Miraculous Nature of Sleep
All praise is due to Allah and may His choicest salutations continue to descend upon our Master and Leader Muhammad (saw).
“And among His Signs is the sleep that you take by night and by day …” (30:23)
The Quran repeatedly draws our attention to various natural marvels that bear testimony to the existence of Allah, one of which is the miracle of sleep. Sleep is a blessing from Allah which allows the creation of Allah to rest, enjoy tranquility and peace.
Sleep is invigorating, revitalizing and energizing. It is trough sleep that we find rest from the demands of the day, respite from worries and anxieties, renewed hope and confidence to face the challenges of another day. We unplug ourselves from daily toil and revive ourselves physically and emotionally. Sleep allows the body’s muscles and tissues to repair themselves. Several chemicals vital for the immune system and growth hormones are also secreted during sleep.
Sleep is a grim reminder of death.
“It is Allah that takes the souls at death: and those that die not (He takes their souls) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death He keeps back (their souls from returning to their bodies); but the rest He sends (their souls back to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect” (39:42). Sleep is a kind of death that we experience each night. Nabi (saw) has said: “Sleep is the brother of death” (Majma’uz Zawaid) We acknowledge our daily ‘death’ by reading the following dua when waking up: “All praise is due to Allah, Who gave us life after our death (sleep) and before Him shall be the resurrection” (Muslim)
Sleep is a reflection of the power of Allah
“Say: Have you considered if Allah were to make the day perpetual over you, without break, till the Day of Resurrection, is there any deity other than Allah that could bring you a night in which to rest? Will you not, then, see?” (28:72) All creatures need the night when they can renew the energy they spend during the day. What would happen to them if the day was endlessly perpetuated until the Day of Judgement? Indeed, all life would perish in a day that never ends. When we sleep our awareness of the environment diminishes, we are no longer in control of our selves – our hold on our self becomes weak, our being is no longer in “our” charge, we become completely incapacitated and unconscious.
The Quran describes different types of sleep, and these correspond with the various sleep stages identified by modern sleep scientists. Some of them are:
- Sinah – “No slumber (Sinah) can seize Him nor sleep” (2.255). In the Quran, sleep is an indicator of weakness and need for rest. Allah is free from such frailty and therefore is free from slumber or sleep. Sinah (slumber) refers to a state of strong desire for sleep, accompanied by lack of concentration and slowed down activity. This may correspond to stage 1 sleep identified by modern sleep scientists.
- Nu’ass – “Remember when He covered you with a light sleep (Nu’ass) as a security from him” (8.11). This verse refers to the fear and stress of the believers during the battle of Badr, when Allah put them to sleep (Nu’ass) which brought with it with a feeling of security and relief from stress. Nu’ass refers to light sleep which may correspond to stage 1 and stage 2 sleep identified by modern sleep scientists
- Subaat – “And we made your sleep (Subaat) as a form of rest” (78.9]. Subaat refers to deep sleep where a person is disconnected from the surrounding environment. It may be considered to be the slow wave sleep identified by modern sleep scientists which is the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep
Nabi (saw) encouraged his companions not to be involved in any activity after Isha prayer. He said: “One should not sleep before the night prayer, nor have discussions after it” (Bukhari) Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. Nabi (saw) advised one of his companions Ibn Amr who was praying the whole night thus: “Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right on you” (Bukhari). Modern sleep scientists believe that sleep deprivation has damaging effects on mental concentration, memory, mood, and quality of life.
We can turn our hours of sleep into worship by doing the following:
- Perform ablution (wudhu) before going to bed
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When you go to bed, you should perform the ablution (wudu) for the prayer, and then lay down on your right side. Then say, ‘O Allah, I have turned my face to You and I have surrendered myself to You and I have committed my back to You out of fear and desire for You. There is no place of safety or refuge from You except with You. I have believed in Your book which You revealed and Your Prophet whom You sent.’ If you die that night, you will die in fitra (natural state). And make these the last words you utter.’” (Bukhari)
- Dust and clean the bed before sleeping
“When any one of you goes to bed, he should take hold of the hem of his lower garment and should clean (his bed) with it and then recite the name of Allah” (Muslim)
- Turn off lights before sleep
“Put out lamps when you go to bed, shut the doors, and cover water and food containers” (Bukhari) This may correspond with current scientific understanding that it is important to maintain a dark environment during sleep so as not to disrupt the circadian rhythm. (The natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavior changes that the body goes through in a 24-hour cycle)
- Stand up for Qiyamul layl
“You should pray qiyaam al-layl, for it is the custom of the righteous who came before you and it brings you closer to your Lord, and expiates sins and prevents misdeeds.” (Tirmidhi)
We spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping. For optimal health, sleep is as important as diet and exercise May Allah grant us the ability to value the great blessing of sleep.