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.
Different sleep stages
“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 All?h “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 (All?h) does not sleep or doze off, His creations, including mankind, need sleep every day.
“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 to 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].
“Ruqood”: This word has been given several interpretations. In our view, the most appropriate definition is “sleep for a long period”, as All?h has described the People of the Cave with this term in the Quran “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],
“Hojoo”: This term describes pious believers who fear All?h, “They used to sleep but little by night (Hojoo). And in the hours before dawn, they were (found) asking (All?h) for forgiveness” [verse 51. 17-18]. This word indicates “sleep at night”.
“Subaat”: The word “Subaat” is derived from the Arabic word “Sabt”, which means disconnecting. “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.
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 to Fajr prayer, which is about one hour before sunrise. The Prophet did not sleep after Fajr prayer. In addition, the Prophet (pbuh) told his companions that early morning work is blessed by All?h.
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 All?h” [SM 271].
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 the current scientific understanding that it is important to maintain a dark environment during sleep so as not to disrupt the circadian rhythm.
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].
The Quran indicates some resemblance between sleep and death. The Quran uses “Wafat” to describe death, and one of the verses states, “It is All?h 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].