If you are in crisis, please call the suicide and crisis hotline at 988. For other emergencies, please call 911 or visit your nearest hospital.

Sleep – Your Way to Better Mental Health

Sleep - Your Way to Better Mental Health

Have you ever noticed, when you have not had a good night’s sleep or when you stayed up too late for a couple of days, you find yourself a little edgy, maybe anxious, even a little clumsy and worrisome? 

Sleep and mental health are very closely connected, and sleep deprivation affects not just one’s physical state but also mental health. Some of the effects of lack of sleep or improper sleep include:

  • Weakened immune system 
  • Mental confusion
  • Premature aging
  • Loss of natural beauty
  • More sensitive to pain
  • Vehicular accidents 
  • Increased clumsiness and falls
  • Mood Problems
  • Eating Disorders 
  • Delusions and Hallucinations

If we particularly focus on one of what I believe is the most significant impact of sleep deprivation on mental health, it is the impact on one’s mood and functioning. When we are chronically sleep deprived, we may show deficiencies in reasoning, like making premature conclusions without looking at all aspects of a problem. Furthermore, this may lead to irritability and poor frustration tolerance. For some people, lack of sleep may even lead to emotional outbursts, such as anger and aggressive behaviors. 

So, is there something we can do to improve our sleep?

Sleep Hygiene

Why do we need to talk about sleep hygiene? For years and many generations, have not people have been sleeping night after night? 

The reality is that many people have trouble falling asleep. Lack of sleep is a common and prominent concern in our 24 hour modern society. 

Some common strategies we can try to implement as part of our sleep hygiene include the following:

Unplugging before going to bed

Build a routine

A healthy sleep routine should include a consistent wake up time and bedtime, as it helps set our body’s clock and helps us get good quality sleep. In order to start figuring out your routine, one trick is to plan backwards from the time you know you have to wake up in order to figure out your ideal bedtime. 

Consistency is key, therefore it may be easier to make smaller adjustments everyday to achieve a more set schedule in the long term. It is also important to be patient with oneself when trying to form a new habit.

Winding down

These include a set of activities that we do before bedtime that can help us relax and prepare ourselves for rest. When done consistently it signals to the mind and body that it is time to sleep and falling asleep becomes easier.

    • Practicing simple breathing exercises
    • Engaging the body in some gentle stretches
    • Taking a warm bath
    • Practicing mindfulness or meditation
    • Writing our thoughts down / journaling 
    • Listening to soothing sounds

Unplug from electronics

The blue light emitted by our electronics can impact our bodies production of melatonin (sleep hormone), which then negatively impacts the sleep cycle. Therefore it is important to turn off our electronics at least an hour before bed and below are somethings to help with that:

  • Try using an old-fashioned alarm clock for your alarms
  • Having a docking station far from your bed
  • Find a physical book you like to read instead of scrolling mindlessly.
    Reading can engage our imagination and may help to decrease our mental chatter. If you are not sure about trying this … think about the age old tradition of reading or storytelling as part of kids night time routine and how it works!
  • Choose a family activity you can all partake in instead of using electronics, make it a tradition!
  • Use the do not disturb function to avoid any notifications.

Nutrition and Sleep

Avoid excessive eating

Lack of sleep can impact our food choices and appetite negatively. Eating too much especially close to bedtime can interfere with digestion and lead to heartburn. Therefore, it is recommended to maintain a gap between dinner and sleep.

Do not consume stimulants close to bedtime

Stimulants are commonly associated with wakefulness and they include things like coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. We should try and stop taking stimulants in the late afternoon or evening.

The Place of Sleep

  • Have a comfortable mattress and pillow
  • A cool and comfortable temperature (find a temperature that works for you but err on the cooler side).
  • A place free from distractions (drown out any noise)
  • Block out light to avoid interrupting your sleep

Islamic Etiquettes and Sleep

In Islam, sleep is considered a spiritual ascent. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) says “ A believer’s soul travels to the heavens during sleep where God greets him and bestows upon him his bounties.”

Performing Ablution (Wudhu) before bedtime

Wudhu has a considerable effect upon the body including soothing our nerves and helps us improve our quality of sleep. Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) says that “ If a person performs wudu and goes to bed, his bed is like his mosque and place of worship as long as he sleeps.”

Brushing one’s teeth

Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has mentioned that brushing one’s teeth is counted as among the habits of our holy prophets. It helps us keep our mouth and teeth healthy.

The Time of Sleep

Sūrah al-Furqān (Verse 47) – “And He it is Who appointed the night for you to be a covering, and sleep as a rest, and He appointed the day a rising.” This verse teaches us to be in tune with nature, rather than staying awake at night time and sleeping mostly at day time. When we are in harmony with nature then we can experience more calmness and tranquility. Research has also indicated that day time sleep does not fully compensate for the loss of night time sleep.

Day time naps recommended in Islam are called Qaylulah – A short nap before noon. The advantage of this is it allows us to re-charge and continue with the rest of the day. 

Worst times to sleep are:

  • Sleeping between the time of Fajr and sunrise
  • Sleeping at Asr time (mid-afternoon)
  • Sleeping before Isha Prayers

Calming the Heart

When we lie down to rest at night in the dark, our mind may start revisiting things that happened in the day and we may start pondering or dwelling on the details which could lead to sleeplessness. Being mindful of the presence of God and remembering him can help us feel secure and taken care of which can then lead to having a peaceful sleep.

Supplications recommended to recite before bedtime:

  • The last verse of Sūrah al-Kahf (verse 110). Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) says “He who recites the last verse of Sūrah al-Kahf will be able to wake up at any hour of his liking”.

Reciting Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrah al-Falaq, Sūrah an-Nās, Sūrah Yāsīn, and Āyatul Kursī.

Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (ʿa) has mentioned that whoever experiences fear while trying to fall asleep should recite Sūrah an-Nās, Sūrah al-Falaq and Āyatul Kursī.”

What an ideal sleep hygiene looks like will vary from individual to individual, the goal is to try and test out what adjustments suit and work out best for you.

The key is to take small steps in our everyday life in order to improve the quality of our life.

Resources to read:

Abhari, G.H. (2014) For better sleep. Ansariyan Publications.

Chattu, V. K., Manzar, M. D., Kumary, S., Burman, D., Spence, D. W., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2018, December). The global problem of insufficient sleep and its serious public health implications. In Healthcare (Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 1). MDPI.

Scott, A. J., Webb, T. L., Martyn-St James, M., Rowse, G., & Weich, S. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 60, 101556.

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