I struggle to sleep, and while ambien and CPAP have helped me sleep (I'm more likely to stay asleep long enough to rest thanks to the combination), I'm not always able to fall asleep easily or stay asleep peacefully. After a nightmare, I'm more likely to be restless for the rest of the night, unable to distinguish dream from reality without forcing myself awake, a cycle that repeats itself over and over and over until I finally give up and drag myself through my day, half afraid to go to sleep lest it start over again.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a secret that I forget entirely too often, but as I sit up tonight trying to become tired enough to sleep solidly until I get up almost 2 hours earlier than normal for an appointment, I am reminded again of something I used just last night to find better rest.
I meditate. I don't sit cross-legged and chant the seed sounds of the universe, no, nor do I go to my quiet place or empty of my mind. All of those trails lead to an active mind and restlessness for me; they always have. No, my meditation is singing praise songs in my head, soundlessly worshiping the God who gives me each breath until sleep takes over.
I can't count the number of times I've lain in bed, weeping myself to sleep with some sorrow or grief, either from a broken relationship or from one who's death leaves me lonely without them. How do you quiet a heart so broken that it must weep or destroy itself? How do you calm the mind racing over all the things you could have said, didn't say, need to say? How do you find the rest necessary to actually rest and be renewed and restored? It's something I've struggled with for so long, so consistently, that I had to find something or go mad.
I'm sitting here listening to Christian music, Natalie Grant, Nichole Nordeman, Third Day and others, letting the praise they sing to God wash over and through me. It forces me to stop focusing on myself, on my problems, on all the ways I couldawouldashouldaoughta been different. It pulls my attention to my Creator, my Redeemer, the Savior who is so eagerly waiting to carry me and all my burdens. As I lay my concerns and the weights that hold me back in life aside long enough to search my mind for songs of praise, I find peace, I find stillness, I find the ability to relax and let go... and then I sleep.
I wish I remembered more often to do what my Maker asks, and seek Him first. He did promise that He would meet my needs and give me the desires of my heart if I made HIM the desire of my heart.
I pray that this never becomes a rote ritual for me, something I do to sleep without any of the consideration of the words that play through my mind. My meditation isn't a magical chant to get me solid sleep. It needs to always remain a way of taking my selfish focus and handing it to God, a path to rest in Him and faith in Him.
And now, unto Him who is able to keep that which we give Him against the day of His coming, be all praise, all glory, all He's asked for, all He deserves and more. And if He gives me a peaceful restful night, well... that's icing on this cake.
Try it yourself sometime. Take the last thoughts you think before slumber and focus them on our mighty God, and see if He doesn't do something mighty and wonderful for you... like a peaceful night's sleep. Me? I'm going to listen to "River God" one more time and go crash.