Why we should surrender to sleep.
By Amreen Pathan
“And among His signs is your sleep by night and day, and your search for His grace. Surely in this there are signs for a people who listen.” (Qur’an, 30:23)
Why do we sleep?
Sleep is slowly emerging as a potent factor in improved health outcomes. Sleep scientists (yes, that’s a real thing!) argue that sleep is the only opportunity the brain gets to power down – but not before cleansing itself of toxic debris (whatever the brain does not need), regulating the balance of hormones, enzymes and proteins and processing the wave of information we are bombarded with during the day.
Put it this way, the more we sleep, the lighter we’d be: physically and mentally. Krakow, medical director of a company specialising in sleep service, explains that “On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you can’t do what you want physically and mentally.”
What we are realising is that sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity. Whilst the recommended sleeping hours for teenagers is 8-10, sleep research suggests that most teenagers only sleep 6.5-7.5 hours per night. Similarly, whilst the recommended time for adults is 7-9 hours, the average Briton only gets 6 hours and 19 minutes a night.
What can a build-up of sleep deprivation lead to?
- An inability to make decisions as judgement is impaired
- Lower level of concentration
- Slower reaction time
- Weakened memory
- Inability to process information and learn
- Irritability and impatience
- Prone to depression
- High anxiety levels
- Weight gain
- Weakened immunity
- Poor balance
- Risk of diabetes
- Risk of heart disease
Sleeping in the Islamic culture
At the very beginning, I referenced a verse of the noble Qur’an from Surah Ar-Rum. Mufti Muhammad Shafee explains in his Ma’ariful Qur’an that the night has been made for rest and therefore it is a human inclination to sleep during the night. It is not something that one has to ‘cultivate’ but is a predisposition gifted by the Power of Allah. We know this to be true because ‘[sometimes] despite making all possible arrangements for sleep, one still cannot sleep to the extent that even sleeping pills are ineffective. On the other hand… people go to sleep even on hard floors amidst severe[ly] hot and oppressive conditions.’
Simply, it is important to consider the cycle of sleep as a gift from Allah (SWT). In this same verse, ‘night’ precedes the mention of ‘day.’ The alternation of day and night is mentioned in 37 places in the Qur’an and in all places, the night precedes the ‘day.’
For example, in Surah Furqan Allah (SWT) states: “He is the One who has made the night an apparel for you, and the sleep a means of rest, and has made the day a means of revival.” (25:47)
In this verse of Surah Furqan, as well as the cycle of day and night, we see reference to the ‘circadian pattern of light and darkness’ as being vital to the quality of a person’s sleep. What this means is that Allah (SWT) has not only been merciful in granting humans the capacity to sleep (see the detriments of not sleeping above) but also in the granting of the ‘apparel’ of darkness which sends a signal to the human body and brain to rest.
Clearly, the Islamic culture is invested in sleep. Consider Islam’s guidance about when to sleep, when not to sleep, the best sleeping positions, what to recite before sleep, after sleep, etc. Entire chapters have been dedicated to sleep in collections of the Ahadith (the traditions of the Prophet) such as the ‘Book of the Etiquette of Sleeping, Lying and Sitting’ in Riyad as-Saliheen. All of this highlights the importance of sleep for Mankind. It is a luxury in that it is a blessing from Allah (SWT) but it is a necessity in that it is decreed as a time for rest so that one may thrive during the day.
There is a wealth of knowledge covering the etiquette of sleeping. What I would like to mention however is Qailulah or midday napping. Interestingly, nap lounges have been set up in the corporate hotspots of Hong Kong. Chinese companies are famous for encouraging some time for ‘shut-eye’ for their employees. Why? Because neuroscientists have demonstrated links with productivity, memory improvement, alertness and recovery of lost sleep (at night).
This concept of napping is an established Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The ideal nap is:
- 20-30 minutes long. Sleep any longer and the sluggishness will not leave you for the entirety of the day.
- Designated for after the Dhuhr prayer.
Sleep after the Asr prayer has been disliked: “It is feared that the doer [the person who sleeps after ‘Asr may be afflicted by whispers [mental afflictions and diminishing of intellect].” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah
Similarly, sleep after the morning prayer (Fajr) is disliked, as this is a portion of the day filled with blessings linked to productivity and sustenance. Finally, a nap after the Esha prayer is also frowned upon as this causes insomnia – one will not feel tired enough to sleep at night.
Napping and sleeping etiquettes? That’s a topic for another day. However, when your head hits the pillow tonight, surrender. It really is an issue of survival!
#Sleep #PowerNap #PowerOfSleep