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I couldn’t sleep the night before last. I’m not sure what exactly caused it. Usually, my head hits the pillow, and I’m asleep in ninety-seconds. It drives my wife bonkos. She has struggled with sleep her whole life.

She was part of the reason I wasn’t sleeping so well. We hadn’t gotten in a fight, per se. She had been gone for the weekend on a retreat. I had been single-parenting in the dark (the lights had gone out because of the storm that had barreled through).

The weekend had its highs and lows, but we made it through. The kids were breathing. The house hadn’t been utterly destroyed. Lia had been sitting by an Olympic sized pool eating fresh pineapple and mangoes. So when she came home and the first thing she said was, “What’s that smell?” she had me a bit on the defensive.

I know she didn’t want to spend the first fifteen minutes of her return cleaning up the house. I didn’t want her to do it either. She did anyway. And then blamed me for it.

So that was part of the reason I wasn’t sleeping. Reentry is never easy. Usually, it is the other way around, and I’m the one coming home (though when I return, the house is clean and I proceed to clutter it up with my stuff).

Lia and I weren’t entirely seeing things the same way. Plus, I had this meeting the next morning I hadn’t fully prepared for. And I had lost a friend and was speaking at the funeral. Plus, I drank too much coffee (which of all the reasons was probably the one keeping me up).

Of the other reasons, it was the meeting that was mostly occupying my brain. I had a list of things to say but not an organized way to say it. In my mind I was drawing diagrams and pie charts. I would have just gotten out of bed and worked on it, but like I said, Lia has struggled with sleep her whole life and it would not have helped her if I left the room.

So I lied there, shifting from side to side, trying to get my head organized and not doing a very good job at it.

I started thinking through how to be a better husband and how to thread the needle of being loving and sticking up for myself.

Then, a thought came into my head.

“Ned, if you are going to be up all night, why don’t you spend the time praying for others instead of thinking about yourself.”

Good idea.

I was thinking about myself, wasn’t I?

So that’s what I did.

I prayed for Lia. I prayed for my children. I prayed for my friends who were having their big fundraiser that night. I prayed for my parents, sister, nieces and nephews. I prayed for friends. I prayed for the people I knew who were in need of prayer. I’m not sure when I stopped praying because before long I was asleep.

And the best part – and this happened before I drifted off – was that I got so much more peaceful about my stuff. Somehow, taking the focus off of me helped me get over myself. Go figure.

All that to say is I don’t know if I stumbled on the cure for insomnia. (I am an amateur like I said.) But I would recommend if you are up at night and you’re not able to sleep to pray for others. I don’t know if it always works. But I do know this: I know prayer works.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “[Prayer] doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

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Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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