Prayers for Sleep from The World’s Major Religions
9 min read
Last Modified 22 July 2022 First Added 12 February 2021
Whether you’re religious or not, there’s plenty to be said for the slowing down and relaxation that comes with prayers for sleep. From the use of Dua for sleep in Islam to the many sleep references in Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Hindi texts, sleep plays a bigger role than we first may imagine in nearly all religions. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most commonly used prayers for sleep and identify what benefits may arise from adding prayer to your sleep routine.
From non-spiritual prayers for sleep through to sacred sleep rituals, there are many different forms of sleep prayer. Here, we’ll explore the most popular. Expect everything from Buddhist yogic practices centred on slowing our thoughts to Duas for sleep from Islam and plenty more:
Mantras are a word or sound that is repeated to improve concentration and focus, especially for practices like meditation and yoga. When talking spiritually, they refer to a sacred word or prayer that’s repeated as an act of worship. In the Hindu faith, it’s believed that negative energies and forces are more likely to affect us at night-time and there are a number of mantras to help.
Perhaps the most famous are the Ratrisukta mantras. These are a set of sleep mantras which are given in worship to Ratri, the Goddess of Night.
Ratri, is a Vedic goddess mostly associated with night. The majority of references to Ratri are found in Rigveda and is associated with Ushas. Together with Ushas she is referred to as a powerful mother and strengthener of vital power. She represents cyclic rhythmic patterns of the cosmos.
There are also sleep mantras for the Goddess of Night, known as Nidra.
Nidra Devi is a Hindu goddess who [is] mainly related with night. Her details are found in Rigveda, and also in several ancient sacred Hindu texts. She is mentioned as an affectionate mother and the giver of spiritual power.
She acts as an important deity for those who suffer from sleeplessness, tiredness, lack of energy [and more…]
If you want to get involved and start using Hindu mantras for sleep, check out this post by hindujugrati for the specific words to chant as you prepare for sleep.
Like most Buddhist practices, this is less of a prayer and more of a meditation technique. Buddhists don’t believe in or worship to a god. Rather, they see Buddhism as a way of life. They do worship the Buddha though, but this is out of respect for the example he sets. Buddha is considered an extraordinary man as opposed to an all-powerful god.
Within Buddhism, plenty of attention is given to meditation and yogic practices. Vipassana meditation is one of the most popular, especially when it comes to preparing for sleep. Vipassana is all about checking in with the body through what’s called a body scan. When lying in bed and ready to sleep, this form of meditation gives the mind a specific focus, draws us into the present, and helps push the worries and stresses of the day to one side.
Here’s a step by step from Larisa Andras, a writer and recovering insomniac reporting on her successes with this sleep approach for Medium.com:
1. With your eyes closed, take a few breaths, and try to feel the air coming in and going out. Don’t label it in any way. Just observe the sensations around your nostrils and on the area above your upper lip.
2. Then, move your attention from your breath to the top of your head, and observe any sensations that arise there. It can be anything — itching, pressure, numbness, pain, or tingling, to name a few.
3. As soon as you feel anything at the top of your head, pick another patch on your scalp to examine.
4. This way, progress down your entire body, one small patch at a time. From your scalp to your face (eyes, nose, cheekbones, etc.), and then down to your neck.
5. Next, start with one arm, and observe the sensations in your shoulder, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, wrist, palm, and finally, your fingers.
6. After you’re done with one arm, move on to the other one, and so on until you have scanned your entire body. Unless you fall asleep before you even get to your neck.
Read more: Sleep Meditation Techniques
In Islam, Dua is a type of prayer which centres around a request from the worshipper to Allah. It’s defined as a ‘prayer of supplication or request’ and is often used before sleep. Here’s an example of a dua for sleep from Islamicfinder.org:
أَمْسَكْتَ نَفْسِي فَارْحَمْهَا، وَإِنْ أَرْسَلْتَهَا فَاحْفَظْهَا، بِمَا تَحْفَظُ بِهِ عِبَادَكَ الصَّالِحِينَ.Bismika rabbee wadaAAtu janbee wabika arfaAAuh, fa-in amsakta nafsee farhamha, wa-in arsaltaha fahfathha bima tahfathu bihi AAibadakas-saliheenIn Your name my Lord, I lie down and in Your name I rise, so if You should take my soul then have mercy upon it, and if You should return my soul then protect it in the manner You do so with Your righteous servants.
Sleep and rest are often referenced throughout the Bible; sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. We’ll explore some of these, taken from OpenBible.info before offering one Christian prayer that’s used before sleep:
If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Often, as is clear from the above, Christians see the route to well-rested sleep best achieved by a day spent working hard or outdoors experiencing the wonders of the world. And there is some truth to this, being outdoors helps your body produce melatonin which in turn helps you fall asleep at night. So, get out and enjoy the world, spend your days actively and good sleep should come. If not, here’s a simple prayer you can add to your bedtime routine which may help you in your bid to nod off with ease. (We’ll explore exactly why prayer can help sleep a little further into the article.)
Oh Heavenly Father, as I lay my head down to sleep, I ask for your comfort and strength. Ease my mind. Help me to let everything go, and leave it all in your hands. Give me peace that I may sleep without tossing and turning.
If solo prayer isn’t quite your thing, there are a bunch of Christian meditation apps which centre on finding peace and managing anxiety; helpful before bed, no doubt! Here’s an excerpt from christianitytoday.com on the very matter:
Christian meditation apps—with names like Abide, Pray, One Minute Pause, Soultime, Soulspace, and, for Catholics, Hallow—have entered the scene more recently, adding prayer and Scripture to the digital landscape of soft voices and nature sounds.
Read more: 30 Quotes About Sleep You Need To Read
So, now we’ve provided a range of prayers and practices from some of the world’s major religions, it’s time to explore whether they actually help us drift off to sleep.
Most important is to draw comparisons between prayer and mindfulness. Anything that draws us into the present, or at least away from the many thoughts and stresses of the day will help us get to sleep easier.
Any of the above prayers do exactly this and set our focus before bed away from the niggling doubts and anxieties we’ve accumulated over the duration of the day. It’s a great way to turn our attention towards something calm and sleep-inspiring.
But don’t just take our word for it, here’s a run-down of some studies on the impact of prayer and religion on sleep quality.
In an article for neurosciencenews.com, based on a study by the Sociology department at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), religious practice and prayer was shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality. It wasn’t foolproof however, as it didn’t show any impact on the use of sleep medication or those who suffered from restless sleep.
The data showed that religious attendance and frequency of prayer were positively associated with overall sleep quality but unrelated to restless sleep and use of sleep medications. Ellison and his collaborators concluded religion could decrease psychological distress, substance abuse and stress exposure, which are all associated with sleep outcomes.
The study analysed a wide range of people from different religions with different practices and concluded that:
people who have higher levels of religious involvement tend to have healthier sleep outcomes than their less religious counterparts.
Ellison, the chief researcher in the study, believes that these positive effects were mainly to do with mental health and how that in turn affects sleep. Those who involve themselves in religious community and prayer are likely to have a higher sense of hope and optimism, alongside greater social engagement which makes them less anxious and therefore more likely to sleep.
In another study, comparing spiritual meditation to its non-religious counterpart, more positive impacts of religion and prayer were found:
Researchers found that the group that practiced spiritual meditation showed greater decreases in anxiety and stress and more positive mood. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long when asked to put their hand in an ice water bath.
This study was centred towards the question of whether spiritual practice can help reduce anxiety. Clearly, the study found evidence to back up that claim. Insomnia and less extreme sleep problems often overlap with anxiety and stress and therefore anything that can help one, often helps the other. Read more about that in our guide on reducing anxiety for a better night’s sleep.
So, there you have it, a number of prayers from the world’s major religions and a little bit of science to back up why you should consider implementing worship into your sleep routine. In the meantime, check out our post on Sleep Beliefs and Legends from Around the World.