Why can’t I sleep?

It’s 12:05 a.m., and I can’t sleep.  Again.  

Make no mistake.  When my head hit the pillow at 10:30 p.m. (my usual bedtime), I was out.  Like. A. Light.

But something stirred me around 11:30, and I’ve been awake ever since. The sandman has left the building.  And I’ll be eyes-wide-open.  Indefinitely.

I don’t suffer from chronic insomnia.  In fact, just like tonight, I rarely have trouble falling asleep.  And most of the time, I sleep for eight hours with very few interruptions and feel rested in the morning.  (Thank you Baby Wise.  Because of you, I have excellent sleepers in my house.)

But when the awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-can’t-go-back-to-sleep kind of insomnia rears its ugly head in my bedroom, it comes in like a tidal wave.  It appears for seemingly no reason at all.  And, sometimes, it lurks for weeks before leaving again.  I’m swimming in one of those waves right now, and I just can’t seem to shake it.

Not so long ago, I dealt with insomnia by laying in bed for hours on end.  Tossing and turning.  Watching the minutes tick by on the clock.  Running through the list of all the things I needed to do the next day.  Feeling the anxiety rise within me as the opportunity for sleep passed me by.  And rarely would I fall back to sleep.  

The following day, I was wrecked.  

Every time.

But a few years ago, I took Beth Moore’s Bible study on the book of Esther, It’s Tough Being A Woman, and my perspective on how to deal with insomnia began to change.

If you’ve never read the book of Esther, I highly recommend it.  It’s a great book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s filled with stories of extravagant parties.  Its plot takes an abundance of twists and turns.  There’s drama.  Suspense.  Scandal.  Betrayal.  Romance.  Power struggles.  And a Persian version of The Bachelor to boot!  Everything that a Hollywood Blockbuster would include.  It’s a great read just for fun.   

But it’s also filled with great lessons.  And it includes countless stories of how God is continually at work.  On the main stage and behind the scenes.     

The story has profoundly impacted my life.  And you should read it.

But what does all of this have to do with insomnia?

I’m getting to that.

The story begins when Queen Vashti is banished from the kingdom for refusing to obey an “order” from her husband, King Xerxes.  As a result, a search begins for a new queen.  (Thank goodness we don’t play by THOSE rules anymore.)  Out of all the eligible women in the kingdom, King Xerxes chooses Esther, a young woman who, unbeknownst to him, is Jewish.  

While King Xerxes is out playing The Bachelor, Mordecai (Esther’s cousin and caretaker) becomes a government official and foils an assassination attempt against the king.  But despite this service to the king, a man named Haman is appointed as King Xerxes’ second in command.  When Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, Haman becomes furious and sets out to destroy not only Mordecai, but all the Jewish people in the Kingdom.

At this juncture, Mordecai pleads with Esther to go to the king and intercede on behalf of her people.  After some convincing, Esther agrees.  

But here’s the good part.

The night before Esther goes to the king with her petition on behalf of the Jewish people, the story says:

“That night the king could not sleep, so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.  It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Terish, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.”  (Esther 6:1-2)

Did you catch that?  

The night before Esther plans to plead with King Xerxes for the life of Mordecai and all of the Jewish people, the king is stirred from sleep and reminded that Mordecai saved his life.


I think not.  

And this revelation to the king has a profound impact on the rest of the story.

As I read that passage for the first time, I was struck.  

How often am I stirred from sleep?  

Could I take a note from King Xerxes’ story and choose to change my perspective on how to deal with insomnia?  

So instead of looking at my inability to sleep as an inconvenience, I challenged myself to consider the possibility that it might be an opportunity.  

What might God have for me in the wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep?

What might God lay on my heart if I were to rise from my bed and commune with him?

How might God speak to me through my prayers in the darkness of the night?

So instead of tossing and turning.  Watching the clock.  Making to-do lists.  And growing anxious.  I started getting up.  And I started spending time with God when I couldn’t sleep.  

I can’t tell you the ways in which God moved in my heart during those times.  And I found that when I embraced the opportunity to spend time with God when sleep was beyond my grasp, the sleep returned to me so much more quickly.

Now, if I lay in bed for more than 30 minutes without falling asleep, I usually seize the moment.  And I’m always glad when I do.  Because God always shows up.  And the time I spend in community with God is always fruitful.

Are you having trouble sleeping tonight?

How might God work in your heart if you were to choose to spend time in his presence when the sleep won’t come?

I challenge you to seize the moment and go to God in the midst of your sleeplessness.  You never know what might be in store for you there.  

Night Night, my friends.