whitewashed and googly-eyed, the frightening feels of Halloween should remind us that our faith gives us victory over fear. Because we belong to Jesus, Satan is our defeated foe. To Him be the glory forever!

I also have a personal gift, for which I praise God in this season. He gave me a precious baby girl, born at the end of October. Her birthday gives me a joyful distraction and I’m so thankful for the blessing that she is!

Fall colored balloons: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com
October birthdays are especially special!

I realize not everyone struggles to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens near. If you do, I see you! I hope the posts in this series will give you something positive to focus on.

If you are all about this time of year and don’t understand why anyone would feel differently, I see you too. Thank you so much for reading. Maybe this series will give you insight into why some people feel the gravity over the revelry.

There is no time like the present for all Christians be on our knees. This is true as Halloween hastens and it is true as Easter dawns. Any day which can be found on the calendar is a good day to pray. In fact, a healthy hope and a happy heart are hard to find apart from prayer.

White pumpkin and fall decor: How to Have a Healthy Hope and Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 1
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash
Today is the day to pray!

What are your thoughts about Halloween? Do you embrace or endure the festivities? Either way, would you be willing to join me in a challenge to use the Halloween season as a reminder to pray?

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Ephesians 5:8-11

Related Post on the Posture of Prayer: Is your Posture Appropriate for a Dress Code which Requires Full Armor?

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Reflections

One-Sided Conversations

God has surprised me with an unexpected object lesson through this blog. I realize I’m new at it, and it takes time to build a site and a community, but I often read other people’s blogs and enjoy the dialogue that takes place in the comments section almost as much as the post itself. And the other day, I was wondering how I could inspire more people to interact on mine. I have posted 50 articles now, and most of them have been one-sided conversations.

I haven’t been able to aptly identify for myself how I feel about the lack of input on my posts. It isn’t entirely disappointment or loneliness because I am always hopeful and motivated. And while there is a weightiness in the responsibility to steward the trust and time of my readers well, I am also joyful just to be doing what I love! Hey, comment below if you have the right word for that mindset. (Irony intended!)

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who reads!

Friends, please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all of you so very much! I write to cheer, challenge and cherish you, and if you’re a ninja reader who slips onto the Back Porch and back out again without a trace, you are always, always welcome. No comment required!

I was thinking about all of this when God caused me to realize that I am occasionally guilty of causing one-sided conversations. I talk to the Lord, and tell Him what I’m thinking, how much I’m thankful, what I need, everything that is on my heart… and then change my focus. Sometimes I don’t even check back with Him to see if He’s responded.

A deer with huge ears: one-sided conversations.
Photo by Charl Durand on Pexels.com

The encouragement I want to pass on needs to come to me from the King of my heart and if I’m not paying attention to His message, how can I relay its relevance to you? When I pray, it must be a two-sided conversation. After I speak, I need to be all ears, listening with anticipation. Jesus communicates through His Word, His Spirit, and His people. He has truth to share, wisdom to impart, peace to give, and so much more. His input should be my priority.

I’ve learned that prayers and blogs have this in common: they are richer with feedback. My blog is a work in progress, and I expect I will be learning about prayer until the day I finally speak to Jesus face to face. All the while, I will do what I can to amend my one-sided conversations. If you have any helpful hints or suggestions for me, I’d be grateful to read them.

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Devotions

Specific prayer

When something interesting happens, I take notice. When it happens again, I pay serious attention. But if it happens three times, I ask God what He wants me to learn. Little did I know that, as I applied my mascara one morning last week, God was about to get my attention. He had something awesome to show me, in triplicate, about specific prayer!

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

1 John 5:13-15
Step one came by way of a story shared on Thursday.

I was getting ready for work and listening to a recorded Bible Study. The teacher recounted a time when her friend called with an urgent prayer request. She fell immediately to her knees to pray and found herself petitioning God in specific prayer for a highly detailed and improbable solution, which surprised her, even as she prayed it. But then she explained how her friend called back several minutes later with an update and the craziest story, which she thought would never be believed. But as she listened, this teacher realized that God had answered with the exact, apparently-not-so-improbable, resolution she had asked for!

Step two came by way of a personal experience on Sunday.

I had a burden to share a particular Biblical truth with someone who has a short attention span for serious matters. I prayed for God to:
1) provide a quiet time without distractions,
2) give her the ability to concentrate,
3) cause me to recognize and seize the moment, and
4) clear her mind to receive and understand what He wanted her to hear. On Sunday morning, God answered my specific prayer, exactly as I had asked, in sequence.

Step three came by way of a praise report from my son on Tuesday.

I received a call from my son, filling me in on what God has been doing in his life while he has been away visiting friends. One story caught my attention because it was about a specific prayer that he had prayed; one that he thought to be incredibly far-fetched. But God came into his situation and walked him through it exactly as he had requested.

Man kneeling by his bed and praying
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

We don’t tell God what to do. I don’t think for a second that God heard any of our suggestions and decided to carry out our will. No, I believe He put His plans on our hearts and made them tremendously unique, so that when He did exactly as He intended, our faith was strengthened. We came out of it knowing that we heard God’s voice. We spoke it back to Him in specific prayer and got confirmation as He carried it out. We simply couldn’t conclude that it was coincidence when each instance was so completely distinct and wildly precise.

Are you intrigued too? I believe God has been displaying the value of specific prayer and encouraging me to be more faithful and courageous in the way I pray. He has reminded me that prayer is more than just an upload from my heart to His. It is also a download, and God actively pursues connection with me, and with you. Are we ready? What an amazing thing that God, with everything in hand, would take the time to impress upon us what He is about to do, just so that we can be involved and encouraged by His answers to our specific prayer!