The first chapter of Mark’s gospel tells us how, one day, Jesus arose very early before dawn, left and went to a deserted place, and prayed for some time until his disciples caught up with him. Jesus must have found something valuable in getting up so early to pray, so it might be good for us to imitate him in that regard. Monks and nuns have done that for many centuries. They arise well before dawn and pray for some time. They preserve their monasteries as deserted places by maintaining a cloister that secludes them from the hustle and bustle of the world.
Sleep is a topic that does come up in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, who often made it clear that he was no monk. The saint discusses sleep in the context of penance. If we are sorrowful, interiorly, for our sins, then that sorrow leads, in a healthy way, to various forms of penance. It is not penance when we do away with what is superfluous, pampering and soft, he says. Penance is taking away a little bit from what is suitable, but not to the extent that it causes harm or illness, or dysfunction. The more of this, he says, the better.
Finding refuge from the January cold in a warm bed, finding refuge from the tumult of this world in God’s love: both are valuable, but only one will make you happy ultimately.