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).
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.