JUST like eating and drinking, sleep is also a fundamental requirement of every human being. Without sleep no individual can survive long. Every individual spends at least one third of his or her life sleeping. A sound sleep plays an important role in an individual’s health and success in life.
Allah says “And [we] have made your sleep [as a thing] for rest. And have made the night as a covering. And have made the day for livelihood” (78:9-11). This clarifies that nightly sleep is meant for rest which includes physical, mental and emotional rest.
What is sleep? It is a period of long relaxation when an individual, after doing daylong tiresome work and on the approaching of night, finds himself involuntarily plunged into the state of sleep — a state of unconsciousness, wherein the waking senses are obscured. The body lies inert upon the bed, whether of luxurious down or humble straw, with eyes fast shut, the limbs utterly motionless and only the involuntary bodily functions, such as those of the heart, digestion and the lungs, continuing to be active.
One’s life force appears to be reduced to a very low ebb. One may address a question to the sleeper and receive no reply. In the condition of sleep, he does not know anyone, nor is he aware of any visitor nor can he understand anyone’s questions. He may be approached with a dangerous weapon and one might seek to injure or even slay him, but still he is unable to respond to the threat and save himself from the impending assault.
Sleep liberates our mind and our body from restlessness.
Modern scientific research also indicates that sleep is an essential element for growth, development and survival at any stage of life. Especially the nightly sleep powers the mind, pacifies the emotions, restores the body and fortifies virtually every system in the body. Sleep makes the human body refreshed, energised and robust. Nature repairs our bodily tissues and wastage at night when the person is fast asleep.
A good night’s sleep is also linked to an active and successful life. During sleep, the body goes into a restful state and acquires natural energy. Sleep liberates our mind and our body from their state of restlessness, gives peace and tranquillity and provides us with a renewed life force. Thus a good sleep plays an important role in an individual’s physical and mental health.
But how much sleep does an individual need in order to get these benefits is a question under discussion since long. Many Sufis and mystics used to have a little sleep before or after midnight and then spend a large portion of the night in prayer or meditation. This was also a practice of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as mentioned in the Quran (Surah 73).
In Islam, sleep is considered as one of the signs of the greatness of Allah. It is mentioned in the Quran very frequently. 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” (30:23).
However, some people do not realise the value of a sound sleep. They burn the candle at both ends as they stay up late into the night. Many youths spend nights in eateries, smoking, gossiping and chewing paan while others work, study, watch films or have fun. But one must keep in mind that going without sleep carries short- and long-term health consequences.
Those who lie on a bed to sleep but fail can tell us the value of nightly sleep. Therefore, every one of us who gets sound sleep must thank Allah for His benevolence.
Insufficient or poor sleep can worsen memory or make one less productive at work while quality sleep makes one fit and able. It is a beautiful gift of nature when every person after daylong activities gets sound sleep.
Moreover, one should survey his/her day’s activities at night before going to sleep and ask himself/herself as the famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras advised one of his disciples to do, ‘what have I done during the day and what have I left undone that I ought to have done?’ The result of this interrogation makes one cautious and mindful of his actions.
There are hundreds of tips and tricks available for getting a good night’s sleep but the most important one says ‘early to bed, early to rise’. By going to bed early, one can also wake up early in the morning. Prayers and a little bit of exercise help one sleep soundly.
However, sleep suffers due to a number of reasons such as over-involvement in worldly affairs, and excessive ambitions in various spheres of life. Similarly, overeating and other worrisome situations are problems that affect our sleep; these should be addressed.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2020