Today on the show, I’m privileged to be interviewing Dr. Charles Page, a surgeon, author and speaker. Dr. Charles shares with us how he surrendered his sleep problems to God.
- Why did Dr. Charles write a book about insomnia?
- Christian worldview about sleep
- Dr. Charles’s tips and strategies to beat insomnia and sleep better.
- Scripture verses related to sleep
- How do we surrender to God?
- Dr. Charles’s book: Surrendered Sleep
Scripture verses discussed: Psalms 121:4-5, Psalm 4:8, Ephesians 4:27, Psalm 148
Links and Resources
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Transcript of Episode 51
Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, Episode 51. I’m your host Carrie Bach, and we are covering all types of topics on the show related to anxiety. I have wanted to have someone come on and talk about sleep for quite some time. Because as we know, many people who struggle with anxiety deal with insomnia, and this topic is especially timely for me because I was up in the middle of the night, just last night, having a hard time going to sleep.
Carrie: So I am so glad that Dr. Chuck Page, a surgeon, and author of Surrendered Sleep is here to talk with us today. Thank you for coming.
Dr. Chuck: Well, great to be here with you, Carrie and I got up about three o’clock this morning, too. So are I share your pain.
Carrie: How did a surgeon come to write a book on insomnia?
Dr. Chuck: Well, that’s kind of a convoluted story. Let me make it short. My whole adult life I’ve suffered from sleep issues. Just the regular things that people face every day, the things that raise through our minds, our to-do list and all the woulda shoulda kudos of the day And then all the things that we are anticipating or worrying about it the next day.
So all of those things, but on another level, my whole adult life I’ve been an insomniac because I’m a surgeon. I’m on call all the time. I get called in the middle of the night, even when I’m not on call. Yeah, people call me at three o’clock in the morning to say, hey doc, what you’re doing? We just want to know that. Just want to see what you’re up to at three o’clock in the morning. So it’s been really challenging for me from that standpoint. Then on another level, I have sleep apnea, I didn’t even know it and I’m kind of one of those who do, as I say, not as I do doctors, I’ve kind of gone through this process of learning myself about sleep disorder.
So it kinda hits me in a lot of different ways. I think that’s kind of one of the take-home messages that I want your audience to really think about is that a lot of times its not just one thing. It’s multiple things that are hitting us as we lay our heads on our pillow.
Carrie: Yes. Physical and mental health things can be coming up at night.
Dr. Chuck: Yep.
Carrie: Yeah. So what scriptures have you found that speak to sleep specifically?
Dr. Chuck: Oh, my goodness. So there’s a lot. There’s a lot of scriptures that talk about it. So it’s interesting as I began to kind of deal with this, I began to realize how much the Bible has to say about sleep. It’s kind of funny. Most people don’t think about going to the scripture with their sleep issues, but you think about it, sleep was God’s idea. One of the interesting things, you being a psychologist, I know you face this, as a medical doctor, I face this. There are different worldviews out there.
Do you think about it? No one can explain sleep. I mean from a natural secular worldview thinking as it from an evolutionist, they don’t have an explanation for sleep or they have some very brilliantly stupid ideas that somehow, but from that worldview, they don’t have an explanation for why we go to sleep.
You think about it. Humans are unique because we sleep about eight hours in a 24-hour cycle, as opposed to elephants or giraffes, or dear me, nicely of about two hours. From an evolutionary standpoint, if you think about it from that worldview, you snooze, you lose. So it’s, it’s really hard to explain.
Now we know from a Christian worldview that sleep was God’s idea. So the scriptures have a lot to say about sleep. Yeah, can look at the Bible and say, okay, here are the 11th commandment. You shall sleep eight hours. I’ve read some books that people say, you know what God’s promised you and a good night’s sleep. There are not really any passages that say that. There’s no turn to the fourth book of sleep and we’re going to study this. I mean you have to kind of look at the Bible on a kind of a bigger picture to really understand what it says. The main thing is there’s a lot of attitudes that emerge for the circumstances that we’re facing.
So yeah, there’s a ton and I can just kind of go through all those, but just beginning with the first kind of a concept, sleep was God’s idea. We were created to sleep and I think one of the big ideas that the scriptures tell us and kind of fits in with the rest of our lives. One of the reasons I think that we were to sleep is because God really wants us to turn off. When you think about the creation story, starting in Genesis one. It’s a funny phrase, it says in the evening and the morning was the first day. And so it’s funny, we get it the other way around. We think, well, those day starts when the sun comes up.
When I get up in the morning, that’s when the day starts. No, from the Hebrew standpoint of the day, the day started when the sun went down and so they began their day with rest. That’s an interesting, different, very different perspective than the way we live in our modern culture. We can say, hey, we turn the lights off, and hey, goodnight God, I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning. But actually, the scriptures talk about how God never slumbers or sleeps 120 seconds song. God never slumbers or sleeps that He is just as active and working in our lives as we put our heads on our pillow. That’s one of the great things I think to bring in that, that the Christian can bring into to rest is that, hey, whatever circumstances we’re going through, God’s got this.
So just kind of keeping that big idea that God is just as active as He does. He doesn’t go to sleep when we do. So he’s still working in our lives and I think that’s one of the first things to kind of understand about who got it.
Carrie: Okay. I always like to say God’s bigger than any problem that you’re going to face today, so we don’t feel like we can handle it, but it’s easy for God. He can handle anything. I know that we talked about this a little bit earlier, but worrying thoughts about our present life, sometimes just thoughts about the state of the world. It can keep us up at night and we’re taught in the Bible or pray about these things in order to receive peace from God. Have you found specific prayer practices or strategies helpful when you’re awake, either having trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night?
Dr. Chuck: Yes. I think we need to make whatever routine. I mean, once again, we’re personal beings and we each have a unique relationship with God for the Christian. But I think beginning your day in scripture and prayer, and just a time of just journaling or whatever you do, do that before you go to bed and do that in the morning and kind of sandwich your laugh into sleep.
And so one of the interesting things, so often the things that race through our mind and rob us asleep, I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience. But sometimes like, I’ll be thinking about a situation may be. Oh my goodness, I face things every day, all kinds of things and that theme begins to pop into my mind and I pray about it as I don’t even read scripture.
It seems like prayer and I give it to God and then five minutes later, it’s pop base boomerang back into my consciousness. It really plagues my slave. So one of the things I think that we often forget is the art of meditation. Meditation is so powerful. You guys talk about, cognitive behavioral therapy, think about the good things but it’s even from a scriptural standpoint. It’s a lot deeper than that. I mean, it’s not an Eastern meditation where we’re emptying our mind, actually, meditation is filling our mind. It’s kind of the law of replacing. So often when a competing thought or we’re worrying thought enters our mind, we can’t just take it out of our mind because it’ll boomerang back into our thinking.
We have to replace it and that’s where meditation comes in. For example, Philippians, everybody knows Philippians chapter four, it talks about, in everything, give prayer and in that verse, it talks about there’s anything good, anything noble, anything, think about these things. It’s talking about the art of meditation and I think that’s so key for us because as you show me your focus, I’ll show you your future, and as we begin to focus on the scriptures and begins to fill our minds with the good stuff. So that’s part and you can even go back to the songs.
For example, if you think about David, one of the songs is the fourth song. It was in the evening Psalm that David prayed when he was going through the toughest time of his life. This was when Absalom Salaam had usurped the throne and he was running for his laugh crossing, the Jordan river and people were and fingers at aim. It was just multiple stuff that was robbing his sleep. As he goes through this process, and it says in Psalm 4:8, I will lay me down in peace and sleep for you, Lord. Let me dwell in safety and so this process of prayer and meditation, I think is huge.
So, hey, have you ever heard of the hippocampus part of the brain? So it was interesting. No, it’s not an exhibited Azu okay. The hippocampus is a part of the brain for the audience. What the hippocampus does is the hippocampus take short-term memory and embed it into long-term memory. And so at the end of the day, our hippocampus goes to work. So as we’re sleeping, the hippocampus is constantly taking all of those memories of the day and it begins to embed them in our long-term memory and that’s why it’s so important. But back to your question that we stop and we begin to process those events that have happened during the day. I mean, it’s just so simple because if we don’t, instead of getting better, we’re going to get better, those bad experiences, we all have this stuff.
I mean, think about all the COVID stuff that everybody’s dealing with now and just these experiences and so being able to filter them through the scriptures and be able to process them, I think is very healthy. It talks about in Ephesians four, I think 26, it talks about, not to give the devil a foothold, but to deal with your anger before you go to bed. So I’m paraphrasing that, but so often we have these emotions that just, man, you probably never have those Carrie being a counselor, but people mad at me all the time, you killed a grandma, you didn’t do this. You didn’t or something didn’t turn out the way that I expected them.
When I have a bad day, I really have a bad day. So being able to filter those things in and deal with those emotions is huge. We have to let the natural processes of the way we were designed work for us. And so we don’t have to do much. I mean, the devil doesn’t have to do much when we’re not meditating and praying the scripture. So I guess that was a long answer to your question, but that’s what I do. I try to meditate. I try to read, I try to pray, do all those things. I think that’s what most people deal with. It’s called primary insomnia. Most people have trouble going to sleep.
Carrie: Okay. So what do we do for those of us that wake up in the middle of the night? Because that’s my problem. I normally do not have problems going to sleep. I can just ask out, but then when it comes to, I wake up with thoughts in the middle of the night.
Dr. Chuck: Well, good for you. That’s great and I don’t either, because usually, I’m so exhausted by the time I get to bed. It’s funny. They say those who sleep like a baby probably don’t have one, and I haven’t been my wife and I have such different sleep habits. So, I tell people I’m the best, get the best guy to see on the worst day of your life. My wife is the best person to see any day of your life. But for me, when I’m woken up in the middle of the night, one thing that I’ve learned to do many times when I’m kind of tossing and turning in my bed is take a step back and listen to God sometimes.
Those are opportunities that God is trying to get our attention. I think most of us and the culture that we lay, I remember going so fast during the day that we don’t have time to really stop and listen, and God wants to speak to us. And sometimes He has to, He has to wake us up and not to get our attention. And so you don’t think about that. You go back to study in first Samuel, the story of Samuel. He has a little boy and they’re at the table with Eli and he’s going to sleep, and God’s saying Eli, he gets up and goes. Samuel gets up and goes to Eli and back and forth all the time, and God’s trying to get his attention to give him a message and he doesn’t catch it.
I wonder how many times I’ve done and it’s actually an opportunity, to meet with God and think about what Samuel would have missed out on. He would have never stopped and heard the wind. That was the beginning of a series of steps that set the same direction. And so often when I’m waking up in the middle of night, just kind of keeping them in mind, God, are you saying something to me? And sometimes He’s not. I always try to keep a journal at the bedside because sometimes it’s something a thought will come into my mind and it may be just a random thought or it may be something that’s really something that God has woken us up to tell us. And so just to write it down and in the morning, you can look at it.
Now, the verse Psalm 7 talks about how God ministers to us, how the spirit ministers to us at night. And so looking at that and thinking about the fact that hey, this may be just something that God just write it down. How many times they’ll say him let’s sleep on it. Now I want to sleep on this message, maybe something very simple, simple about either or a person can pop into our mind. Somebody that we haven’t thought about a year. So the first thing, if you get up at night, get up and pray. Just like Samuel said, speak Lord for your servant is hearing. That’s in first Samuel three. A good rule of thumb, hey, got it. This may not be you, but it may bespeak for your servant is listening.
You’d be surprised and something, and even if we don’t have an answer, I think those times of fellowship become very precious to us, in the sense where we’re not losing anything by having those times of fellowship with God at night, when no one’s there, you can go through the Psalm 1:48. I think it talks about how God keeps me up at a meditated night upon God. And so just kind of thinking about that, it’s a very different perspective of sleep than we get. So it may be a divine appointment. You’re correct.
Carrie: It’s a good time to be quiet. The house is quiet. There’s not much going on. There aren’t really a whole lot of distractions, maybe that can, we can’t do too much. We don’t want to wake up other family members. So it is a good time to sit down, maybe in reading or praying. Sometimes I will get up and write and I’ll just type whatever’s on my mind and it’s kind of a brain dump in the middle of the night.
And I wonder if you know, I’m not, it’s some of those things that may be that I didn’t take the time or have the chance to process. Sometimes things happen, in the evening, like right before you go to bed, and sometimes that can really throw me off. Sometimes on Tuesday nights, we’ll have church director meetings via zoom and I’ll be thinking about what our pastor was talking with us about or upcoming church things that we have going on. I don’t always have a lot of time to process that before I go to sleep. I think I ended up waking up in the middle of the night.
Dr. Chuck: I think everybody who listened to this is going, yep, I get it. But one of the things you brought up Carrie, that I think is very important is journaling. I didn’t really realize this, but this book that I wrote about sleep was I really thought I was writing it for other people, but really in a sense, I was writing it for myself as my own way of dealing with the spiritual component of sleep. And I’m realizing that too, with the rest of the books that I’m writing, I mean, really. Journaling is a way that helps us process the events in our lives that I think is so productive. And if you know, if anybody in your audience has never tried journaling, get up and write, and you’d be surprised, you’d be surprised what just a little bit of introspection and thinking will do.
Carrie: You would be surprised at what comes out. A lot of times, one time I realized, oh, well, I’m worrying about something that’s the way in the future that I don’t have any control over. I was like, well, that’s not even close to where I’m at today. That’s really an opportunity for me to let go. You have lots of worries about the future. So how can, because your book is called Surrender to Sleep. So for people that, I mean, we have a hard time sometimes letting go of control. Let’s be honest. We want to try to control things that we don’t have any control over. That obviously creates a lot of anxiety. How do we surrender that over to God and not pick it up five minutes later?
Dr. Chuck: Wow. That is one of those million-dollar questions that, I think we all struggle with Carrie. I think surrender is a process, pass or disease go or just surrender, but it’s us thinking about that, it really is a process. It’s a stepwise process. It is an attitude. I think that we have to embrace this concept of surrender, control even as a Sergeant because I’m a control freak because even, in the operating room or patient, just the smallest thing can make a huge difference. And so, and it’s really hard to realize that control is just an illusion from an earthly standpoint.
And so realizing that if we do yield to God, God’s grace begins to empower us to be able to work more according to His plans and just release the outcome into what God wants. So surrender is huge and it’s I think a lifelong process that we go through. But once again, I think we were created, I think it’s just a reminder every day. If we were, God created us to surrender, that’s what sleep is about. It’s just, it really is. We have to let go and let God do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. What a picture of grace. It’s not saying not to minimize our responses, but yet to understand that we let go, God’s going to do some great things and so that’s what I’ve learned. That’s what my book is about. It’s just really changing focus. You show me your focus, I’ll show you your future.
And so if we focus so often we think about sleep, we think about, oh man, it’s 11 o’clock or three o’clock in the morning. I can’t sleep and I’ve got all this stuff to do tomorrow. And man, the male in our mind just starts working and we begin to worry and we began to meditate. We meditate on our fears and stuff. But if we change focus and we focus on our relationship with God, it doesn’t mean that God’s going to promise a good night’s sleep, but He will give us, we have to trust His sovereignty that even if we’re wake up and we’re tired, we’re exhausted, God’s still got that. I mean, God’s still going to give us the energy that we need to do the things that He wants us to do the next day. It is just a kind of bigger picture understanding of God’s grace in His work.
Carrie: I think you do bring up a good point there because we get stressed out after we’ve been awake for a little while in the middle of the night or after we can’t go to sleep, then we’re stressed about before now we’re stressed about not sleeping. Oh, I’m only going to get five hours, I’m only going to get four hours. I’m going to just try to go back to sleep this last hour before the alarm clock goes off and you get real trippy about it. So that definitely happens to a lot of people.
Dr. Chuck: But I’ll tell you something and that’s the thing about surrender. Sometimes it means that we sacrifice our sleep to help other people. And I have to do that a lot. I have to get myself up out of bed and go and go to the hospital or answer a phone call or whatever. And just having that attitude that, hey Lord, whatever tomorrow brings Your grace is going to be sufficient. They helped me through that and just keeping that perspective has really helped me a lot.
Carrie: Good. Well, we’ll definitely put links in the show notes to your website and your books and where people can find out more information. If they want to get the book. So at the end of every podcast, I ask our guests to share a story of hope, which is a time where you’ve received hope from God or another person.
Dr. Chuck: And thinking about this, Carrie, I just want to just leave you with a personal story. So, I’ve been practicing surgery for 26 years. I’m 54 years old and I’ve seen a lot of changes in medicine. It’s kind of funny, I’m becoming one of those old dinosaurs. So anyway, as health care has really changed in the past 10 years, I can’t say that I’ve always responded in the most positive ways.
A lot of bitterness, a lot of things, just a lot of stuff because there’s the way things should be and the way things are. And I think we all live with those kinds of attention. In our laws and once again, that’s something that keeps us up at not sometimes, but what’s interesting over the past several years, just realize it is that I’m going through a different season of life, that I had to make some decisions about my lifestyle.
And the biggest breakthrough I’ve had in the past couple of years is changing my lifestyle. I had to stop taking calls at the hostel. And as a surgeon, a lot of the ways you value yourself is how much work you do in the hospital. But it was a real step of faith for me is that I had to say, okay, good. I’m just not a 30-year-old guy anymore that can stay up three days and deal with stress and pressure. So as I began to say no to a lot of things, to stop being a doormat to the hospitals, and I know that sounds crazy, but as in my job, as a rural surgeon, I mean, they call me for everything. And so in taking a step back and letting go of some things, my sleep has gotten so much better.
Because like I said, it is multidimensional, as I’m getting fewer calls from the hospital in that I’m sleeping better. And then I’m able to focus on my mental health and my diet and I’m losing weight and I’m feeling better. I come home and not in my wife says, who are you married? So thinking about this, we live in this crazy nanosecond culture that’s constantly barraging us. And so getting back to the way that we were designed and created and getting along with God and cooperating with God. It’s not anything big. It’s not like a laser beam of holy spirit power helps me in, but just me and making some decisions to say, hey, this is just unhealthy.
And at this season of life, I just need, what’s funny is that God has provided for my family. I mean, I’m busier now and I’m not going into the hospital doing outpatient surgeries. And man, I just, I handle stress better. I have. People better and problems better, it’s just, my whole life has just changed.
I feel like I have a new lease on life and I’m a better doctor now than I was two years ago because I was so overwhelmed. And so what I want to encourage your audience today is to think about those things in their lives that they really need to change because so often sleep is just a symptom of a deeper problem in a deeper issue that’s going on in our lives. We didn’t even touch about medicine, but the medical problem, medical aspect of this, but go get, go get checked. I mean, you may have a med, you may have a sleep disorder, but just keep in mind that sometimes we focus on the little, the symptoms and not on the deep root causes.
And so for me, it’s been a big, just a change of my lifestyle, which has a real spiritual component has made a world of difference and I’m sleeping better now than I ever have. And I wrote the book in that crazy, do as I say, not as I do, but I wrote the book and I didn’t realize that it was just something so simple in my life that I needed to change. And it was an aspect of luck. We’ve been talking about it as an aspect of surrender said, okay, God, you’ve got this, I’ve gotta let go of this. I can’t do this. Like I did 20 years and so I think for me, that has been the biggest thing. And I want to encourage people to just take time and reflect and think about those things that maybe that God doesn’t want them to do.
And we just pile so much on our plate. We have no margin and I think so many of our problems are self-induced that’s what I’m learning is that I can let go. They all say in a clean conscious makes us off the pill, as you make those decisions. And this is one of our attitudes, have a wise heart and make those decisions in your daily life, you set yourself up for better sleep.
Carrie: I think that that’s excellent, really evaluating what we have on our plate. And do we need to have everything on here and ask God, okay, I feel like I’m doing too much, which of these things can I let go of, or take off my plate. And that is a step of faith for us because we’re so used to doing so much often. I think that that’s great advice for people to evaluate. So I know that you told me before we hopped on here, that you have some videos on YouTube and that people can learn more about these practices. And so we’ll put some links in there in the show notes as well. Thanks for coming on and sharing with us your wisdom in between procedures.
Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon. Until next time may you be comforted by God’s great love for you.