For many years I have stayed up most of the night. I am concerned that this is a sin against G-d. If i worked on it I could sleep at night like other people and be more active during the day. I wonder about this - what does Jewish tradition or law say about this?
The famous passage from Koheles 1:9 (Ecclesiastes) states " ...and there is nothing new under the sun." Our rabbis pose the following question: If there is nothing new under the sun, does that suggest that there is something new above the sun? In a sense, 'under the sun' can be understood to refer to daytime; 'above the sun', night. What might be new during the night? Night, our rabbis tell us, is a prime opportunity for praying, reading, and creative contemplation.
Is staying up most of the night 'a sin against G-d', the questioner asks? It all depends upon what one does during one's waking hours -- be they at night or during the day! Even one not engaged in praying, reading and creative contemplation can accomplish important things in the still of the night. For example, many hospitals and health care facilities require staffing round-the-clock. One engaged in any 'kosher' job or profession that involves working a nighttime-shift benefits himself or herself, and benefits society.
A nocturnal life-style does, though, have some disadvantages from a traditional Jewish perspective. Opportunities for social interaction and communal involvement may be minimal or non-existent for one awake when most sleep. Jewish life and living, in the fullest sense of the term, requires us to be part of a community. One who sleeps during the daytime all week long will miss out on daily communal prayer services, and the spiritual fellowship of his or her community on Shabbat.
The hours a person keeps have no Jewish significance, ethical or spiritual. In fact, there are several practices related to late night learning and prayer that take advantage of the quiet and reflective nature of midnight and very early morning. The more important issue is the quality of your spiritual life and human interactions.
One concern would be the health of your schedule. Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep?Are you going to bed at a consistent hour and waking up at a consistent hour? Most studies show that these two issues are essential for health, happiness, and well-being.
Second, is this schedule giving you opportunities to engage with friends and family? If your peers are on a similar schedule, then this seems fine. If, by contrast, this schedule is cutting you off from others, that could be problematic.
Jewish prayer practices do require some alertness at each stage of the day. Therefore, one ought to be aware and awake at such moments, regardless of when you are otherwise sleeping. Ideally, the Shema is recited twice a day, once before the third hour after sunrise, and once between full dark and midnight. Within those constraints, there are a lot of possible schedules.
Put another way, I don’t think God is angry at you for keeping a non-traditional schedule. However, your body and mind are holy, in the image of God, and this requires caring for yourself.
I don't believe that you need to be concerned about your late hours being a sin against G-d.
Jewish law does not address this in specific.
Jewish sages and scholars of the past have had some very 'non-traditional' schedules. I am thinking here about the Iggeret from Rambam to a friend, in which he describes his normal schedule. What he lays out as the usual pattern for him strikes me as brutal. In the end he counsels the friend that he is welcome to come visit, and would be welcome, but the only time available for visiting would be the two hours a night that Maimonides would otherwise sleep - the other 22 were already completely committed! In comparison this this sort of pattern, your more nocturnal (reversed day-night) pattern seems fairly tame.
As other rabbis will certainly tell you, the issue is not when you sleep specifically, but that you sleep enough to be healthy, and that you not use your non-traditional pattern as a way to avoid contact with others.
I think that if you examine your well-being, and your motivations for the nocturnal pattern, if there is no cause for concern in either area, this is nothing that approaches 'sin'; and if it is the way your body functions best, and you are able to maintain your relationships and meet your obligations to others and yourself, it is not a reason to be concerned.
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