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Question and Answer

Sleep—Is It a Result of the Fall?


Is sleep a result of the fall?


Thanks for a most interesting question.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who was declared to be without sin (Heb. 4:15), apparently needed sleep (Luke 8:23). This one example encourages the conclusion that the original man and woman in their state of innocence also required sleep and were provided with this biological mechanism for the purpose of renewing their physical strength and refreshing their minds. According to this line of reasoning, sleep would fall into the same category as digestion or a similar biological function not brought on by the fall into sin. Nevertheless, since Scripture does not make any direct statement concerning sleep’s relation to the fall, we have to acknowledge that there is much we do not know about creation (Job 38:4).

But it is clear that the fall has now affected virtually all of life, including biological functions. Genesis 3:17–19 tells of the curse placed on mankind by which hard work would bring exhaustion, a condition that both demands sleep and disturbs it. From time to time the Bible describes people who had troubled sleep or even insomnia (Gen. 31:40, Dan. 2:2, 6:18). David complained to the Lord about sleeplessness, and another writer gave thanks for restful sleep (Ps. 6:6, Ps. 127:2). Clearly, guilt, shame and worry often make sleep difficult. Out of the fall came illness and injury, also contributors to anguished sleep. It is worth noting that Jesus did not allow sleep to keep him from prayer and that he admonished his sleeping disciples for their weakness of flesh (Mark 14:32–42).

Therefore, I would say that imperfect sleep as we know it today is indeed a product of the fall. God in his common grace has allowed all men some benefit from sleep, but overall mankind, at least beyond childhood, does not sleep well.

How wonderful, then, is the special, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. Having been justified by faith in Christ, we have peace with God and generally a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The person who is right with God can expect to sleep reasonably well and reap the original benefits the Lord intended. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).

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