How Sleep and Prayer are Actually Similar

Are you dreaming of a nice, long nap to catch up on sleep? Recent studies show that lack of sleep can have some seriously negative impacts – poor health, bad moods, and declining performance in the workplace.

But it’s not just lack of sleep that can bring on negative effects. Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer reflected on the parallels between sleep and prayer, and how cutting out these fundamental parts of life can have some seriously negative results. Fr. Matthew said:

“It was just this week that the Nobel prize in medicine was given to a team who identified the proteins that make circadian rhythm possible in life. I’m not qualified like these Nobel laureates to explain the science of sleep. But I can’t help but find these parallels between sleep and prayer.

Mull over this a little bit – how often do we go through life think that we can cut out a little bit of sleep here, a little bit of sleep there. We think, ‘I’ll catch up on it later, or I’ll have an extra cup of coffee later on.’ We self-medicate with caffeine to trick ourselves into thinking that we’re on our game, when the reality is that we’re not functioning the way we want.

That happens in our prayer life, too. We don’t realize how essential prayer is. We think we can cut out a little bit here, a little bit there. We think, ‘I’ll still be fine, and I’ll supplement somehow by listening to quiet music on the way to work.’

Whatever we do, we justify cutting out that essential part of our life, when what actually is happening is we become poorer in life. We’re not performing at the level that we should, we’re dropping the ball on important responsibilities that we have. We’re not even realizing it, but we’re becoming less charismatic. We become more prone to sin of all variety and sorts, and we even become more irrational, not just emotionally but intellectually.

This is why prayer is so important in our life, just as sleep is fundamental and necessary. Now, you may be thinking that you just don’t have time for it. Your life is so busy, you’re trying to support your family, then you come home and you have to be with the kids and take care of them, your life is busy and you may think that you can’t.

All of the science on sleep says that you can’t afford not to sleep. You have to sleep. You need to do it. And the same is true in our prayer life. We can’t afford not to pray. It’s essential to our lives as Christians, and it’s necessary for you and I to have that relationship with God.

Yes, we will go through periods, just like after a mother and father have a newborn, where they have to survive on a little less sleep. Sometimes you’re going to have stressful periods in your own life where your prayer time will be affected. What I would encourage you to do, though, is to realize that those periods can’t last, because you’re going to lower your performance in the spiritual life.

Get back on your game. Start praying, start recognizing how essential prayer is, and your life will become much better.”

Listen to the full discussion below:

St. Joseph’s Workshop with Fr. Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.