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Counting Blessings, Not Sheep: A Prayerful Approach to Insomnia

Updated on June 3, 2017
Diana Majors profile image

Last summer I was diagnosed with an illness that is associated with sleep disturbances. I've found that counting blessings helps me sleep.

Lily, a blooming blessing.
Lily, a blooming blessing. | Source

Insomnia Newbie

Last summer I was diagnosed with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, but that's an article for another day). One of the symptoms of this condition is sleep disturbances. Well, in the last few months, this particular symptom has reared its head quite a bit! Some nights I have trouble falling asleep, but others I wake up in the night for hours at a time and may or may not be able to go back to sleep.

While in an overnight stay at the hospital, they had a sound machine to help the patients sleep better. I tried it, and it was wonderful! It was the best night's sleep I got during my entire stay.

I know insomnia isn't a new concept, and I haven't said anything haven't heard before. It's only new to me! I've never had problems in the past with sleeping; I've always been able to go straight to sleep any time I lay down.

This Is Not Working for Me!

As I have lain in bed trying to force myself asleep, I've tried to remember everything I've ever heard or been told about what works. As a kid watching "Sesame Street," I learned a person is supposed to count sheep if they can't fall asleep. Surely you remember that episode, right?

What about this? Have some hot milk. Or hot tea. Try this. Try that. I've tried this and that, and I still can't go back to sleep. Forcing myself to lie in the bed and to just magically be sleepy is something akin to self-inflicted punishment. It's horrible to just lie there for what seems like forever and be completely unable to sleep! This is really not working for me!

And then I tried this next idea. Lo and behold, it worked!

Hymn "When Upon Life's Billows" taken from the hymnal
Hymn "When Upon Life's Billows" taken from the hymnal | Source

I Caught Myself Singing...

One of the things I have tried to fall asleep is praying. I prayed about big things like our national leadership and those who make decisions that affect us all. I've also prayed about small things, such as my cat's infection, because I know God cares and he wants me to bring my burdens to him. While this approach didn't make me go to sleep, it sure has improved my prayer life! Well, last night after my prayer, I found myself singing the hymn "Count Your Many Blessings" (also known as "When Upon Life's Billows"), and so I did just that. Not as much "counting" as just listing them.

The first verse of the song is this:

"When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done."

Thankful for Even This

As I was listing things I am thankful for, such as my loving husband and for Jesus' love, I also tried to think of things I may be hard-pressed to be thankful for. Things like heartbreak and tears. And turnip greens! Bleh!

Insomnia. I'm also thankful for insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. What a crazy thing to say, right? "Girl, you need a nap!" I imagine someone is saying. You read it right. I'm even thankful for being awake when I should be sleeping, like has been happening as of late.

Why? Well, I have more time to devote to God in uninterrupted prayer, and what a blessing that is! I sing a lot to the Lord when I am having a sleepless night. I've been more thankful for the authors of the songs penning the lyrics as they did since I've had a little more time to evaluate the words and their meanings, as well as the applications to my life.

More Gratefulness

Is counting your blessings instead of sheep a sure-fire way to get some shut-eye? Of course not. But it will definitely help all of us to have more gratitude to our Lord for all the things he has given us, whether we consider them "good" at the time or not.

Even insomnia.

Romans 8:28
Romans 8:28 | Source

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 NIV)

© 2017 Diana Majors

What helps you when you can't sleep?

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    • Diana Majors profile image
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      Diana Majors 4 months ago from Arkansas

      Thanks for the Job reference! It's well-timed! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

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      Georgia Estes 4 months ago

      Check out Job 35:10 about songs in the night. I enjoyed your article.