It is no coincidence that I am writing this early in the morning. I’ve been up, taken the dog out twice, fed her, made breakfast for myself and Eric, and packed his lunch. This was all done with an annoying headache. The headache, I’m sure, is due to a lack of sleep. When I don’t get proper sleep, it shows all over me. My face has a scowl, I stumble all over the house, and if I’m not careful (and sometimes I’m not), I snap at my family. Preferentially, I am a night person. I could stay up all night and sleep all day; but, that is not a good option with my life’s circumstances. To get enough sleep, I have to make a conscious effort to go to bed at a decent time. No matter what, our puppy is going to wake up somewhere between 6:00 am and 6:30 am. It doesn’t matter when she goes to bed (it has ranged anywhere from 9:00pm to 1:30am), her whining begins like clockwork around the same time each morning. Even if we didn’t have a puppy, something else would likely require me to be up earlier than I prefer.
Many arguments and hurt feelings in relationships come from inadequate rest. When we are not rested we are more prone to illness, stress, and short tempers. There were many nights, when Eric and I were first married, that we’d get in arguments just before bed. Thinking that we needed to have everything resolved before going to bed, we would stay up for hours talking, but not resolving much and often arguing more. Finally, we decided, out of exhaustion, that we would go to bed and resolve it later. Almost every single time we’d wake up and laugh at the issue we spent hours angrily talking about the night before; but, by the morning light, it just didn’t matter anymore… it was an exhaustion fight.
Now we are much better at spotting sleep-related arguments. This is easiest when one of us isn’t tired. Friday night is often when Eric runs out of steam. If he’s had a long week with little rest, he becomes a little more edgy. His expectations rise and he’s a little slower to offer grace. Since we can spot rest-related arguments much better now than before, I often recommend a nap when I see his “exhaustion fight” face come on. If he spots our late night arguments in the beginning stage, he’ll often suggest we go to bed. The pain of hurt feelings is just not necessary when you know that a good night’s sleep will resolve the issue.
Not all issues can be resolved with a good night’s sleep, but there are a good many that can and it would benefit you to learn to spot them quickly. If you wake up in the morning and are still nagged by the issue you had the night before, then the issue is not resolved and it needs to be talked out in a clear, rested state of mind. Often times, however, you will wake with the sun and no longer feel frustrated. Humans were created with the need to rest. When we don’t, it affects our entire lives and our loved ones are usually the ones who suffer the most.
From the above context, let’s look at Ephesians 4:26 (NAS): “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…” When this text is preached, it is often taught that people need to completely resolve their angry differences before the sun goes down (sunset) or bedtime at the latest (before you turn out the lights or fall asleep). The above principle is generally a good one to follow; however, the arguments that come out of a lack of rest do not work well for that application.
Looking at the word “anger” in the verse above, in the Greek (parorgismoó) means indignation, wrath, exasperation. My husband and I recommend that couples who are arguing out of weariness, especially when there is a perceived obligation to resolve the issue before going to sleep, can alternatively come to a point where both people maturely agree: “I love you, but we’re not getting anywhere… let’s put this conversation on hold until tomorrow when we can more restfully discuss it at <specify a place and time> and go to sleep now.” Making preparation for future discussion of the issue often removes the current indignation, wrath, and exasperation of the argument (which is the central issue at which that verse is aiming), sets a time and place to later discuss, and allows rest and peace to come for the sleep that is needed for the next day.