Can the Sleep Deprived Skip Fajr Prayers?

According to the Sleep Health Survey in Australia (2016), sleep problems are common. 33-45% of Australian adults report inadequate sleep and close to 20% have significant sleep disorders. This problem is not exclusive to Australia, but is found around the globe in countries such as America, England, and even Islamic countries such as Iran.

Sleep deprivation has many negative side effects. It is caused by a consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Furthermore, it might be caused by a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, parasomnias, etc. There are signs of sleep deprivation, such as excessive sleepiness, frequent yawning, irritability, and daytime fatigue.

If sleep deprivation persists it can lead to hallucination, trigger a manic phase in people living with Bipolar, or lead to other psychological risks such as impulsive behaviour, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

The best treatment for sleep deprivation is prevention by limiting daytime naps, refraining from caffeine past noon, going to bed at the same time each night, waking up at the same time each morning, sticking to your bedtime schedule during the weekend, relaxing before bed, avoiding heavy metals for a few hours before bed, refraining from electronic devices before bed, exercise in the day, and (hopefully easy for Muslims) no alcohol.

Due to the prevalence of sleep problems, Shaykh Zaid Alsalami was recently asked whether one who suffers from sleep deprivation due to anxiety can skip fajr prayer in order increase their sleep. He answered the question beautifully:

“I am sure you as a Muslim know that worship and prayer is the greatest and most effective tool to battle anxiety and stress. As the holy Quran says, with the remembrance of God hearts will become tranquil. By someone seeing prayer as a burden or something that would hinder their mental stability, or even sleeping pattern, this shows they have not yet discovered what true faith and worship is.

The best time to gain focus in life, or rizq, or mental and spiritual stability is fajr time. Adopting a healthy and religious sleeping pattern will enable one to get good sleep, and also fuflil their basic religious requirements.

Of course, it will mean that one would have to change certain things in their daily routine, like avoiding things that keep them awake at night, avoiding caffeine, sleeping early, creating better atmosphere at home, and so on.