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Rachel Watkins ponders the sleep problems she has faced, and the worries and spiritual doubts that go along with them.

Over the past few decades, I have a battled more than a few nighttime demons. Of course, not at all to the level of St. John Vianney or St. Gemma Galgani; I wouldn’t presume that honor at all. But, when my insomnia makes a visit, it often has the horrible habit of bringing horrible thoughts along for the night.

It doesn’t help that the state of the world is what it is. It also doesn’t help that I have a few young adult children trying to navigate this difficult world; some with more spiritual success than others. As a result, the mix of insomnia and a mother’s worries is never good -- never.

I know I am not alone with this struggle. The Sleep Foundation tells us a number of studies prove women suffer from insomnia much more than men. Whether it comes from hormonal differences or not, it doesn’t matter. When Mom isn’t sleeping well, the family life will be affected. And if Mom’s late-night musings are full of worrisome thoughts, doubts, and fears, her spiritual life is affected as well. And, for me, it is this spiritual struggle that is my real battle.

I know my insomnia can be traced to my gender, family genetics, as well as a side affect of my MS medications. So, it is the spiritual aspect of my late nights that seems to have no source. Why is it that in the dark of night I can so easily doubt Jesus’ loving protection? Can it be solely because I am meant to be a child of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5)? Maybe.

There are ample verses which speak of the spiritual battle between light and dark. We also know that nighttime and its accompany darkness can hide real evil. I recall a truly difficult time fighting both my insomnia and spiritual challenges following the theft of our family van from our driveway. Of course, it took place at night, and for weeks following every night of sleeplessness brought doubts of God’s goodness and protection.


woman sitting up in bed, awake


My conversations (more like arguments) with God during those dark times echoed Psalm 71:9-11:

Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.
For my enemies speak against me; they watch and plot against me.
They say, “God has abandoned him. Pursue, and seize him! No one will come to the rescue!”


Other times of battling both sleep and spiritual struggles have accompanied health or financial worries. But more often than not, it is the challenges of my children, especially my young-adult children that cause sleepless nights of both kinds. St. Monica and I have become best friends over the years and we surely have Psalm 6:7 in common,

I am wearied with sighing; all night long I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch with weeping.


Friends have related they face these same battles, to a lesser or greater degree. One Mom friend tells me she just can’t shut off her brain many nights, another describes it as "going down the rabbit hole" as Alice did. Regardless of the descriptor, losing at sleep at night is never good, and when that comes with spiritual attacks it is awful.


Click to tweet:
Why is it that in the dark of night I can so easily doubt Jesus’ loving protection? #catholicmom

So, can there be a solution to both my insomnia and the spiritual night terrors I suffer? Well, after first consulting my doctors for the insomnia, I consulted the great physician, Himself, Jesus Christ (Mark 2:17) about my nighttime induced soul’s struggles.


woman praying beside a bed


After keeping track of my tough nights, I realized neglecting night prayers and an examination of conscience often preceded a rough night, at least spiritually. I also realized listening to gentle music went a long way in calming my busy mind and soul. And more than a few dark nights have been brought to the light with the recitation again and again, of the simple prayer: “Jesus, I trust you. Take care of everything” (and, in particular, my children).

If you suffer as I do, take heart. If you read Psalms 6 and 71, you will read they both end with similar promises:

Away from me, all who do evil!
The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will receive my prayer.


And consider reading Psalm 4 before each night before you fall asleep:

In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, for you alone, LORD, make me secure.


woman sleeping peacefully


Copyright 2021 Rachel Watkins
Images: Canva Pro