What the Bible says about sleep

Whether you love to sleep or find it a huge struggle, the Bible has a lot to say about it…

There are more than 100 references to sleep in the Bible, and many more references to rest, slumber and dreams. We know that rest is important to God because he chose to rest on the seventh day in the creation account (Genesis 2) and Jesus slept even in the midst of a storm (see Matthew 8). But what else does it say?

The sleep God gives is sweet and sustaining

  • “At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me” (Jeremiah 31:26).
  • “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24). 
  • “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
  • “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (Psalm 3:5).

It’s possible to have too much of a good thing

  • “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 20:13). 
  • “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:9).
  • “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10-11).
  • “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). 
  • “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15).

We need to get the balance right

  • “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
  • “Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners’” (Matthew 26:45).
  • “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

So what can we learn from all this? Sleep is important for us physically, emotionally and spiritually, and God is able to give us precious sleep; the kind that lets us rest even when there are storms raging around us. However, sleeping all day long isn’t an option if we want to thrive! We need to work if we want to eat, and we need to serve God if we want to see his kingdom come. We need to be wise about taking good rest rather than striving and living anxious lives, but we’re to be awake and alert when the Lord has work for us to do.

Oh, and one more thing… Don’t sit beside an open window if you’re listening to a long sermon while you’re very tired:

“And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead” (Acts 20:9).

(Spoiler alert – there’s a happy ending to this story!)