This transcript is edited for clarity.
Laura: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura and I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me today. We’re excited because we’re talking about a pretty big, hot, mom topic – sleep and our lack of it – or our need for it. Or maybe you are one of the lucky few that feels like your sleep tank is full right now!
But before we get to that, we wanted to just mention to you guys, maybe you know or maybe you don’t, that you can subscribe (via email) to our shows, and our blog post, and all of the content that Risen Motherhood puts out, through an email subscription we have on our website. We’ll post a link for it in the show notes, or you can head to our home page. Scroll to the very bottom - there's a little form you will fill out, and then you will never miss a show or a blog post. We also have a very fun new newsletter; it’s kind of a new endeavor for Risen Motherhood that we’re taking on this year. You can also get access to it if you subscribe there.
Emily: We are really excited about that.
Talking about sleep, Laura, I am tired as we’re recording this [laughter].
Laura: Me too. Emily and I always pray before the show, and during the prayer, I was rubbing my eyes super deep. [laughter] You know how good that feels? [laughter]
Emily: It just starts like a downward spiral though; [laughter] it’s like being more tired. But I think for most of us, by the time you have a child in your arms, you’ve already had a taste of what it feels like to sacrifice some of your comforts and desires for the sake of someone else - whether that’s through a journey of adoption, or because you carried a pregnancy. But it kind of goes to a whole new level whenever you have a baby in your arms.
You’re completely, physically exhausted, and the baby is up in the night crying. Or you are up responding to a toddler who is sick, or the number of things that cause a child to wake up in the night. Over time, it can be something that starts out as this joke, but it’s not funny. It’s really bad. [laughter]
Laura: I am laughing now, but you’re right. It’s so not funny. [laughter]
Emily: When you're on your seventh cup of coffee, and you're like, “I am not waking up any more,” it’s not funny. I actually had fun doing a tiny bit of research for this show, because it just confirmed everything I thought about what I felt when I am really tired. Sleep deprivation makes you stressed out, hungry, moody. One article said if you go without sleep for a certain period of time, it’s actually like you're drunk, and we can’t respond to things correctly and think straight – the little bit that I read says that sleep is actually when your brain solidifies memories and processes things. It’s no wonder we get so crazy feeling, and can’t even remember our keys on the counter when we go to the car [laughter] because we’re just exhausted. It has a very real impact on our ability to not only survive, but thrive.
Laura: Mom Brain. Don’t they say, that mom brain is right after you have a baby?I am like, “No, Mom Brain is your entire life!” [laughter] Now we know it is probably due to lack of sleep.
Emily: Laura, what do you feel like? How would you describe you on little bit of sleep or not much sleep?
Laura: Mmm... I don’t even know if I want to admit it, [laughter] but irritable, cranky. I always play that game with my kids where I am like, “Oh, let’s take a nap together and see who can be the quietest. Mommy’s just going to close her eyes right here,” and I see how long I get these itty bitty naps. But definitely yes, going without sleep; my daughter had colic (I’ve shared a little bit before in the show) and that was a true season for me of just absolute desperation. I was so lost, so alone and crying pretty much all day. It was just like I dreaded the nights; I think every mom can - that newborn stage you go through; that period of really dreading going into your room. I don’t know, Emily, did you ever feel like this, “I don’t want to go into the room because that just means a crying baby all night?” You know, like certain seasons of motherhood I feel like that's been really hard. It feels like it’s an endless cycle you're never going to get out of. But you do.
Emily: Yes. That's one of the reasons why we can feel things like sleep training, or just talking about sleep amongst other mom friends can be kind of a hot topic. This is because we feel legitimate envy when somebody else’s child is sleeping really well through the night, and ours isn’t. Or maybe if, like you said, you've gone through a season of sleeplessness, and then your child is sleeping really well, and you just employed this amazing sleep training method. You can actually feel pride whenever you hear your friend complaining, and you're like, “Oh, I was so there a few months ago.”
Laura: “All you need to do is these 15 steps and then you'll be like me.”
Emily: There's a legitimate kind of panic and frustration over this real, physical need that we have. It’s hard because there's not a simple solution; if you look at different cultures across all of time, there's different standards for even what it means to have a child that is sleeping well. Again, there's no passage in the Bible about sleep training your children. [laughs]
Laura: Oh, come on Proverbs, come on. [laughter]
Emily: But God does speak to that, and the gospel does apply. So, let’s go there. It’s Risen Motherhood. [laughter]
Laura: Let’s go. It’s interesting to note that there isn’t necessarily explicit proof as to whether or not Adam and Eve were created to sleep, at least in the same way that we know sleep as today. But we do they were created to rest, just like God did on the seventh day. We talked about this a little bit on the self-care episode which was just our previous episode that you can check out.
The first time that sleep is really mentioned in the creation story is when God puts Adam into a deep sleep, removes the rib and creates Eve, as we know. But, it’s not exactly the same type of sleep as we know today. But we do know that in creation, Adam and Eve had human limitations; they weren’t like God and they were definitely like us. We can look to God, and know one really amazing thing about him, is he doesn’t need any sleep. He never slumbers, never sleeps; Psalm 121:4 talks about that. We know that rest is a way to image God as he did, but he doesn’t actually need the sleep, which is a great relief to serve a God who doesn’t need sleep.
Emily: Yes, can you imagine? [Laughter] He’s getting so much done while we’re sleeping.
Laura: God’s on break. Wouldn’t that be crazy? [Laughter]
Emily: After the fall, after Adam and Even sinned and disobeyed God and sin just stained everything, we know that we do need sleep, now. We are needy and dependent in everything we do. It’s really interesting that for around a third of the day, every day, we have to do nothing but lay in bed. [laughter] God keeps everything going, and it’s a reminder of our limitations and our temptation towards pride. Sleep is a gift; in Psalm 127:1 – 2, it actually says, “He gives to his beloved, sleep.” He talks about it as a gift, and it’s a time of restoration. That's really interesting – this idea that our bodies are experiencing some level of restoration when they sleep. That's one of our gospel words. But in the fall, now we can actually – sometimes - idolize sleep, we can worship it and want it in a selfish way, just so that we can check out of our responsibilities, or so that we don’t have to run to God. But we can also be really prideful in our avoidance of it, and thinking that we can always just go. There's definitely lots of ways we can sin in relation to sleep.
Laura: That's right. But it’s so wonderful that we can take great hope in redemption because Christ came to save us from that pride that we experience through the worship of sleep and to save us from the curse of sin and our slavery to it. Jesus came and he lived a perfect life. But he also lived as a man who needed sleep. Just like we do, he slept and he rested. He didn’t do everything that he could have done while he was here on earth, but he did do all that the Father commanded him to do. When we are living as free in Christ, we can rest, both in deed, when we’re resting from our striving and having to do it all. Or when we actually take time to rest, and we literally lay down our head at night, on the pillow, we know that we don’t have to be anxious because God is in control. That is just something that for me, I really struggle with at night when I get a chance to sleep. Oftentimes, it is plagued by anxiousness. For me, this is a really a huge hope that I remember that God isn’t taking a break, he isn’t resting, and he is continuing to move all things towards his eternal plan.
Emily: Just a little note on restoration; some day, we’re not going to be exhausted any more. Praise the Lord! [laughs] That is something that we can look ahead to while we are living this life, and sacrificing for the sake of others, in order to love them and show them mercy. We can know this isn’t our forever reality, and that someday, Jesus is going to come back. He's going to set everything right, make everything new again, and we’re going to be rejoicing in heaven. Not tired, not stumbling over our words because we can’t remember anything, [laughter] but just fully awake in him.
Just to bring us down to earth a little bit, what does this mean for us today? When Laura and I were thinking of this show, we started a conversation about sleep training. But as we started thinking about it more, the real underlying issue is just what do moms do with sleeplessness, and the stressors around that? The gospel speaks to how our heart should be oriented as we go without sleep – whether it’s a few hours here and there, or a really long season because children have health problems sometimes, disabilities, or they even have colic. That is really where the gospel applies.
Laura: We’re going to tick through a few points here of taking that gospel down to practical. The first piece is we can now trust God, and accept that sleep is a good gift from him, and a real physical need, instead of trying to act like we’re superhuman. Or that we are like God, and just recognizing our limits. We do need sleep; that is a reality. We love others better when we are rested. It is okay to desire sleep and to take practical steps to be able to sleep in a healthy way. Naps [laughter] are okay; I feel like especially for me, that's something where I do struggle with taking naps! Not to feel selfish, or feel like I am not being productive. For some personalities and some people, that can be really hard. It’s important to remember within certain boundaries, those things are okay. Go to bed at 8 p.m. and don’t feel guilty about it [laughter] when you have a newborn, or other seasons. You don’t have to be a martyr.
Emily: And that you’re not more holy for foregoing more sleep because you're going to push it out and grind it out. [laughs]
Laura: That's right because you're only made holy in Christ! [laughter] You know that this isn’t going to make you become a better mom somehow because you've gutted it out on no sleep.
Emily: The second thing is we need to trust God when we can’t sleep, and we need to give it up sometimes for the sake of loving others. This is really hard; we talked about how Jesus did sleep because we need it. But he also laid down his rights in order to show mercy to others. Sometimes he might have wanted to sleep or rest, but he wanted do the will of the Father. I have to remind myself of this. That it is merciful to get up and change a diaper in the middle of the night for a child who cannot take care of themselves, to feed a helpless, hungry baby, or to be in bed with a sick child and be up stroking their head. These are all sacrifices that image God’s love for us, and show mercy to others.
Laura: That's right. The third point is we believe that God will, and can sustain us, no matter what happens or what season we are in. We can depend on him in all things; even in those really difficult situations. There are times where you will not be getting the sleep that you need, and there will be times where you will get that. But in those seasons when you're not getting it - maybe due to medical or dietary needs, pregnancy insomnia or postpartum insomnia, or colic, we could go on and on for probably some of these reasons or seasons. But in these situations, remember that God will sustain you. There are scripture after scripture that talks about this; of just casting all your anxieties on God for he cares for you, and casting your burdens on the Lord, he sustains you.
We can list a few of these in the show notes since we don’t have time to go through them today. But the verses go on forever, and remember that God delights in helping the weak and needy, and those who know their need for him.
Emily: We can definitely list some of those references because they're very encouraging.
Then we just wanted to make a quick note about gospel application to sleep training. No, the point of the show is not to give a bunch of practical examples. [laughter]
Laura: And we’re not telling you how we sleep train our children [laughter], or what position we have on sleep training because there is freedom in Christ within boundaries, right Em?
Laura: On the surface, here are some general (the classic Risen Motherhood style that we do) guidelines to think about when considering methods to help your child sleep.
Emily: Yes. First of all, Laura already said it, we have freedom in Christ. Again, there is no scripture reference on sleep training. God does not have a formula for it; it’s going to vary by time and culture, family situation, child needs and the millions things. I would just say - Laura and I would both admit that every single one of our kids has been different.
Laura: That's right. We have eight kids between us, and we’ve done different methods for all of our kids. Even on one child, we've tried different things. Remember no matter what kind of method that you choose to use, that it all goes back to the heart. It can be very easy if you find success, or if you find failure to think and feel a lot of different things. Thinking that you're superior to others maybe, or judging a mom who is doing a different method than you. Even giving off a certain attitude about your method, your language and advice, or your talking with others.
Just be careful to not generalize, or make another mom feel shame or badly because her child is sleeping in a different way than yours, or she's employing a different method than you.
Also, just to speak to the mom who's struggling with making a decision right now, or who's struggling in the midst of a child who is having difficulties sleeping. Remember to give yourself grace, and give the method grace in the process. Just remember where your identity is found. It’s not found in the way you sleep train, or in the way your child ends up actually sleeping. Your child is not a robot; they're not going to live by the handbooks. We just want to encourage that mom who is really struggling right now; that this is a hard season, but Christ has not left you alone. Keep rehearsing the gospel to yourself and remember that God is using even this to prune and sharpen your heart towards him.
Emily: Yes. So persevere. It is okay to want to teach and train our children towards healthy habits. Sleep, just like healthy food, is one of their basic needs, so go forth mom. But again, like Laura said, don’t put your identity there. We want to be willing to lay down what we need sometimes for the sake of loving others.
Just to end on another note, pray for sleep. That's okay to pray for – cry out to the Lord when you're exhausted. Get advice from others that you trust. Maybe even look for moments where you are wrongly putting your hope in sleep, instead of putting it in Christ. Trust that God can sustain you, even in your tiredness because true rest is found in Christ alone. We hope that gives you at least something to think about while you're rubbing your tired eyes. [laughter]
Hopefully you did not fall asleep while listening to this – wake up! [laughter] You can find more resources, verses and all kinds of good stuff in our show notes on risenmotherhood.com. You can also check us out on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.