"And He it is Who made the night a covering for you, and the sleep a rest, and He made the day to rise up again" Qur'an, 25 : 47
Sleep is one of the blessings of Allah.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to say at different times of day and night, we mention a Hadith reported by Jabir ibn Abdullah, a companion of the Prophet who was very close to him and reported a very large number of his statements. Jabir says: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) used not to go to sleep before reading the two Surahs, Al-Sajdah and Al-Mulk.” Abu Al-Zubayr, who reports this Hadith from Jabir, mentions that “these two Surahs earn 70 good deeds more than any other surah in the Qur’an. Whoever recites them earns 70 good deeds, is given a rise of 70 steps; and 70 bad deeds are erased from his record.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Al-Nassaie).
Moreover, reading the Qur’an, or glorifying God and repeating some supplication and prayer before going to bed make it easier for a person to get to sleep. Abdullah ibn Masud, a learned companion of the Prophet, says: “Being overtaken by sleep when glorifying God is brought about by Satan. You may try this if you wish. When you go to bed and you want to get to sleep straightaway, glorify God and praise Him.” (Related by Al-Nassaie, Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi).
The Prophet of Islam likened death to sleep and life to the state of wakefulness after sleep. Going to sleep is like dying and waking up in the morning is like rising from the grave. Our inevitable awakening after sleeping foreshadows with certainty how we shall arise after death to give an account of our deeds on the Day of Judgement.
By looking at the posture one adopts while sleeping reveals a lot about the personality of the person, his attitude towards life and so on.
It is well known that lying down in bed relaxes the muscles of the body and the degree of relaxation is determined by the sleep posture adopted by the person.
In the semifetal position the person lies on his side with arms and legs partially folded. The limbs are not kept in an exactly opposed position.
In terms of physical comfort, in semifetal position it is possible to turn from side to side without undoing the set configuration of the body position. It is supposed to be the best position in terms of physical comfort and relaxation.
An old proverb says, "the kings are known to prefer to sleep on their back, the rich man on his stomach and the wise man on his side."
These abovementioned observations stand testimony to the superiority of sleeping in semi-flexed position on one side.
The sleep position which was adopted by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is a Sunnah and is conscientiously adopted by pious Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to lie on his right-side with limbs slightly flexed, right hand below his cheek and facing towards Kaba Shariff. This position is analogous to the semi-fetal position described above, and, obviously in the light of the current knowledge about sleep posture, is the position adopted by a highly balanced person psychologically. It is also the best position for relaxation, both physical and psychological. Devotion to this sleep posture should therefore, contribute a lot to total body relaxation.
Sleep-Luxury or Necessity 1
To some people, sleep is a waste of time. Preferring a very busy daily schedule of business and social engagements, they only surrender to sleep when extremely tired. In contrast, others, enduring night after night of tossing and turning until the early hours of the morning, would give anything for a good night's sleep.
Why do some find it so hard to sleep, while others are desperate to stay awake? Should we view sleep as a luxury or a necessity? To answer these questions, we need to understand what is going on while we are asleep.
The Mysteries of Falling Asleep
Exactly what makes a person lose consciousness and fall asleep remains a mystery. Researchers, however, have established that sleep is a complex process regulated by the brain and that it obeys a 24-hour biological clock. The production of growth hormone peaks during sleep.
As we get older, our sleeping habits change. A newborn sleeps for frequent short periods that total about 18 hours a day. According to sleep specialists, although some adults appear to need only three hours of sleep a day, others need up to ten hours.
Recent research has shown that variations in our biological clock also explain why some teenagers struggle to get out of bed in the morning. The biological clock seems to shift forward during puberty, making youngsters want to go to sleep later and wake up later. This sleep delay is common and tends to disappear in the mid-to-late teens.
Chemical substances, many of which have already been identified, regulate our biological clock. One of them is melatonin, a hormone thought to trigger sleepiness. Melatonin is produced in the brain, and some scientists believe that it is responsible for the slowdown of the body's metabolism that occurs prior to falling asleep. As melatonin is released, body temperature and blood flow to the brain are reduced, and our muscles gradually lose their tone and become flaccid. What happens next as the person descends into the mysterious world of sleep?
Nature's Chief Nourisher
Approximately two hours after we fall asleep, our eyes begin to quiver quickly back and forth. The observation of this phenomenon led scientists to divide sleep into two basic phases: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep can be subdivided into four stages of progressively deeper sleep. During a healthy night's sleep, REM sleep occurs several times, alternating with non-REM sleep.
Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep. The body also experiences maximum muscle relaxation, which allows the sleeper to wake up feeling physically refreshed. In addition, some researchers believe that newly acquired information is consolidated as part of our long-term memory during this sleep stage.
During deep sleep (non-REM sleep stages 3 and 4), our blood pressure and heart rate reach lower ranges, providing rest for the circulatory system and helping to ward off cardiovascular disease. In addition, the production of growth hormone peaks during non-REM sleep, with some teenagers producing as much as 50 times more growth hormone at night than during the day.
Sleep also seems to affect our appetite. Scientists have discovered that sleep really is, to quote Shakespeare, "chief nourisher in life's feast." Our brain interprets a lack of sleep as a lack of food. While we sleep, our organism secretes leptin, the hormone that normally lets our body know that we have eaten enough. When we stay awake longer than we should, our body produces less leptin, and we feel a craving for more carbohydrates. So sleep deprivation can lead to increased carbohydrate consumption, which in turn can lead to obesity.
Have you ever felt an uncontrollable drowsiness after lunch? This is not necessarily a sign that you are suffering from sleep deprivation. It is normal to feel sleepy in the early afternoon because of a natural drop in body temperature. In addition, scientists have recently discovered a protein called hypocretin, or orexin, that is produced in the brain and helps keep us awake. What is the connection between hypocretin and food?
When we eat, the body produces leptin to give us the impression that we are full. But leptin inhibits the production of hypocretin. In other words, the more leptin there is in the brain, the less hypocretin and the greater the feeling of drowsiness. Perhaps that is why in some countries people take a siesta—a break in the workday that allows people to sleep a little after lunch.
Vital for Health
But that is not all. Sleep makes it easier for our body to metabolize free radicals—molecules that are said to affect the aging of cells and even cause cancer. In a recent study carried out by the University of Chicago, 11 healthy young men were allowed only four hours of sleep a day for six days. At the end of this period, their body cells were performing like those of 60-year-olds, and their blood insulin level was comparable with that of a diabetes sufferer! Sleep deprivation even affects the production of white blood cells and the hormone cortisol, making a person more prone to infections and circulatory diseases.
Without a doubt, sleep is vital for a healthy body and mind. In the opinion of researcher William Dement, founder of the first sleep study center, at Stanford University, U.S.A., "sleep seems to be the most important indicator of how long you'll live." Deborah Suchecki, researcher at a sleep study center in São Paulo, Brazil, comments: "If people knew what is going on in a sleep-deprived body, they would think twice about concluding that sleep is a waste of time or just for the lazy."—
But is all sleep restorative? Why do some people sleep the whole night and still feel unrefreshed?
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Too Much Sleep Just as Bad as Too Little? 2
Researchers found "long" sleepers who sleep more than eight hours a night report just as many sleep complaints as "short" sleepers who get less than seven hours of slumber.
Specifically, both long and short sleepers reported more problems sleeping than those who slept a full eight hours, and they shared similar complaints, such as:
"Although it is unclear why long and short sleepers should have similar types of sleep complaints, these data challenge the assumption that more than seven or eight hours of sleep is associated with increased health and well-being," write researcher Michael Grander, of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Researchers say the problems associated with too little sleep have been widely studied, but very little is known about the effects of sleeping more than eight hours a night.
In the study, published in the March/April 2004 issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers looked at data from 100 adults interviewed for the National Sleep Foundation's 2001 Sleep in America Poll. The participants were asked how much they slept on a typical workday, whether they had any sleep problems, and how their sleep affected their daily functioning.
Researchers found a U-shaped relationship between the number of sleep problems reported and their total sleep time. In other words, sleep problems were reported more commonly for both short and long sleepers than for those who sleep approximately eight hours.
The study showed sleep problems were common in both long and short sleepers, and women were more likely to be long sleepers than men.
Researchers say the findings focus attention to the long overlooked problems of the long sleepers. It does contribute to a greater understanding of mortality risks of long sleepers in that it has begun to isolate individual sleep complaints and has indicated that some aspect of sleep must be disturbed.
2. Grander, M. Psychosomatic Medicine, March/April 2004; Vol 66. News release, Health Behavior News Service.
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