The Prophet’s Sunnah on How a Muslim should Sleep

What was the Prophet’s Sunnah of sleeping?

The Prophet's Sunnah was to sleep on his right side with his knees bent, arm under his head. This is how he lay. So you can lie (sleep) like that, or on your left side, or your back, but don’t sleep on your stomach. This is the instruction of the Prophet (ﷺ).

About 25 years ago I read an article, which was published in Time Magazine in which scientists were analysing the latest developments in surgery on the spine. And they spoke about the various new operations that they were performing on the back. And at the end of it all, they had a list of doctor’s recommendations to avoid problems of the spine.

First point on the list was: DON’T SLEEP ON YOUR STOMACH. That was number one on the list. And they went on to explain why scientifically; when you lie on the stomach the spine has no support in front of it but your soft organs. When you lie on the back you are directly on the bed – if you have a firm bed – which gives support to your back. But when you lie on your stomach, all that is in front of it are your intestines, your stomach and other organs etc., so the spine tends to surge downwards.

And they said that this is one of the major causes of what they call ‘Sway Back’, where people in old age can’t walk straight any more; the back starts to curve as a result of that.

That’s one of the problems, but there are other greater problems. Anyways, Muslims didn’t have to wait 1400 years to find out, they just stopped sleeping on their stomachs.

In 1989, scientists in the UK studying what was known as Cot Death or SDS – Sudden Death Syndrome, where kids, one year olds or few months old, die in their sleep for no apparent reason.They wanted to find out the cause of Cot Death. What leads to it? Researchers studied the homes of families whose children had died and asked them to list the circumstances of the room temperature, all these kind of things around the child when he/she died. Was the room temperature high? Was it low? Were you smoking in the room? What kind of mattress did you use? A variety of different things they asked the parents. Then they collated this information and found the common factors was that children were put to sleep on their stomachs. This was immediately announced in the newspapers in the UK, to the US etc., and to the rest of the world. From 1989, medically people were instructed not to put children to sleep on their stomachs. And this was against conventional wisdom, because the nurses/midwives who deal with small children commonly would put the child to rest on their stomachs. When they have colic etc, and crying or have gas, they would put them on the stomach and it seemed to go away. However, now the doctors are saying don’t do it. Nine years later statistics showed that with the promotion of not putting to sleep on their stomachs that the rate of Cot Death had dropped over 70%. And I just read in Time Magazine, just a week ago, they mentioned again that stopping the practice of sleeping on the stomach had reduced and continued to reduce beyond that time by over 50%.

But Muslims didn’t have to wait 1400 years to know this. The Prophet (saw) instructed us and we do it. And that should be our approach. We don’t have to have this kind of evidence, though it is useful and helpful, but it is also reminder to us that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) instructed us based on what was revealed to him by Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).

So the same way we accept in our Shahadah what Allah has said, we also accept what Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) has said.

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