That is the total number of hours straight that I went without sleep about three weeks ago. With no warning, and without explanation, my body suddenly refused to let me sleep. I don’t mean that I was too busy to sleep, I don’t mean I had too much sugar or caffeine, I mean that my body would literally not allow itself to rest. I would lay my head down at night, and about five seconds into falling asleep my brain would send a jolt through my body waking me back up. I was not scared of anything and my life is not particularly stressful at the moment. I still nave no idea why it happened, but my body decided for 96 hours that it simply did not need to rest. I eventually stopped trying.
The first 72 hours were horrible. I don’t know if you have ever experienced unwanted sleep deprivation, if you have you know what I am describing, if you haven’t, you just can’t understand how hellish it can be. Your brain buzzes, your body hurts all over, and every thing around you becomes painfully articulate before it becomes painfully dull. It is a pendulum swing of extreme sensory overload followed by extreme sensory dullness. I don’t mean to exaggerate the issue, but it’s horrible.
Something amazing happened at about the 72nd hour though. My brain stopped being tired, and for about the next 16 hours, I experienced the most mental energy and clarity that I think I have ever experienced in my life. To say the least, I got a lot of work done. I read a lot of books, I finished a lot of projects, and I felt more creative than ever. I even led a Bible study. The 72nd hour was the golden ticket, and I had convinced myself that I could keep that pace up forever.
You guys know where this is going.
Everything changed at hour 88. My brain continued to buzz, but my body began to rebel. It screamed for sleep in a painfully obvious way, but I could not get my mind to agree.
My back hurt, my front hurt, my insides hurt, even my hair began to hurt. No matter how creative or energetic I felt mentally; physically I was shutting down. All of this, and I didn’t even touch on the tricks your own mind begins to play on you at hour 88. At hour 88 everything seems like a good idea.
Of course the story ends at the Dr. with not a little bit of poking, prodding, and aggravation. Eventually the answer was that she had no answer and I was sent home with a pill that forced my brain to shut down so that my body could catch up.
I have never been more grateful for sleep in my life. If you know me that’s a bold statement.
I don’t want to make the experience cliché’ or pithy, but it taught me a pretty simple lesson.
We were created to rest.
Draw whatever life lesson, ministry analogy, or theological principle you want from that statement, but whatever you do, do not believe that you can live in the 72nd hour. Hour 88 will come and go, and no matter how creative, energetic, or charismatic you think you are, your “body” will eventually suffer for it, and you will convince yourself that anything and everything is a great idea.
I’m going to go take a nap.