This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 386 – November 20, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

I'm tired!

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I’m tired!  There are reasons for it.  Principle among them the fact that our downstairs bathroom has remained undecorated for – well – I’m not going to tell you how long – and I’ve decided that it really has to be finished.  This means that my evenings have been spent with sandpaper, scrapers and pots of paint – and when I’ve finished with all that the dog still needs a walk.  

It’s also something to do with the time of year.  November is always the month when I’m tempted to emigrate.  If you’re choosing to visit England choose the spring, the summer, even early autumn.  But November – with sunset soon after 4, with dull, murky, misty skies – it’s not surprising that everyone at our staff worship today seemed half asleep.  

That’s one of the things that surprised me looking back at the beginning of the month and the US presidential elections.  How do those guys keep going?  Jetting from one side of the country to the other – then on polling day gathering with their families for an all night vigil.  Where do they get the energy from?  I mean – I’ve done those all night vigil’s a few times, but I wouldn’t want to stand up and address the nation the next morning.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be under the scrutiny of the TV cameras unforgiving lens.  

Yet it seems some people need less sleep than others.  Late evening I’m ready to collapse into bed – my wife – she’s still going strong and seems to be at her prime.  

Margaret Thatcher – if you can think that far back into British Politics – prided herself on her supposed ability to run the country on less than four hours sleep a night.  Maybe that’s why she – along with other senior politicians, seemed to age so quickly.  The body has to compromise somewhere.  

So I’m thankful for a piece of research by Demos and IKEA called Dream On: Sleep in the 24/7 Society.  Charles Leadbater, author of the report states that “On any working day, a quarter of all managers in Britain are likely to be in a bad mood because they have not slept well.  These sleep-deprived and shouty managers with a tendency to make mistakes are responsible for millions of . . . workers.”  

The report argues that sleep is the forgotten dimension in the work/life balance.  We always seem to see sleep as the one thing that we can cut down on – and yet research shows that less than 6 or 7 hours a night can have seriously detrimental effects on our health and well being.   Some people make up for lack of sleep by “power-napping”, a short daytime snooze that can help clear the mind for brighter thinking.  Others, like the commuters I saw on the Tokyo underground, have an amazing ability to go to sleep, even standing up.  

Maybe we need to learn from teenagers.  It may be a challenge to get them to bed at night – but once there they make sure they get sufficient hours.  Try getting one up before mid-day on a weekend!  

The same report points out that the British are the workaholics of Europe and are thus the most sleep deprived.  We seem to have taken to heart the wise council of King Solomon in the book of Proverbs:  

Proverbs 6:10-11 (NIV)  

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest--

and poverty will come on you like a bandit. 

Our puritan work ethic makes us proud of our long hours.  But such a work ethic can backfire – as is being seen in Japan where an increasing teenage dropout rate is seen as a result, at least in part, of the hard work ethic that has been instilled into generations of managers and employees.  Graduates from Japanese Universities are choosing casual short term employment rather than getting tied down into a ritual of employment that gives little time for a fuller life.  

So, as the Demos report suggests, it’s something we need to get into balance.  I really appreciate my sleep – but I also enjoy my work, and the other hobbies and activities that I try and fit in around it.  I also find I need that focus that King Solomon learnt – eventually – for his own life.  A focus and a purpose he shared in Psalm 127:1-2 (NIV)    

Unless the Lord builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early

and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat--

for he grants sleep to those he loves. 

The work/life balance really comes into its own, for me, when I can sleep at night because there is God’s peace in my life – and I can wake refreshed for a new day, because I know, whatever I face, God is in control.


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