Sleep is understood to be one of the greatest signs of Allāh’s presence. The Qur’an
says in Surah-Ar-Rum, verse 23 “And of His Signs is your sleeping at night and
your seeking His Bounty during the day. Indeed, there are Signs in this for those
Sleep is a complex biological process that helps people process new information, stay healthy, and re-energize. Sleep is a phenomenon that is attributed to darkness and night. Night has been mentioned in the Qur’an as a time of peace and a testimony to the presence of a mighty Creator. The Qur’an says in Surah-AlQasas Verse 71, “(O Prophet), tell them: “Did you consider: if Allah were to make the night perpetual over you till the Day of Judgement, is there a god other than Allah who can bring forth light for you? Do you not hear?”. The alternation of the day and night is a mighty sign of the Creator’s wonderful Universe. Allah mentions in Surah-Al-Furqan, Verse 62 “He it is who has appointed night and day to succeed one another (as a Sign) for him who desires to take heed, or desires to be thankful”.
Sleep is understood to be one of the greatest signs of Allāh’s presence. The Qur’an says in Surah-Ar-Rum, verse 23 “And of His Signs is your sleeping at night and your seeking His Bounty during the day. Indeed, there are Signs in this for those who hearken”. This points out to the most Compassionate and Merciful Lord who understands the needs of his subjects. Man cannot constantly labour but needs to rest after every few hours of hard work so as to rebuild energy to take up work again. For this purpose, the Wise and Merciful Creator has not stopped at creating a feeling of fatigue and a desire for rest in man but has placed in his nature a powerful urge for sleep, which without his will, even in spite of resistance from him, overpowers him automatically after every few hours of work and wakefulness, and compels him to have a few hours of rest, and leaves him as soon as the need has been fulfilled. This is the very reason that the Qur’an mentions the night to be a period of rest after a stressful and tiring day. Allah mentions in Surah-Al-Isra verse 12, “We have made night and day as two signs. We made the sign of the night devoid of light, and made the sign of the day radiant that you may seek the bounty of your Lord”. Is Sleep Important?
Modern sleep scientists believe that sleep deprivation has harmful effects on mental concentration, memory, mood, and quality
of life. In addition, recent data indicate that sleep deprivation impairs endocrine and metabolic functions, and has been a leading cause of poor dietary habits leading to weight gain (a contributor towards the global obesity rates). Islam is a religion that emphasizes the importance of getting enough sleep.
Our beloved Prophet PBUH is reported to have said, “If anyone of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed (sleep) till his slumber is over” [Sahih Al-Bukhari].
When the Prophet PBUH was informed of one of the companions (Ibn Amr RA) praying the whole night, he said “Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right on you” [Sahih Bukhari].
Once the Prophet (PBUH) entered the Mosque and saw a rope hanging in between its two pillars. He said, “What is this rope?” The people said, “This rope is for Zainab, who, when she feels tired, holds it (to keep standing for the prayer.)” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Don’t use it. Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired, sleep”.
In another Hadith, when Prophet Muhammad PBUH was informed of a lady who does not sleep at night because she is engaged in prayer, he said disapprovingly, “Do (good) deeds which are within your capacity as Allāh never gets tired of giving rewards till you get tired of doing good deeds” [Musnad Ahmad] This indicates that Islam stresses on the importance of sleep. The night, as mentioned earlier is a sign by Allah provided to mankind for their tranquillity. Therefore, being a Muslim, fulfilling the Right of the Body by providing with the right amount of rest is also essential. Recent guidelines provided by the National Sleep Foundation suggest the following:
Fig 1:Guidelines for sleep duration recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for different age groups Different Types of Sleep in the Qur’an
The Quran frequently mentions sleep using different Arabic terminologies, each corresponding to the different sleep stages identified by modern sleep science:
1. 1. “Sinah”: This word has been defined as “slumber” or “dozing off for a very short period”, during which there is prompt arousal following environmental stimulation. This may correspond to sleep Stage 1 as identified by modern sleep scientists. Stage 1 is the lightest stage of sleep (5%), where muscle tone is present in the skeletal muscle, and breathing tends to occur at a regular rate. This stage lasts for around 1 to 5 minutes, consisting of 5% of total sleep time. A Quranic verse quotes an attribute of Allah, the Almighty in Surah-Al-Baqarah, verse 255:
ٌ ۡم ۡ ُخ ُذ ٗه ِ س َنٌةَّ و َاَل نَو ۡ ُم َۚ اَل َ تا و ُّ ُّ ۡ ال َقي َ ۡ ال َحـى َّ هُو ٰ َه اِاَّل ُ َۤ اَل اِل ّٰ اهّٰلل
“Allah, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting by Whom all subsist, there is no god but He. Neither slumber seizes Him, nor sleep”. This verse indicates that Allāh does not sleep or doze off, as this is the quality of his creation.
2. “Nu’ass”: This word corresponds to a short nap, which may correspond to stage 1 and stage 2 sleep identified by modern sleep scientists. Stage 2 represents deeper sleep as the heart rate and body temperature drop. It lasts for around 25 minutes in the first cycle and lengthens with each successive cycle, eventually consisting of about 45% of total sleep. This stage of sleep is when bruxism (teeth grinding) occurs. This short nap, as indicated by studies, can reduce stress and blood pressure (BP). The Qur’an mentions in Surah-Al-Anfal verse 11 while discussing the Battle of Badr:
َ َم َنًةِّ مۡن ُه َ َاس ا ُّع ُ الن ُم ۡك اِذۡ َ يُغِّشي
“And recall when Allah brought on you drowsiness, giving you a feeling of peace and security from Him..”. Here, the word ‘drowsiness’ describes the fear and stress of the believers during the battle of Badr, when slumber (Nu’ass) provided them with a feeling of security and relief from stress.
3. “Ruqood”: This word has been given several interpretations, the most widely accepted one being “sleep for a long period”, as Allāh has described the People of the Cave with this term in the Quran [Surah-Al-Kahf 18]
ٌ ۡد ۡ ُ رُقو َ ۡي َق ًاظ َّا وهُم ۡ ا ُم ُه َ َ ت ۡح َسب و
“On seeing them you would fancy them to be awake though they were asleep…”
4. “Hojoo”: This term has been used in the Qur’an to describe an important attribute of a Mo’min,
نۡ َ ُو ۡ َجع َه ما ي ۡ ِل َ َّي ًاًل ِّ م َن ال ۡ ِي ۡ َ ا قل ك َانُو
“they used to sleep but little by night” [SurahAl-Dhariyat: 17]. Although the term refers to sleep at night, Allah uses the term for a type of sleep which is completed at night but does not make a Momin negligent.
5. “Subaat”: The word “Subaat” is derived from the word “Sabt”, which means disconnecting, a disconnection from the surrounding environment during sleep i.e., the deepest sleep (Stage 3). This stage of sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS) stage is the most difficult to awaken from, and, for some people, even loud noises (> 100 decibels) keep them asleep. Cognitive testing shows that individuals awakened during this stage tend to have moderately impaired mental performance for 30 minutes to an hour. This is the stage when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle and strengthens the immune system. This is also the stage when sleepwalking, night terrors, and bedwetting occurs. The Qur’an mentions in Surah-An-Naba,
َ ًاتا سب ُ ۡ ُم ۡ َمك َ ۡل َنا نَو َّو َجع
“and made your sleep a means of repose”. The Qur’an introduced the concept of a deep sleep at night as a means of peace, tranquillity and satisfaction 1400 years ago! SubhanAllah! Such is the wonder of our Lord.
A Few Sunnahs of Sleep
The productivity of a person during the day depends majorly on the type of sleep obtained by a person during the night. Abu Huraira RA reported that the Messenger of Allah PBUH said, “The strong believer is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer”. To become a strong Muslim, having the right amount of sleep is essential.
As the proverb goes, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, this was a teaching of our beloved Prophet PBUH. He encouraged his Companions not to be involved in any activity after Isha prayer (approximately 1.5-2 hours after sunset). Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم (disliked sleeping before the `Isha’ prayer and talking after it indicating that the night has been created by the Almighty to sleep and that the night begins soon after the Isha prayer.
Performing ablution (wudu) before going to bed is another Sunnah of our Prophet. It is reported that when a person makes Wudu, i.e., purifies his body, Allah SWT purifies him through the night. When a person goes to sleep in the state of wudu, Allah SWT sends an angel that spends the entire night beside the person’s head and says: Oh Allah! Forgive your servant as he went to sleep in a state of Wudu, in a state of purification”. He keeps making dua for forgiveness throughout the entire night.
Our beloved Prophet PBUH has advised us to dust and clean one’s bed before sleeping It has been reported that the Prophet PBUH said, “When any one of you goes to his bed, let him dust off his bed with the end of his lower garment, for indeed he does not know what came unto it after he had left it”. The surrounding environment during sleep plays an essential role in the quality of sleep a person receives. In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, that aimed to understand the relationship between bedroom environment and sleep, threefourths of the respondents confirmed that a clean room is important for a good night’s sleep.
Some sleep positions in Islam are encouraged while others are discouraged. Prophet Muhammad SAW encouraged Muslims to sleep on their right side. Recent scientific research has indicated that sleeping in the right lateral decubitus position has a positive impact on the heart. One such study evaluated the effect of three different sleep positions (supine, left lateral decubitus, and right lateral decubitus) on the autonomic system in healthy individuals through analysis of heart rate variability using spectral analysis. The results showed that the highest level of cardiac vagal activity was present when the subjects were in the right lateral decubitus position.
In addition, it is disliked to sleep in the prone position. Medical research in recent times has found that infants who sleep on their stomachs have a seven times higher likelihood of suffering from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), highlighting the significance of the position a baby sleeps in.
Among the Sunnahs is turning off the light before going to sleep. Prophet Muhammad PBUH is reported to have said “Extinguish the lamps when you go to bed; close your doors; tie the mouths of your water skins, and cover the food and drinks” [Sahih Bukhari]. Today, studies suggest that light exposure at night can disrupt the body’s normal circadian rhythm and the 24-hour internal body clock that controls a person’s sleep/wake cycle. This may correspond with the current scientific understanding that it is important to maintain a dark environment during sleep so as to not disrupt the circadian rhythm.
A detailed outlook on the Islamic perspective on sleep makes one feel amazed. Observing the mention of the different aspects of sleep in scripture 1400 years ago, is indeed a miracle, a truth by the Almighty. Sleep is certainly an important aspect of human health and wellbeing. Following and adhering to the practices and guidelines provided to promote restful and rejuvenating sleep can help individuals achieve optimal health and well-being, thereby helping to modify a major contributor to metabolic dysfunction and obesity.