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Islam has great interest in sleep, and sleep is considered as one of the signs of the greatness of Allah. Sleep is mentioned frequently in the Quran. For example, a well-known verse says, "And among his signs is your sleep by night and by day and your seeking of His bounty, verily in that are Signs for those who hearken"

Sleep from an Islamic Perspective
1/16/2014 - Science Religious - Article Ref: NH1306-5475
Number of comments: 3
Opinion Summary: Agree:3  Disagree:0  Neutral:0
By: Ahmed S. BaHammam
US National Institution of Health* -


Sleep medicine is a relatively new scientific specialty. Sleep is an important  topic in Islamic literature, and the Quran and Hadith discuss types of sleep, the  importance of sleep, and good sleep practices. Islam considers sleep as one of the  signs of the greatness of Allah (God) and encourages followers to explore this  important sign. The Quran describes different types of sleep, and these correspond  with sleep stages identified by modern science. The Quran discusses the beneficial  effects of sleep and emphasizes the importance of maintaining a pattern of light  and darkness. A mid-day nap is an important practice for Muslims, and the Prophet  Muhammad peace be upon him (pbuh) promoted naps as beneficial. In accordance with  the practice and instructions of Muhammad (pbuh), Muslims have certain sleep  habits and these sleep habits correspond to some of the sleep hygiene rules  identified by modern science. Details during sleep include sleep position, like  encouraging sleep on the right side and discouraging sleep in the prone position.  Dream interpretation is an established science in the Islamic literature and  Islamic scholars have made significant contributions to theories of dream  interpretation. We suggest that sleep scientists examine religious literature in  general and Islamic literature in particular, to understand the views, behaviors,  and practices of ancient people about the sleep and sleep disorders. Such studies  may help to answer some unresolved questions in sleep science or lead to new areas  of inquiry.


Sleep medicine is considered a relatively new field of medicine, but mankind has  long been interested in sleep, and culture and religion influence attitudes and  beliefs about sleep. In particular, religious literature has many references to  sleep.[1,2] Islam emerged as a religion in the seventh century when the Prophet  Muhammad peace be upon him (pbuh) started receiving revelations from Allah (God),  known as the Holy Quran (610 C.E.). Most Muslims, with a worldwide population of  about 1.6 billion, view Islam as a way of life and follow the instructions of  Islam in all of their daily practices, including sleep.[3] The two sources of  Islamic jurisprudence are the Quran and Hadith (Sunnah). Muslims believe that  Allah revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through the angel Gabriel  from 610 to 632 C.E., the year of the Prophet's death [verse 17. 106]. The text of  the Quran contains 114 chapters (Sura). Hadith are a collection of narrations  concerning the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These were  evaluated and gathered into a large collection, mostly during the eighth and ninth  centuries.

Islam has great interest in sleep, and sleep is considered as one of the signs of  the greatness of Allah. Sleep is mentioned frequently in the Quran. For example, a  well-known verse says, "And among his signs is your sleep by night and by day and  your seeking of His bounty, verily in that are Signs for those who hearken" [verse  30.23]. Islam has clear instructions and guidance for followers about the nature  of good sleep. In addition, Muslims have shown great interest in dreams and dream  interpretation.[4]

In this article, for citation of the Quran, we refer to chapter (Sura) and verse  (Sura.verse); for citation of Hadith, we refer to the book and Hadith number. For  the Quran, we used an English translation that was approved by the Ministry of  Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic University in Madinah; for Hadith,  we cite major books approved by the Ministry of Islamic affairs in Saudi Arabia. [5-7]

In this article, we discuss the Islamic views of sleep based on the Quran and  Hadith and the impact of these views on sleep and sleep habits of modern Muslims.

Types of Sleep in the Quran.

The Quran frequently mentions sleep. There is a  general Arabic word for "sleep" (Noum) and other Arabic words for specific types  of sleep. The word "sleep" and its derivatives appear nine times in the Quran. In  addition, different Arabic words are used to describe sleep in the Quran, and  these may correspond to the different sleep stages identified by modern sleep  science:

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 stage 1 sleep identified by modern sleep scientists. A  verse in the Quran uses the word "Sinah" when describing Allah "No slumber (Sinah)  can seize Him nor sleep" [verse 2.255]. In the Quran, sleep implies a  manifestation of weakness and bodily need for rest. Therefore, while the Creator  (Allah) does not sleep or doze off, His creations, including mankind, need sleep  every day.

2."Nu'ass": Two verses in the Quran use the word "Nu'ass". One verse says  "Remember when He covered you with a slumber (Nu'ass) as a security from him"  [verse 8.11]. This 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. Nu'ass in this verse implies a short nap, which may correspond  to stage 1 and stage 2 sleep identified by modern sleep scientists. It was  recently suggested that a short nap can reduce stress and blood pressure (BP),  with the main changes in BP occurring between the time of lights off and the onset  of stage 1.[8-10] A second verse of the Quran says "Then after the distress, He  sent down security upon you. Slumber (Nu'ass) overtook a party of you, while,  another party was thinking about themselves (as how to save their own selves)"  [verse 3.154].

3."Ruqood": This word has been given several interpretations. In our view, the  most appropriate definition is "sleep for a long period", as Allah has described  the People of the Cave with this term in the Quran[2] "And you would have thought  them awake, whereas they were asleep (Ruqood)" [verse 18. 18]. The Quran states  that the People of the Cave stayed in their caves for 300 solar years, adding nine  (for lunar years) [verse 18. 25], as discussed later[11]

4."Hojoo": This term describes pious believers who fear Allah, "They used to sleep  but little by night (Hojoo). And in the hours before dawn, they were (found)  asking (Allah) for forgiveness" [verse 51. 17-18]. This word indicates "sleep at  night".

5."Subaat": The word "Subaat" is derived from the Arabic word "Sabt", which means  disconnecting.[2] "Subaat" may indicate a disconnection from the surrounding  environment during sleep. A verse in the Quran says, "And we made your sleep  (Subaat) as a thing for rest" [verse 78.9]. Therefore, "Subaat" may be considered  to be "deep sleep", corresponding to the slow wave sleep identified by modern  sleep scientists.

Based on the above, we suggest that the arrangement of sleep stages/states is  Sinah and Nu'ass, followed by Hojoo, and Ruqood and then Subaat.

Importance of Sleep.

Modern sleep scientists believe that sleep deprivation  has deleterious effects on mental concentration, memory, mood, and quality of  life. In addition, recent data indicate that sleep deprivation impairs endocrine  and metabolic functions.[13] Islam also emphasizes the importance of getting  enough sleep. One Hadith by the Prophet (pbuh) in Sahih Al-Bukhari (SB) says, "If  anyone of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed (sleep) till his  slumber is over" (SB 210). The Prophet (pbuh) told one of his companions (Ibn Amr)  who was praying the whole night "Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your  body has a right on you" (SB 1874). 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"  (SB 1099). Another Hadith narrated by Aisha (wife of the Prophet [pbuh]) in Musnad  Ahmed (MA) tells of a woman from the tribe of Bani Asad, who was sitting with  Aisha when Allah's Apostle (pbuh) came to my house and said, "Who is this?" Aisha  replied, "She is so and so". She does not sleep at night because she is engaged in  prayer. The Prophet said disapprovingly, "Do (good) deeds which are within your  capacity as Allah never gets tired of giving rewards till you get tired of doing  good deeds" [MA 25244].

Sleep manners

There are numerous Muslim sleep traditions that Muslims try to follow in order to  be in accordance with the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) (Sunnah).

Early bedtime and early wake up time Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged his companions not  to be involved in any activity after Isha prayer (darkness prayer, which is around  1.5-2 hours after sunset). The Prophet (pbuh) said, "One should not sleep before  the night prayer, nor have discussions after it" [SB 574]. Additionally, Muslims  are required to wake up for Fajr prayer, which is about one hour before sunrise.  The Prophet did not sleep after Fajr prayer.[2] In addition, the Prophet (pbuh)  told his companions that early morning work is blessed by Allah.

Perform ablution (wudoo) before going to bed and supplicate It is reported in  Sahih Muslim (SM) that one of the companions said that the Prophet (pbuh) told  him, "Whenever you go to bed, perform ablution like that for the prayer, and lie  on your right side" [SM 2710]. And then he asked him to say the night prayers  before sleep.

Dusting and cleaning the bed before sleeping It has been reported that the Prophet  (pbuh) said, "When any one of you goes to bed, he should take hold of the hem of  his lower garment and then should clean (his bed) with the help of that and then  should recite the name of Allah" [SM 271].

Sleep position In Islamic culture, some sleep positions are encouraged while  others are discouraged based on the practice (Sunnah) and recommendations of the  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Thus, many Muslims sleep on their right side,  particularly, in the initial part of sleep. Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Whenever you go  to bed, perform ablution like that for the prayer, and lie on your right side" [SM  2710). In description of the sleep of the Prophet (pbuh), a Hadith states, "When  the Prophet (pbuh) wants to go to sleep, he puts his right hand under his cheek"  [SM 2713]. Modern scientific studies have suggested a beneficial effect of right  lateral decubitus position on the heart. In particular, one study assessed the  autonomic effect of three sleep positions (supine, left lateral decubitus, and  right lateral decubitus) in healthy subjects using spectral heart rate variability  analysis.[14] The results indicated that cardiac vagal activity was greatest when  subjects were in the right lateral decubitus position. In addition, an animal  study indicated that vagal stimulation has an antiarrhythmic effect.[15] Several  studies have demonstrated that the recumbent position affects autonomic nervous  system activity in patients with congestive heart failure, and that there is  attenuation of the sympathetic tone when subjects are in the right lateral  decubitus position.[16-18] Muslims tend to dislike sleeping in the prone position,  and this is discouraged in the Islamic literature, even for infants. The Prophet  (pbuh) told a man who was lying on his stomach, "Allah and his Prophet dislike  this position" [Sunan Al-Tirmdhi 2768]. Modern medical studies have concluded that  infants who sleep in the prone position have a seven-fold increased risk of sudden  infant death syndrome (SIDS). This has led to "back to sleep" campaigns in Britain  (1991) and in the United States (1994).[19]

Turning off light before sleep It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Put  out lamps when you go to bed, shut the doors, and cover water and food containers"  [SB 5301]. 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.

Yawning Yawning is an unacceptable behavior for Muslims, especially in public  places. If yawning occurs, the yawner is instructed to cover his mouth with his  hand. The Prophet said, "Yawning is from Satan. If you are about to yawn, you  should try to stop it as much as possible. If you yawn, Satan will laugh" [SB  3115].

Naps (Siestas)

Napping is a cross-cultural practice, and modern sleep scientists believe that  napping provides benefits for all ages.[20] A short mid-day nap (called Qailulah  in Islamic culture) is a deeply embedded practice in the Muslim culture, and it  takes a religious dimension (Sunnah) for some Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)  said, "Take a short nap, for Devils do not take naps" [Sahih Aljamie. Alalbani  1647]. Another Hadith by Muhammad (pbuh) provided details about the timing of the  nap, "Sleeping early in the day betrays ignorance, in the middle of the day is  right, and at the end of the day is stupid." (Fath Al-Bari, p.73). A third Hadith  reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari (SB) says, "We used to offer the Jumua (Friday)  prayer with the Prophet and then take the afternoon nap" [SB 5923]. Friday is the  weekend for Muslims, so napping on Friday may compensate for sleep debt that has  accumulated during weekdays.

Previous research has shown that short daytime naps improve vigilance and  cognitive functions, and are beneficial for memory consolidation.[21] In  particular, a nap as short as 10 min can improve alertness and performance for  2.5-4 hours.[21] A recent study assessed the health effects of napping in 23,681  healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. After controlling for  potential confounders, the researchers concluded that those who napped at least  three times weekly for about half an hour had 37% lower coronary mortality than  those who did not nap.[8]

Circadian Rhythm.

The Quran frequently presents "day" and "night" as  significant signs of the creator (Allah). The Quran mentions the alternation of  day and night in 37 places and in many places asks Muslims to observe the  succession of night and day. For example, "And it is He who has made the night and  the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude" [verse  25.62]. In the Quran, the word "night" always precedes the word "day", "And We  have appointed the night and the day as two signs. Then We have obliterated the  sign of the night with darkness, while We made the sign of the day illuminating"  [verse: 17.12]. It is clear that the Quran considers humans to be diurnal  creatures who need light in the daytime and darkness at night, "And it is He Who  makes the night a covering for you, and the sleep a repose, and makes the day  Nushur (i.e., getting up and going about here and there for daily work, after  one's sleep at night)" [verse: 25.47]. The Quran stresses the importance of the  daily pattern of light and darkness and considers the cycle of night and day as a  mercy from Allah, "Say: See ye? If Allah were to make the Night perpetual over you  to the Day of Judgment, what God is there other than Allah, who can give you  enlightenment? Will ye not then hearken? Say: See ye? If Allah were to make the  Day perpetual over you to the Day of Judgment, what God is there other than Allah,  who can give you a Night in which ye can rest? Will ye not then see? It is out of  His Mercy that He has made for you Night and Day, - that ye may rest therein, and  that ye may seek of His Grace - and in order that ye may be grateful" [verses  28.71-73].

Muslims have five obligatory prayers per day. The first prayer (Fajr) is at dawn  (about one hour before sunrise), so Muslims are obliged to wake up early on  weekdays and weekends; the last prayer (Isha) is in the evening, about 1.5-2 hours  after sunset. Summer nights have earlier dawn and shorter nights, so Muslims may  have less night sleep during the summer. Sleep scientists have not yet studied the  physiological effects of this, although available evidence suggests a possible  seasonality effect in bed times and wake times.[22,23] Honma et al. studied 10  healthy male volunteers from Japan and reported that wake-up time in the summer  was 60 min earlier than in the winter and that bedtime was earlier in summer,  resulting in a slightly longer total time in bed during the winter than summer. [24] They also reported that the acrophase (circadian maximum) for core body  temperature and plasma melatonin changed with the seasons, with a 2 hour phase  delay in winter, compared to summer.[24] Another study examined nine healthy males  at the Antarctic zone for 15 months. The peak phase of melatonin rhythm was phase  delayed by 4.1 hours in winter, compared to summer. In addition, the trough phase  of rectal temperature rhythm in two of three subjects was phase delayed by  approximately 2 hours in winter. However, in this study there was no change in  total sleep time in winter, compared to summer.[23] Seasonal changes in the phase  of circadian rhythms are normally due to seasonal changes in the intensity of  light and in the times of sunset and sunrise.

Unique topics about sleep in Islamic culture 

In this section, we will discuss sleep and death, the story of the Companions of  the Cave, and dreams and dream interpretation in Islamic culture.

Sleep and death The Quran indicates some resemblance between sleep and death. The  Quran uses "Wafat" to describe death, and one of the verses states, "It is Allah  Who takes away the souls (Wafat) at the time of their death, and those that die  not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and  sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for people who  think deeply" [verse 39:42]. Another verse states, "It is He Who takes your souls  (Wafat) by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have  done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life  period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) to Him will be your return. Then He will  inform you of that which you used to do" [verse 6.60]. The Quran divides the  "state of self" into two parts, a state of consciousness and a state of "Wafat". [25] The state of "Wafat" is divided into sleep (temporary death) and death (real  death). Thus, the above verses indicate that Allah takes and retains souls during  real death, but releases souls after rest for an appointed term. The Hadith from  the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) supports this view. It is reported that whenever the  Prophet (pbuh) went to bed, he said, "O' Allah, it is with Thine Name that I live  and it is with Thine Name that I die", and when he awoke, he said, "Praise is due  to Allah, Who gave us life after our death (sleep) and unto Thee is resurrection"  [SM 2711]. Muslims believe that people in Heaven do not sleep, because sleep is a  form of death. The Prophet (pbuh) was asked, "Do people of Heaven sleep?" He  answered: "Sleep is the brother of death. People of Heaven do not sleep"[26]

The people (companions) of the cave In Sura Al-Kahf (the cave), the Quran  describes the People or Companions of the Cave (as'hab al-Kahf), known in  Christian literature as "the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus".[27] The verses [18.9-26]  describe young believers who found refuge from prosecution in a cave. When the  boys asked Allah for mercy, He put them into a sleep state that lasted for 300  solar years, adding nine (for lunar years). We present this story, because it  provides information that corresponds with our current understanding of sleep and  the effect of light and noise on sleep.

The verses describe the regular turning of the boys from side to side during their  long sleep, "We turned them on their right and on their left sides" [verse 18.18].  Modern science has documented that staying on one side for long periods can cause  bed sores. In addition, prolonged immobility increases the risk of numerous  conditions, including thrombosis. Therefore, in modern medical practice, patients  who are bed-ridden are turned regularly.

The description of the Companions of the Cave portrays their conditions during  sleep. One verse states that the boys appeared to those who saw them as if they  were awake, when in fact they were asleep, "And you would have thought them awake,  whereas they were asleep" [verse18.18]. This verse suggests that their eyes were  open and blinking when they were asleep. In the context of modern sleep science,  open eyes allow more light perception and are important for the regulation of  circadian rhythms.

During their sleep, the Quran describes sunlight that comes with sunrise and  leaves at sunset and to maintain the light-dark cycle, "And you might have seen  the sun, when it rose, declining to the right from their Cave, and when it set,  turning away from them to the left, while they lay in the midst of the Cave. That  is one of the signs of Allah" [verse 18.17]. New discoveries revealed that a  regular light-dark cycle is essential for the calibration of circadian rhythms,  and maintenance of the circadian pattern of body functions and hormonal  secretion.[28] To create a suitable environment for sleep, the Quran mentions that  the hearing of the boys was sealed up during their entire sleep period,  "Therefore, We covered up their (sense of) hearing (causing them to go in deep  sleep) in the Cave for a number of years" [verse 18.11]. Although sensitivity to  noise decreases during sleep, modern scientists believe that the sleeping body  still responds to noise stimulation.[29] Noise during sleep has a negative impact  on the quality of sleep because it increases arousal, increases changes in sleep  stages, decreases slow wave sleep, and disturbs the rhythmicity of rapid eye  movement (REM) sleep.[29,30] In addition, noise during sleep may disturb the  autonomic and endocrine responses of the body. Although autonomic reactions that  occur during sleep may be small, their accumulation over time may result in  harmful effects, such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease.[31] Subjects  do not become adapted to these changes following long exposure times.[29]

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