The importance of sleep and its beneficial role in your lifestyle is described in many places in Islamic scripture! The management and moderation of it is included in both the Qur’an and Sunnah. Today, modern science also extols the benefits of sleep and the effects it has on our physical and mental wellness.
In this time of pandemic and spending the longest stretches indoors than most of us likely ever have, our sleep cycles are being heavily affected. It is becoming easier to stay up all night or late into the night for duties that could have been done during the day. This mismanagement of our sleep cycle has very detrimental effects that manifest both physically and mentally.
Sleep is a means for us to allow our bodies to rest and repair, and for our minds to relax and bring down our stress levels. We only break our sleep for worship of Allah (swt)— waking up for qiyam al layl, suhoor, and fajr. Our regulation of sleep relies on us getting enough sleep so that we wake up for these acts of worship with energy and strength. For those of you who are still in school, working, or generally have early morning starts, healthy sleep allows you to be ready to take advantage of the productive hours of the morning! The Prophet (saws) has told us that Allah (swt) has blessed the early hours for his ummah, which means we would certainly not want to lose such a blessing by sleeping through them entirely.
Allah (swt) describes sleeping as among His Signs in Surah ar-Rum: “And of His signs is your sleep by night and day and your seeking of His bounty. Indeed in that are signs for a people who listen.” (30:23)
Furthermore, sleep is described as a means of rest in Surah an-Naba and Allah (swt) describes Nu’ass (slumber which implies short nap) that he sent down upon His believers in the Battle of Badr as relief for them to ease their anxiety (8:11, 3:154).
Numerous times in the sunnah of the Prophet (saws) he has instructed the Muslims to take sleep when they need it. When instances were described where the believers would force themselves to stay awake all night and worship, the Prophet (saws) would remind them that the night wasn’t entirely for prayer, but also for portions of sleep. Moreover, the Prophet (saws) and his Companions (ra) also partook in the habit of Qaylula, known as a midday nap or period of relaxation.
Through ahadith, believers are instructed to practice good sleep hygiene to ensure the full benefit of rest: reciting the name of Allah (swt), ceasing to engage in idle talk, closing the doors of your house, covering and putting away food and dishes, turning off lights, performing wudhu, dusting off your bedspread, sleeping on your right side and reciting specific duas and surahs.
Research shows that preparation of a bedtime routine and practicing consistency is one of the key factors in achieving beneficial sleep. The sunnah even describes instances of the wives of the Prophet (saws) sprinkling their beds with beautiful smelling fragrances.
There are only very specific instances within the sunnah where spending the entire night awake is encouraged. This includes the last ten nights of Ramadan, in which we are encouraged to forsake sleep for beseeching our Lord. This falls within the month where we also forsake our food and water for Allah (swt). This demonstrates that it is only in Ramadan where our basic needs of food, water and sleep are forgone during their regular hours as a show of commitment to Allah (swt)— we give these up only for Him, and no one else.
There is a wealth of research and evidence on this topic within Islam, so we encourage all of you to pay special attention to the adab of sleeping as described in the Qur’an and Sunnah and implement these practices. As we come closer to Ramadan and are expecting less sleep, we want to ensure that we receive the maximum benefit whenever we close our eyes and rest!