Many people complain about their sleep patterns during Ramadan. Some complain about sleeping too much during the day and not being able to sleep at night, or those who complain of little sleep due to their busy schedules and the extra demands of Ramadan with Taraweeh, suhoor, etc.; this article aims to offer a solution to these complaints. Enjoy!
We want to tackle this issue with practical advice in these two posts. But first, a bit of theory:
Sleep can be understood from both a physical perspective and a spiritual perspective. Our aim is to be able to understand how the two perspectives are interlinked.
Physical Perspective of Sleep:
The physical perspective of sleep is perhaps the easiest to understand as it is the easiest to observe. Numerous studies have been done to understand how we sleep and what our optimal sleep cycle is. Here’s a quote that’s relevant to us:
“During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep restorative sleep (deep sleep) and more alert stages and dreaming (REM sleep). Together, the stages of REM and non-REM sleep form a complete sleep cycle that repeats until you wake up. The amount of time you spend in each stage of sleep changes as the night progresses.
For example, most deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night. Later in the night, your REM sleep stages become longer, alternating with light Stage 2 sleep. This is why if you are sensitive to waking up in the middle of the night, it is probably in the early morning hours, not immediately after going to bed.” (Source: http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm )
Now here’s an important bit for us for Ramadan:
“Even if you’ve enjoyed a full night’s sleep, getting out of bed isn’t easy if your alarm goes off when you’re in the middle of the deeper stages of sleep (especially stages 3 and 4). If you want to make mornings less painful, set a wake-up time that’s a multiple of 90 minutes, the length of the average sleep cycle. For example, if you go to bed at 10 PM, set your alarm for 5:30 AM (a total of 7 ½ hours of sleep) instead of 6:00 or 6:30. You’ll feel more refreshed at 5:30 than you will, with another 30 to 60 minutes of sleep, because you’re getting up when your body and brain are already close to wakefulness.” (Source: http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm)
Spiritual Perspective of Sleep
The spiritual understanding of sleep is often neglected, even though it is essential to understand in order to improve the quality of our “physical” sleep.
1. The first understanding of the spiritual side of sleep is that sleep is a sign or ayah of the Power and Might of Allah ; Allah says in the Greatest verse of the Quran, Ayat Al-Kursi:
“Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.”
I want us to concentrate on this part: “No slumber can seize Him nor sleep”. If I ask one of you: how many hours can you go without sleep? The maximum answer I’ll probably hear is 24 hours or maybe 36 or 48 but eventually we all know that you’ll submit to sleep. Sleep has been described as the “gentle tyrant” because it forces us to give up everything we do and submit to its will. Now think about that in the context of the Supremacy and Power of Allah Whom no slumber can seize nor sleep and you realise how weak we are and how we’re in need of Him.
There’s a beautiful story – not sure how authentic it is – about Musa asking Allah how come He never sleeps. Allah asked Musa to hold 2 buckets of water and just stand. Soon Musa began to feel sleepy and slowly he wasn’t able to hold the 2 buckets until they slipped from his hand and all that it contained was spilt. Allah then told Musa that the same would happen to the World, if He was affected by slumber or sleep.
2. The second understanding that we need to have of sleep is that sleep is a blessing from Allah and a favour upon us from Him, Allah says in the Quran:
”And it is He Who makes the night a covering for you, and the sleep (as) a repose, and makes the day Nushur (i.e. getting up and going around for daily work, after one’s sleep at night).” (Al-Furqan, 25:47)
“And among His Signs is your sleep by night and by day, and your seeking of His Bounty. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who listen.” (Ar-Room, 30:23)
And just like all his favours upon us, it needs to be thanked. How do we thank Allah for sleep? By using it to energize ourselves to worship Him better, and not using it as an excuse to miss many of His commands (like missing Fajr!).
3. The third spiritual understanding of sleep is that it is the sister of death, and a reminder for us about the day of resurrection. Just like we sleep each night and wake up each morning, so too shall we die one day and be resurrected on the day of Judgement. Allah says in the Quran:
”It is Allah Who takes away the souls 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 a people who think deeply.” (Az-Zumar, 39:42)
Understanding that sleep is a sign of Allah , a blessing from Him, and a reminder of our ultimate destination gives an entire new dimension to sleep. We stop seeing sleep as simply having to fulfill X amount of hours each night or week, but something bigger.
Moreover, now we can understand how righteous men and scholars would sleep little at night yet have more energy during the day than me and you! The answer is that Allah puts barakah and blessing in their sleep so they benefit more from their few hours of sleep and hence have more energy during the day. They gained this status because they’ve given up their sleep for Him, and Allah is rewarding them. Allah describes them in the Quran:
“They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Lord (Allah) and praying, with fear and hope.” (Adh-Dhariyat, 51:17)
Equipped with the above understanding, we can now go about addressing the practical aspects of managing sleep during Ramadan in Part 2.
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