The curse of sin upon our world creates some dismaying ripple effects. The association of sleep, food and attitude is one such ripple effect that can become a detriment to a healthy life.

If we eat the wrong foods at the wrong time, it can inhibit our sleep. Inhibited sleep can leave us feeling groggy and craving a high-glucose fix (foods containing high amounts of sugars or carbohydrates). Over time, if this cycle is repeated, it tends to add unwanted pounds, leading to further possibilities of sleep disruption. By adding weight around the middle, we increase the conditions that can cause sleep disturbance. Sleep apnea is not the only detriment to quality sleep!

Being overweight also puts you at risk for a lot of other conditions that rob you of a good night’s rest, including asthma and gastro esophageal reflux… All of this can create an ugly cycle: Abdominal fat leads to poor sleep. Poor sleep means you drag through your day. Sluggish and tired, your body craves some quick energy, so you snack on high-calorie junk food. That extra junk food leads to more abdominal fat, which leads to…well, you get the picture.

One of the basic rules for healthy eating is to “steer clear of carbohydrates after dinner, because those eaten in the evening are destined to be stored as body fat” – that very substance that can rob us of a good night’s sleep.

And guess what. Lacking a good night’s sleep probably leads to weight gain!

Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your waistline, too. When Harvard Medical School scientist followed 68,183 women for 16 years, they found that those averaging five hours of shut-eye per night were 32 percent more likely to gain 33 pounds than those who got seven hours a night. Those logging an average of six hours per night were 12 percent more likely… Aim for at least seven hours of slumber most nights.

What a worrisome cycle: limited sleep tends to increase our waistline; and an increased waistline tends to limit our sleep. It’s enough to make us lose sleep!

But please don’t lose sleep! There is One who understands this and who coaches us out of this negative cycle through his inspired servants who wrote the Bible. One such servant was a famous survival expert, David who killed the giant.  He testifies to the most important ingredient in the sleep-food-attitude association: spiritual refreshment and nourishment. He wrote: “My shepherd… makes me lie down [the Hebrew verb means that the Shepherd (God) enables to rest and refreshment] in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters [the Hebrew word means waters that bring rest to animals].

David is in the stressful survival situation of fleeing from his son Absalom. But he’s not a sleepless wreck. A well-rested, God-rested David has the right stuff to survive. In fact, he displays a Positive Mental Attitude: “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God…! From the LORD comes deliverance” (Psalm 3:6-8).

And because David was spiritually rested, he also found quality sleep: “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear…” (Psalm 3:4-6).

Another Biblical example of the sleep-food-attitude association is found with Elijah. In desperation to flee wicked queen Jezebel, Elijah rushed into the wilderness, covering 95 miles in a panic without any (or enough) food. The result is that he exhibited a trait common among those thrown into a high stress situation. “Following the explosive burst of activity … and panic… you’re depleted and wide open to fatigue….” So there’s Elijah, who collapses under the broom tree in fatigue. “Apathy is a typical reaction to any sort of disaster… that can rapidly lead to complete psychological deterioration.”  As students of the Bible know, this psychological deterioration is linked to our spiritual outlook. In Elijah’s case, he enters into “a negative loop of self-talk.” Scripture explains: “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep” (1 Kings 19:4-5).

We’re not told specifically in Scripture how one interconnects with the others, but here again we find these associated ingredients: sleep, food and attitude. In Elijah’s case, God came to the rescue when the angel of the Lord appeared, bringing food and sleep. “An angel touched Elijah and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you. ‘So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights…” (1 Kings 19:5-8).

The Omnipotent One didn’t need to supply any food or sleep to revive Elijah, because he could have snapped his fingers and miraculously revived Elijah. Do you see the principle? The Creator who likes to work through what he’s created brings refreshment and nourishment to Elijah through physical sleep and physical food. Further, he combined the sleep and food with his powerful gospel promises of divine care and control, so that Elijah rose up refreshed and empowered to undertake the stressful work of his calling as a prophet.   

But there was something more important than food and sleep. God gave his loving promises in a “gentle whisper” that assured Elijah that God’s Kingdom rules supreme in spite of all the enemies that attack it. This assurance gave Elijah a positive mental attitude to break out of that “negative loop of self-talk” and carry on this work like a champion.

Watching what we eat, and when, so that we maximize the proper amount of sleep we’ve budgeted-- these are logical ways for building a positive mental attitude. But the ultimate way that we’ll be able to sleep like David, and to work like Elijah is when we regularly hear that “gentle whisper” of the uplifting promises of God. And chief among these uplifting promises are those associated with the cross and empty tomb. For at the cross, Jesus showed you his forgiving love by dying in payment for your sins, and at the empty tomb he showed you the almighty power he exerts in making all his promises come true for you, now and forever.

When Jesus and his promises saturate your life’s association of food, sleep and attitude, you have the ingredients for sleeping like a Giant-Slayer and for enduring like a Champion.

(Adapted from the paper, “A Biblical Reflection on Nourishing the Minister for the Ministry.”)