The Sleep Patterns of Pastors

I write this after sleeping for twelve hours straight – because I needed it.

Maybe I’m coming down with something, or maybe my mind and body have sleeping popebeen overwhelmed with the post-vacation pile on, or maybe the crises I’ve returned to help relieve are too heavy to handle. Or maybe it’s because I slept only 3-4 hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Does your pastor sleep well?

[Note:  I’m not talking about “sleeping with the pastor.”  Unless you are the spouse of the pastor, please do not do this.]

I’m talking about essential REM sleep, about healing dreams and waves of peace.  I’m talking about the kind of sleep that started with your head on a rock and transitioned into a ladder to heaven.

Everyone’s different, but how are you sleeping, Pastor Friends?

  • Do you discipline yourself to wake up early for Quiet Time at 5 am?
  • Do you stay up long after midnight to process meetings?
  • Do you involuntarily toss and turn most nights, worrying about congregational bullies or parishioners with tumors?
  • Do you require 7-8 hours a night and take it?

A beloved parishioner once shared with me that – as she aged – she found it hard to sleep through the night, but she would stay in bed in the wee hours and pray for whomever popped into her mind.  I’ve done this and it’s interesting as I’ve prayed for former church members, cousins I haven’t seen in a while, the random cashier I met last week.

I’ve also read that if we can’t sleep, we should get out of bed and do something productive which – in common wisdom – will make us bleary-eyed so that we will eventually get some shut-eye.  Does this really work?

Sleep is a glorious gift and necessity.  How are you sleeping? And why/how?

Image is Pope Benedict XVI who needed his sleep as much as anyone.

5 responses to “The Sleep Patterns of Pastors

  1. Thank you for the reminder to sleep. For me good sleep comes in seasons. Good habits help, but there are times when my heart and mind are heavy with others and sleep just does not come. I sure do love those days when my schedule allows for me to sleep until I wake up on my own.


  2. I was having a lot of difficulty sleeping for several months, but I am finally sleeping very well. 7 to 8 hours a night. My bedtime is 11pm and I don’t take naps anymore. I now limit the amount of technology I use before bed and read something pleasurable instead of watching tv or being on the internet. I also take melatonin each night that I get from the drug store (It’s herbal, and non-habit forming and tends to work well for me). If I’ve had a particularly stressful day and feel I am wound up late at night, I try to take a hot bath to calm myself down. I also exercise regularly, don’t drink caffeine, and I’m in therapy. It takes a lot to change habits, but the rewards are well worth it. I am more productive and all in all easier to be around when I have slept well.


  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

  4. Sleep is a huge struggle for me… and the struggle has intensified through my transition back into parish ministry. I asked a doc for help with it (having tried SO much naturally) but she wants me to finish my dissertation and then she says we’ll see if I am still struggling sleeping. Sigh. Not even consciously thinking about the dissertation much at all… though on some level I probably always am. Sometimes my insomnia yields wonderful mid-night productivity. Sometimes long prayer sessions. Sometimes just frustration. But I’m less frustrated than I used to be. I either seek to breathe myself back to sleep or get up and attend to whatever is circling through my mind.

    I slept 12 hours one night last week. I desperately needed it. I’m grateful I got it.


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