I was 50 years old before I knew about sleep machines. Manufacturers hope these little producers of white noise will enhance sleep for those who struggle to get there. The good ones offer to transform a stress-filled bedroom into the serene environment of an ocean shore, a running stream, a tropical forest or a summer night with crickets chirping.
I first learned the benefits of white noise as a young mother. My babies were never solid sleepers, unless they had nasal congestion. That’s because when we set a vaporizer in the nursery with its gentle whirring, they slept soundly… even when sick. We were onto something and vaporized year-round for a while, until the wallpaper began falling off.
When we learned there was a name for this noise and a machine to accomplish it (without dripping water), we realized other households were having sleep issues, too.
Most sleep machines make radical claims for the sleep-deprived. They promise rich, natural, drug-free rest that can boost energy and improve overall health.
But why is the world so sleep deprived in the first place? Since all of us have tossed and turned through long nights, we can list plenty of reasons:
- Worrying too much
- Struggling with pain
- Thinking too hard
- Fearing the future
- Regretting the past
- And a big ETC.
We crawl under the covers at night, relieved to finally be ending a stressful day, when suddenly the woes of the world seem propped next to the pillow, poking us relentlessly in an effort keep us awake.
Drug stores have racks of sleep aids, and pharmacies carry many more. Hospitals have sleep clinics in which they watch patients in dreamland, trying to figure out what puts them down and what pulls them up. The sleep industry is big business.
The biblical David was an emotional guy, describing in the Psalms his endless ups and downs (including the evasiveness of sleep). But in Psalm 4, after many sleepless nights, he figures out what to do when sleep won’t come and lets us in on the secret: “When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent… Trust in the Lord.” (4,5)
When we’re churning at night, for whatever reason, David suggests we say, “Lord, are you preventing sleep because you want to tell me something? If so, I’m listening.” And like David, we can silently wait for God’s response, paying careful attention to our next thoughts. We might even be thankful we’re awake to hear what he has to say.
During noisy days, it’s difficult to hear him. In a dark bedroom, even with a sleep machine running, we tend to hear much better. By morning, we may have accomplished something far more important than any over-full day can achieve.
Maybe if we listen carefully, we’ll hear him say, “Turn off the white noise now. No more hard-to-sleep, just sleeping-hard instead.”
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” (Psalm 3:5)