More Z's, More A's

That’s what colleges and universities across the land are discovering! Here’s how Justin Pope announced it: “College health officials are finally realizing that healthy sleep habits are a potential miracle drug for much of what ails the famously frazzled modern American college student: anxiety, depression, physical health problems and—more than most students realize—academic troubles. Some studies have found students getting adequate sleep average a full letter grade higher than those who don’t” (South Bend Tribune 9-12-12). Did you catch that? A full letter grade higher! How much sleep will make the difference? Hold on to your seat, because young or old we’re not used to numbers like this. The recommended daily sleep for college students is nine hours a night. Impossible, we all mutter. I know the feeling! Nine hours? Back in the 1960s and ‘70s college students were getting around eight hours of sleep each night. That number dropped to seven hours by the 80’s. And surveys indicate it’s closer to six hours a night these days. We are a sleep-deprived nation, college age or not. But universities are no longer taking these numbers lying down. Campus campaigns, from Hastings College in Nebraska to the University of Louisville, are targeting adolescent biorhythms with campus-wide “flash naps” (an afternoon sleep-in, arranged in advance with public safety so they’ll “know it’s not an epidemic of something”) or beds in the student center from which pajama-clad educators lecture passers-by on the value of even a quick afternoon nap. The truth is sleep loss is more debilitating a practice than we first thought. University of Delaware psychologist Brad Wolgast observes that “many students who think they have attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder are often just sleep deprived.” He also notes: “‘When you find depression, even when you find anxiety, when you scratch the surface 80 to 90 percent of the time you find a sleep problem as well.’ . . . (Wolgast is also seeing more students who’ve been prescribed sleeping pills, which he says usually harm sleep patterns more than help”) (ibid). So if you’re having difficulty sleeping these days, why not drop by the campus counseling center. Help is much closer and even simpler than you thought. And what’s not to like about turning some Z’s into A’s? Unless, of course, we’re talking about sleeping through the “last days.” Our now concluding miniseries, “The Dark Night Rises,” is anchored in a single New Testament passage that without apology warns us about sleeping through this climactic chapter in earth history. But Paul is describing a spiritual lethargy and drowsiness, not a physical sleep. “Stay awake and sober” he passionately appeals to his readers (I Thessalonians 5:6, 7). For wide-awake is the divine antidote to a civilization lulled into the “sleeping sickness” of the dark knight. To sleep now is a death trap, Christ Himself cautions (Luke 21:34-36). So “watch and pray.” How? Give an ear to “The Dark Night Rises”—THREE. In the end the good news is that the God who watches over you “neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4). And when you have Someone who will keep watch with you through the dark night, what’s there to fear, no matter how dark the night becomes?