fbpx
  • [3-Minute Blog] 5 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

    The past two weeks we have looked at what inflammation is and what foods can trigger its onset.  

    This week I want to show you five natural ways to reduce inflammation. 

    Sleep at least 7 hours a night

    Sleep is a topic which we have discussed extensively on this blog. And for good reason too. There has been much research on the effects of losing sleep on the body, one of which is inflammation. Sleeping less even for a single night increases inflammation in your body. 

    A crucial routine that must be established in your sleeping routine is setting a specific time in which you go to sleep and wake up. This is so that you are in line with your circadian rhythm which is an important aspect of good health.

    The circadian rhythm is basically your 24-hour internal clock which is also known as your sleep/wake cycle. It works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day. When these routines are disrupted, it can cause a person to feel under the weather and makes it harder to pay attention. 

    In addition to that, the disruption of the circadian rhythm can also dysregulate your immune system and with it, your levels of inflammation can also go up too.   

    Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet

    There isn’t a specific anti-inflammatory diet per se. Rather it’s the choices you make. 

    In simple terms, an anti-inflammatory diet contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains and spices. Exactly the same “diet” that I encourage my clients to adapt. (Want to find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme? Click here

    An anti-inflammatory diet also limits the consumption of sugar, processed foods, refined carbs and unhealthy fats. We discussed foods that can onset inflammation in the previous blog, you can read it here.

    But how does an anti-inflammatory diet combat inflammation? An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on foods which contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants can be found in a lot of fruit and vegetables and contain the key to fighting off harmful by-products in our bodies called free radicals which are dangerous as they can damage cells leading to inflammation. Other key foods to combat inflammation are omega-3 containing foods found in fish and nuts. 

    If you want a simple approach to an anti-inflammatory diet, then read about my simple nutrition philosophy.  

    Exercise regularly 

    Most people exercise to lose weight. But the fact is, exercise isn’t just a weight-loss tool, it is, more importantly, a well-being tool. This is one of the crucial first lessons I teach my clients. 

    Regular exercise is essential, regardless of your age and weight. Just like our body needs food, the body also needs movement. Nearly every single cell in the body’s well-being is connected with movement. What does it mean for us? The more we move, the better we feel.

    When we exercise, inflammation is brought down by the removal of waste by the lymphatic system. The fresh pump of blood and oxygen around the body allows the build-up of toxins in the body to be removed as well as gently restoring your digestive system. So whether or not you want to shed that fat, burning your calories will help you greatly in reducing inflammation. 

    As little as 20-minutes daily exercise is shown to reduce inflammation significantly. Also, there are many research studies confirming the beneficial effects of exercise on inflammation. 

    Maintain a healthy weight 

    Most people are unaware of the fact that their own excess body fat can cause dangerous implications to their health such as inflammation. If you want to know more about how being overweight is directly linked to inflammation, I would highly recommend reading this research study

    The link between obesity and increased inflammation is pretty much an established fact in science. So if you are overweight, you certainly need to start doing something to lose your excess weight. 

    If you need my help, I’m more than pleased to help you achieve that dream ( Find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme here).

    Use spices and herbs

    Most people think superfoods are expensive and out of reach. But the truth is, every one of us has easy access to these superfoods and don’t even know it. These underappreciated superfoods are already lying in your kitchen closet. Yep, I’m talking about spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are extremely potent when compared to any other foods. Adding them to your food can increase the antioxidant power of your meal, and they also taste good too. 

    The top two spices that reduce inflammation are garlic and turmeric. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas shows that curcumin (an active substance in turmeric) is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.

    Spices and herbs like cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, rosemary and sage are also known for their powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. 

    So next time you cook, make sure to add those spices and herbs to increase the antioxidant power of your meal. 

    Three Take Away Lessons: 

    1. Sleep! Maintaining good sleep hygiene is an important part of regulating inflammation 
    2. Eat a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet. How? Pack in those antioxidants found in fruit & vegetables as well as spices & herbs
    3. Exercising regularly will help to reduce inflammatory factors and contribute to your overall well being
  • The Prophetic Sleep Routine

    Reading Time: 5 minutes and 49 seconds

    This week, I am going to help you earn rewards while you sleep, bi’idnillah!  

    It really is an excellent way to earning reward as a third of our lives are spent in bed. 

    As long as the following conditions are met, you will be rewarded:

    1. Sleeping with the right intention 
    2. Following the Sunnah of the Prophetic sleep routine

    The Power of Good Intention

    It’s true, most of us are not aware of the power of having the right intention. If you set your intention correctly, you may receive more rewards from this than from your own deeds. 

    Incredibly, just by maintaining good intentions, you can earn as many rewards from worldly activities as well as acts of worship. 

    When Muad ibn Jabal (RA) was asked to describe his night prayer, he said, “I expect Allah to reward me for my sleep, just as much He rewards me for my tahajjud.” 

    When he would go to sleep, he would intend, “Oh Allah, to worship you perfectly, I have to rest my body. So thank you for this blessing of sleep, and I’ll wake up to pray thahajjud for you.”

    So before you sleep, remember to set your intention. Perhaps you may earn more rewards then while you are awake. 

    The Prophetic Sleep Routine

    Before I discuss this, I would like to point out that we don’t have a recorded sleep routine for our Beloved Prophet (PBUH). So, in actual fact, we cannot claim that he was doing precisely these steps every night before he slept.

    But we do have many sleep-related authentic narrations from him. This is just a construe based on those authentic narrations.

    We know from the Sunnah that the Prophet (PBUH) would go to sleep early, soon after ‘Isha. He disliked engaging in conversation after ‘Isha. He (PBUH) used to dislike sleeping before ‘Isha and speaking afterwards. (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

    The Prophet’s (PBUH) day ended soon after ‘Isha. He wouldn’t spend his time socializing or engaging in any worldly matters. He would spend some time with his family and then would get ready to go to bed.

    So when it was time to sleep:

    1. He (PBUH) would make wudhu before going to bed

    Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whenever you go to bed, perform ablution like that for the prayer, and lie on your right side” (Saheeh Muslim)

    2. He would switch off the lights before sleeping

    It is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Put out lamps when you go to bed, shut the doors, and cover water and food containers” (Saheeh Al-Buhari)

    This may correspond with the current scientific understanding that it is essential to maintain a dark environment during sleep so as not to disrupt the circadian rhythm and assist in the production of melatonin. 

    3. He would dust and clean the bed before sleeping

    Prophet (PBUH) said, “When anyone of you goes to bed, he should take hold of the edge of his lower garment and then should clean (his bed) with the help of that and then should recite the name of Allah” (Saheeh Muslim)

    4. He would make loads of dhikr and recite a part of the Quran before sleeping

    Here you will find a list of all the supplications and Surahs he (PBUH) recited just before sleep.

    5. He would sleep lying on his right side, placing his right hand under his cheek

    He (PBUH) said, “Whenever you go to bed, perform ablution like that for the prayer, and lie on your right side” (Sahih Muslim). In another hadeeth in Sahih Muslim, it is narrated that when he wants to go to sleep, he (PBUH) would place his right hand under his cheek.

    And we Muslims know that following the Sunnah in all spheres of our life leads us to great glory in both worlds. Scientists now testify that this simple act of lying on the right is good for your heart! Subhanallah!

    So let’s try to follow this beautiful Sunnah and make our sleep a means of ‘ibadah!

    Did the Prophet (PBUH) Sleep Eight Hours a Night? 

    In What Islam Says About Sleep, we discussed that Quran and Sunnah emphasize the importance of sleep. So you may wonder, whether or not Islam also instructs us how many hours to sleep. 

    When worldly matters are concerned, Islam provides us with the framework on how to live a successful life but doesn’t force us with any details. 

    For instance, Islam says “eat halal and good food, but don’t overeat”. The objective of this general framework is to help you preserve and maintain good health. So anything that potentially harms your health (for instance, consuming too much sugar) should be avoided to one’s best of ability. 

    Similarly, the goal of sleep is to rest well and recuperate. A good night of sleep improves all sorts of health markers. However, sleep deprivation does harm to your health. From the past articles, we discussed how science confirms that sleeping less than seven hours a night on a regular basis harms your health. 

    Based on the general Islamic framework and the scientific confirmation of the hazards of sleep deprivation, I would argue it’s Islamic to sleep at least seven hours a night. 

    Now coming back to the question, whether the Prophet (PBUH) slept for eight hours a night regularly, we don’t have a definitive answer. I do have a rough number in my mind based on some calculation, but that’s just my calculation. What we know for sure about his sleep routine is this: 

    • He used to sleep soon after Isha
    • He used to pray in the last third of the night. It was obligatory for him.
    • He used to be very regular with day time naps. His naps helped him to be awake during night prayer. 

    What Muslim Scholars Say About Sleep 

    I was keen to know what Muslim Scholars say about sleep. I found the following passage from the Madaarij al-Saalikeen of Imam Ibn Al-Quyyum to be very profound. 

    Here is a small summary of what he said about sleep (the bullet and formating are mines): 

    The fifth corrupter is: sleeping too much, for it deadens the heart, makes the body heavy, wastes time, and generates a great deal of carelessness and laziness. Some of it is very makrooh, and some are harmful and brings no benefit to the body.

    Here are some of his top recommendations: 

    • The most beneficial of sleep is that which comes when the need for it is greatest. 
    • He recommends going to bed early and to rise early. He said, “sleeping at the beginning of the night is better than at the end, and sleeping in the middle of the day is better than sleeping at the beginning or end of the day.”
    • Sleeping after sunset and after ‘Asr is less beneficial and more harmful. He says “Among makrooh kinds of sleep in their view is sleeping between Fajr prayer and sunrise, because that is a precious time. This time is of great benefit for those who are devoted to Allaah; even if they had been worshipping all night, they would not allow themselves to stop at that time until the sun has risen, because it is the beginning of the day when provision comes down and is divided, and blessings are bestowed. That is the beginning of the day and the whole day depends on what happens during that time, no one should sleep at that time unless he is compelled to.”
    • As for sleeping after Maghrib (straight after sunset until the twilight has disappeared), he says it’s makrooh, and the Prophet (PBUH) disliked that.
    • As for resisting and avoiding sleep, he says “it will lead to other problems such as bad moods, muddled thinking, and exhaustion that prevents one from understanding and working properly. And it can lead to many fatal illnesses, whereby a person will not be able to think properly and will feel physically weak. Creation is based on balance, and whoever adheres to moderation has achieved all goodness.

    Then he sums up with the following passage: 

    To sum up: the best and most beneficial of sleep is sleep during the first half of the night, and the last sixth, which is equivalent to eight hours. This is the best sleep, according to doctors. Anything more or less than that will have a proportionately detrimental effect on the body, in their view. 

    Takeaway Lesson

    1. Sleeping with the right intention allows us to earn rewards while sleeping
    2. The way the Prophet (PBUH) slept is in line with modern scientific recommendations for good sleep
    3. According to Muslim Scholars, the best and most beneficial of sleep is sleep during the first half of the night, and the last sixth, which is equivalent to eight hours.
  • [3 Minute Blog] What Islam Says About Sleep

    Reading Time: 3 minutes and 4 sec

    In the last few weeks, we have focused on the scientific angle of sleep and how sleep influences every area of our life. 

    Today, I want to talk about sleep from the perspective of the Quran and Sunnah. 

    What the Quran Says About Sleep

    Islam is, no doubt the perfect way of life. In it, you find guidance to living a holistic life that is successful both in this world and the Aakhira. 

    Sleep is a vital ingredient for our well-being and success. Hence Islam talks about it quite extensively. 

    Prof. Ahmed BaHammam from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia has compiled an excellent research article called “Sleep from an Islamic Perspective”. In it, he details the Quranic perspective of sleep. Here are a few things that need a special mention: 

    • Sleep and its derivatives appear nine times in the Quran
    • There are five different types of sleep mentioned in the Quran, and these types correspond with sleep stages identified by modern science
    • The Quran discusses the beneficial effects of sleep. “Remember when He covered you with a slumber (Nu’ass) as a security from him” (Al-Quran, 8:11). This describes the fear and stress of the believers during the battle of Badr when slumber (Nu’ass) provided them with a feeling of security and relief from stress.
    • The Quran emphasises that sleep is made for our rest. “And we made your sleep (Subaat) as a thing for rest” (Al-Quran, 78.9)
    • In many verses, the Quran emphasises the importance of maintaining a pattern of light and darkness, which is necessary for our circadian rhythm. “And it is He who has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude” (Al-Quran, 25.62)

    And the most amazing Quranic ayah regarding sleep is, where Allah subuhanawuta’la declares sleep as one of His signs of greatness: “And among His signs is your sleep by night and by day and your seeking of His bounty, verily in that are Signs for those who listen” (Al Quran, 30:23)

    What the Sunnah Says about Sleep

    Prophet (SAW) emphasises the importance of getting enough sleep in dozens of hadiths.  

    In a hadith in Sahih Bukhari, the Prophet (SAW) said, “If anyone of you feels drowsy while praying he should go to bed (sleep) till his slumber is over”. 

    In another hadith, also mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, Prophet (SAW) saw a rope hanging in between the two pillars of the masjid. The rope was used by one of his wives to hold it when she felt tired while praying. Prophet (SAW) said “Don’t use it. Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired, sleep.”

    And in numerous other hadiths, Prophet (SAW) ordered the Companions to take care of their body. To a sahabi who was praying the whole night, he (SAW) said, “Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right on you.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari) 

    Aisha (RA) narrated a story about a woman who was sitting with her when Prophet (SAW) entered the house. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) inquired about that lady, Aisha (RA) replied, “She is so and so”. She does not sleep at night because she is engaged in prayer. The Prophet said disapprovingly, “Do (good) deeds which are within your capacity. Allah never gets tired of giving rewards until you get tired of doing good deeds.” (Musnad Ahmed)

    We see the same theme in all of these hadiths. The companions of the Prophet deprived their sleep for the worship of Allah. If there is one valid reason to deprive your sleep, then it should be for salah. Because prayer is better than sleep. Your Muaddin proclaims this fact every day at Fajr Adhan. 

    Despite this, Prophet Muhammed (SAW) disapproved of their actions and repeatedly told them to take care of their health and to sleep. 

    Now I want you to imagine, what would the Prophet (SAW) say about the reasons for our sleep deprivation. Netflix? Youtube? Late night shopping? Late-night socialisation? 

    May Allah subuhanawuta’la grant us understanding and help us to prioritise our health over entertainment. 

    Takeaway Lesson

    Here are three essential takeaway lessons from this article: 

    1. The importance of good sleep becomes remarkably clear when looking at how specifically the Quran and Sunnah talk about it in detail and abundance.  
    2. Prophetic Sunnah teaches us the beautiful sleep-worship balance. 
    3. You owe your body rest even if you are worshipping, never mind the other things that take place during your night. 

    Insha Allah, in the upcoming articles, we will look into the habits of the Prophet (SAW) and his sleeping pattern. 

  • [3-Minute Blog] Does everyone need 8 hours of sleep a night?

    Reading Time: 3 minutes 12 seconds

    By now, we know why we sleep and how crucial sleep is for our immune system, cardiovascular health, weight loss and mental health. I hope that all the articles helped to convince you that good sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. 

    As I have already alluded in those articles, most people need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. As a rule of thumb, if you strive to get eight hours of sleep a night, you are certainly on your way to mastering better sleep. 

    Does Everyone Need that Amount of Sleep?

    Throughout the history of human beings, we have mostly slept for more than eight hours a night. Even in the 1940s, research shows that an average American got 7.9 hours of sleep every night. 

    However, 70 years later, the average American gets 6 hours and 31 minutes of sleep each night. 1 out of 2 adults in America is not hitting the recommended eight hours of sleep. What is even worse, is that 1out of 3 people are trying to get by with only six hours or less of sleep every night. Staggeringly, over ten million American adults take some sleep aid to help with their sleeping. 

    Global Issue

    Although the statistics refer to Americans, it’s not just an American problem, rather a global one. The average number of hours of sleep a person gets has reduced in other countries too. Take Japan, for example, where individuals are getting only 6 hours and 21 minutes while those in the UK are getting 6 hours and 49 minutes. 

    Dr Mathew Walker argues, based on sound evidence that the number of people who can successfully survive on six hours of sleep, rounded to a whole number and expressed as a percentage of the population is zero. 

    Genetic Mutation of the DEC Gene

    There is, however, a tiny fraction of people who can survive on five hours or less of sleep. A genetic abnormality in the DEC gene enables these people to thrive while only having had six hours of sleep a night. Now, before you become thrilled at the possibility of having this gene mutation, know this. You are more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime (odds of 1/12,500) than you are to have this gene mutation. 

    Getting those Eight Hours of Sleep

    From my extensive scientific research, my conclusion is this: 

    About 90% of the human adult population need between seven to nine hours of sleep. Some need more than eight hours, and a very few need less than six hours of sleep a night. 

    Based on this, I try my best to get at least eight hours of sleep every single night. Getting my eight hours gives me great mental clarity and the energy I need to thrive every day. 

    However, as a Muslim living in Switzerland, I don’t always have the luxury of getting a solid eight hours of sleep during the summer as ‘Isha is late and Fajr is early. Still, I try to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep, even in Summer. 

    It’s not all so bad during the summer, because you may not necessarily need that much sleep as you do in winter. Your circadian rhythm, which regulates your body clock, is maintained by exposure to light. That means your need for sleep in winter isn’t the same in summer.

    While seven to nine hours of sleep is still a good benchmark all-year-round, you may find that you need an hour or two less than you did in the winter.

    Ditching your Devices 

    In scientific experiments, it has been found that when you isolate people, with no electricity, no alarm clocks, no phones or digital devices – they tend to sleep closer to nine hours. To be more precise, most people slept for 7.5 hours to 9.5 hours a night. And they also tended to go to bed earlier, and wake up earlier.

    So ditch your devices in the evening, and you’ll easily get your eight hours sleep. 

    The Sleep Need of Other Age Groups

    I’ve talked about the sleep need of adults. But what is the sleep need of other age groups?

    Here is the recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation:

    Age GroupRecommended Hours
    Newborns14-17 hours
    Infants (between 4 and 11 months)12-15 hours
    Toddlers (1-2 years old)11-14 hours
    Preschoolers (3-5 years old)10-13 hours
    Elementary (6-13 years old)9 -11 hours
    Teens (14-17 years old)8-10 hours
    Young Adults (18-25 years old)7-9 hours
    Adults (including seniors)7-8 hours
    Older Adults (65 years and older)7-8 hours

    What does Islam say about how many hours of sleep we need to be getting? That will be our topic for next week, insha Allah.

  • [3-Minute Blog] Why Poor Sleep Makes You an Unpleasant Person

    Reading Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds

    Sleep is incredibly essential for a healthy body and healthy mind. Dr Matthew Walker puts this so eloquently in his bestseller book, Why We Sleep:

    “Every major physiological system in your body, and every operation of the mind, is incredibly dependent on sleep, wonderfully enhanced when you get it, and markedly impaired when you don’t get enough.” 

    So there is a reason why I have been going on about sleep for the fourth week in a row. As a nutrition and exercise coach, I would single-handedly say sleep is more essential for your health than nutrition and movement. Sure, they are pillars of good health, but sleep is the very foundation of good health.

    Allah subuhanawuta’la in His endless Wisdom created sleep and declared it one of the signs of His greatness: “And among His signs is your sleep by night and by day and your seeking of His bounty, verily in that are Signs for those who listen” (Al Quran, 30:23)

    We spend one-third of our life sleeping. The very reason that Allah subuhanawuta’la made it so shows that sleep has an incredible impact on our lives. There is not a single act that consumes more of our time than sleep. 

    The goal of today’s article is this: To help you understand that poor sleep has a massive impact on your mental health, and how it can make you an unpleasant person to be around. 

    How Your Lack of Sleep Destroys Your Mood and Mental Health

    One of the most significant and most tangible results of sleep loss is clearly seen in your mood and mental health. It may be no news for you that lack of sleep makes you grumpy and insensitive. However, the latest scientific studies show that sleep deprivation also impacts your cognitive aptitude.

    There are many pathways as to how this occurs. One of the most important ones is that sleep deprivation “shuts down” your prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the front region of the brain which contributes to a wide variety of cognitive functions. Here are some of the roles of prefrontal cortex in relation to managing one’s mood and mental health.

    • managing emotional reactions and expression of personality 
    • focusing your attention and decision making 
    • planning for your future and
    • predicting the consequences of your actions

    So with less sleep, the emotional centres of your brain go haywire. Research shows that relative to a person with a full night’s sleep, your emotional part of the brain is 60% more reactive when there is a lack of sleep. 

    Here are a few things that happen to your mental state when you have a poor night of sleep;

    • Your decisions are riskier and can tend to be rash 
    • You find it difficult to focus 
    • Your capacity for empathy goes down
    • You lose your ability to understand the intentions of other people 
    • Increased anxiety – past 16 hours of wakefulness, your anxiety increases and the further you deprive yourself of sleep, the more anxious you become
    • Your sensitivity to pain increases

    In short, you aren’t a pleasant person to be around when you are sleep deprived. And that can have consequences on your marriage, parenting and various other aspects of your day to day life.

    Dr Matthew Walker also says, “In my lab, the most reliable thing we see when we deprive people of sleep of any dose – anxiety goes up”. 

    According to him, just one night of sleep deprivation can instigate a level of anxiety which would fall under the umbrella of a clinical anxiety order diagnosis. 

    Allah subuhanawuta’la has created sleep as an emotional first aid for us. Regardless of the heaviness of the problem you face, you feel much better after getting a full night of sleep. Scientists can now confirm that one of the most significant roles of our dream sleep (REM sleep) is to reset the emotional networks in our brain. 

    Less Sleep Makes You Less Attractive

    In a fascinating study, researchers found that poor sleep from just one night to the next makes you less charismatic. And that makes you less likely to inspire anyone too. 

    So today’s take away lesson is this: Go and get your 8 hours of beauty sleep. It doesn’t just make you a pleasant person, but also more appealing! 

  • [3-Minute Blog] How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Weight-loss and Performance

    Here is a quick background. In Why We Sleep, I spoke about the purpose of sleep. In How Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Immune System, I discussed how sleep deprivation affects your immune system, cardiovascular health and many other areas of your life.

    Today I explain how your sleep deprivation impacts your weight-loss and exercise performance. 

    Sleep and Weight-loss

    Healthy weigh-loss means that you lose your excess body fat while retaining your lean muscle mass. Your muscle mass is incredibly crucial for movement, flexibility, healthy ageing and obviously for looking toned and ripped. 

    One study found that people who were routinely sleeping less than 6 hours a night on a weight loss diet lost the same weight as those who slept 8.5 hours a day. But here is the caveat, the underslept group lost mostly muscle mass, whereas the well-slept group lost primarily fat. 

    In other words, your body will ruthlessly hold onto its fat when you are underslept. 

    Besides, your sleep deprivation leads to an increased risk of obesity. With a lack of sleep, your hunger hormones go wild. Leptin, the hormone that signals your satiety/fullness level after a meal, doesn’t rise as high as it should after a meal. This means even after a large meal, you’ll feel hungry and want to eat more. 

    But that’s not all, your ghrelin level – the hormone that signals your brain that you have had enough – continue to increase and signals to your brain that you still are hungry, despite that large meal. A double whammy on your efforts to lose weight! 

    The result? You tend to overeat by 200-300 calories per meal when you are sleep deprived. That’s a total of 70’000 extra calories each year, which translates into 4-5 kg of excess body fat a year. To make things even worse, your body craves more simple carbs and sugary foods (two culprits that lead to weight gain) when you are short of sleep.

    It’s a vicious cycle. When you eat a diet high in processed carbs and low in fibre (such as simple carbs and sugary foods), you tend to have 

    • Less amounts of deep sleep, 
    • take longer to fall asleep, and 
    • awake more throughout the night.

    Have you tried my Power Shake? Unlike the simple carbs and sugary food, it helps you improve all aspects of your health, bi’idnillah

    In another study, people were deprived of sleep for four hours per night for just two weeks suffered a 50% reduced ability to dispose of glucose into muscle tissue. On a simple level – the glucose (from those carbs and sugary foods you consumed) stays in the bloodstream, rather than being directed to muscle. 

    What’s the consequence? If your doctor took a blood test, he would declare you as a pre-diabetic. In short, you are just one step closer to getting diabetes. 

    Sleep and Performance 

    If you’re getting six hours of sleep or less, your time to physical exhaustion drops by up to 30%. This means if you are 10k runner, your ability to run 10k drops to 7k! 

    Your lack of sleep also lowers your peak muscular strength, reduces your vertical jump height and lowers your peak running speed.

    Moreover, your risk of getting injured increases too. One study showed a 60% increase in the probability of injury comparing people who get nine hours of sleep a night, to those who get five. 

    But that’s not all, with insufficient sleep, all of the following suffer too:

    • Your motivation to exercise 
    • Your reaction time – six hours of sleep for one week can drop your reaction time by almost a half a second
    • Your aerobic output
    • The amount of force you can generate

    Sleep is the best performance enhancer. So if you are concerned about your sports performance and want to lose body fat, not muscle mass, try getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. However, if you want to obtain all the benefits of sleep for your cognitive and physical health, try getting 8 hours of sleep. 

    Eating and Exercising Before Bed

    To get a night of deep high-quality sleep, I highly recommend you to stick to these recommendations: 

    Eating

    • Eat your last meal at least 2 hours before your bedtime, ideally 3 hours. 
    • Avoid eating simple carbs (foods that consist of high amounts of white flour, sugar) too close to bedtime as they raise your core body temperature. To fall asleep, your body needs to drop the core body temperature by 1-degree Celsius (or 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit)
    • As a rule of thumb, don’t go to bed too full or too hungry. If you need to eat/snack before bed, lean more towards higher protein meals/snack and away from simple sugars

    Exercise

    • Exercising too close to bedtime raises your core body temperature and can hinder sleep. Make sure to finish your workouts at least 2 hours before your bedtime.
    • Exercise is excellent for your health, and doing it in the morning hours is even better for your health and sleep. In When is the Best Time to Workout, I discuss this in more detail. 
  • [3-Minute Blog] How Sleep Impacts Your Immune System

    Reading time: 3 minutes and 26 seconds

    In Why We Sleep, I briefly discussed the benefits of sleeping for our overall health, and particularly our brain health. 

    In this article, I’ll continue to explore the health benefits of sleep. 

    Let me start with one of my most favourite quotes by Dr Matthew Walker from his book. He says, “There is no aspect of a human being’s wellness that isn’t eroded by a lack of sleep. EVERY single disease that’s killing us in the developed world has causal links to it.

    Sleep thus becomes not just one of the pillars of our health, but the very foundation of our health. 

    Based on rigorously researched studies, here are some of the damages that happen to our body when we sleep less than the bare minimum of 7-hours a day. 

    How Your Lack of Sleep Wrecks Your Immune System

    One of the areas that are most affected by a lack of sleep is your immune system. A study from the University of California shows that reducing your sleep to just four hours for one single night drops your natural killer cell activity to a level of 72%. 

    Your natural killer cells are a critical part of your immune defence arsenal. These killer cells are responsible for identifying and destroying malignant cancer cells. As you probably know, we all have cancer cells within our body, and what really prevents the formation of full-on cancer, are these natural killer cells. Now imagine what happens to your immune system after months of insufficient sleep! 

    OK, sleeping for four hours sounds extreme for you and you may be among those who get a regular six hours of sleep. Fine, if that is you, please read this study.  

    Researchers deprived a group of individuals to only 6 hours of sleep per night for just one week. Here is what they found. 711 genes of the ~20,000 genes in the human genome (~3%) were distorted in a single week of sleep deprivation. 

    Some of the genes that are associated with the immune system were down-regulated, in other words, the immune system became weaker. And some other genes that are associated with tumour promotion, chronic inflammation, and stress were up-regulated, meaning that this accelerated the already bad condition. All of these happened just due to one single week of sleep deprivation. 

    Conclusion: You are genetically modifying yourself by not getting enough sleep.

    Cardiovascular Disease is Accelerated by Sleep Deprivation

    More than 1.5 billion people in 70 countries around the world observe daylight savings time every year. It’s an excellent opportunity for scientists to observe what this one-hour sleep loss does to our human body. They found some fascinating correlations: 

    • In the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep – there’s a 24% rise increase in heart attacks the following day
    • In the fall when we gain an hour of sleep – there’s a 21% reduction in heart attacks the following day

    Another study found that getting an average of five hours of sleep or less over five years leads to a 200-300% increased risk of calcification of the coronary artery. People who are under-slept have overactive sympathetic nervous systems (the flight or fight nervous system), which results in more circulating adrenaline, higher spikes of cortisol, and blunted levels of growth hormone (all of which are tied to cardiovascular diseases).

    Even a loss of only three hours of sleep will result in increased blood pressure and heart rate. 

    But these are not the only dangers of lack of sleep, here are a few more. 

     A lack of sleep:

    • Increases your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Reduces the activity of your immune system
    • Impairs learning/memory 
    • Increases your risk of cardiovascular disease
    • Increases your risk of cancer
    • Contributes to depression and anxiety
    • AND leads to diabetes/insulin resistance/weight gain

    I’ll meet you next week with another article related to sleep. Until then, here is the takeaway lesson for you: 

    Sleep is a gift from Allah subuhanawuta’la to improve our health so that we can live our life fully and achieve our best version. 

  • [3-Minutes Blog] Why We Sleep

    Reading time: 3 minutes and 10 seconds

    You spend one-third of your life sleeping. 

    Have you ever asked yourself, why you sleep and why Allah subuhanawuta’la made sleeping such an essential part of your day?  

    In the last few decades, scientists have been searching for the real reason why we sleep. Mathew Walker, one of the world’s leading scientists in sleep research, wrote an excellent book about sleep, with the same title as this article: Why We sleep. 

    In chapter six of that incredible book, he begins talking about the benefits of sleep. This little paragraph succinctly summarises almost all the reason for why we sleep: 

     “AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

    Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?

    While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If this were a drug, many people will be disbelieving. Those who were convinced would pay large sums of money for even the smallest dose. Should clinical trials back up the claims, share prices of the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug would skyrocket.

    Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep. The evidence supporting these claims have been documented in more than 17,000 well-scrutinized and scientific reports to date. As for the prescription cost, well, there isn’t one. It’s free. Yet all too often, we shun the nightly invitations to receive our full dose of this all natural remedy–with terrible consequences.

    Failed by the lack of public education, most of us do not realize how remarkable a panacea sleep truly is.”

    In the same chapter, he argues that “sleep is the universal health care provider: whatever the physical or mental ailment, sleep has a prescription it can dispense.”

    In the next few chapters, he goes deep into why we sleep and how crucial enough sleep is for our body and mind. 

    In this and the upcoming articles, I would like to share some significant reasons for why we sleep, and all of them are based on sound scientific studies. 

    Sleep for the brain (learning and memory)

    Sleep restores the brain’s capacity for learning, making room for new memories. During sleep, the brain consolidates what we learned during the days. 

    So both for learning and memory, sleep is an essential foundation. Even a short nap of 20-minutes gives you 20 per cent learning advantage against those who don’t have a nap. 

    Now imagine what the result would be for a student who has an 8-hour full night sleep vs a student who pulls an all-nighter for the next day exam? Dr Matthew Walkers team wanted to test this and found out that the group who pulled an all-nighter was 40% more deficient in their learning ability. In other words, this is a difference between acing and failing an exam.

    Based on this and many other studies, we now know that sleep works like a “save” button for the materials you’ve learned the night before. 

    Your ability to memorise and retain information is critical for learning. However, your short-term memory capacity is small. So if you want to keep the information you learned (such as Quran memorisation, learning for exams etc.) and to remember for later use, the information should be kept in the long-term memory of your brain. 

    Your good night sleep is essential to shift all the short term memory storage into long-term storage in the brain. 

    In the upcoming 3-Minute Blogs, I’ll dig deeper into why we sleep. 

    For today, here is the takeaway lesson for you: Your sleep is the universal health care provider. Hence, prioritise your sleep and get at least 8 hours of shut-eye every day. 

  • Why You Need to Nap Every Day

    Energised. Productive. Confident. These are all qualities we wish we had. In this article, I show you a simple, free and accessible tool that can instantly enhance your energy levels, productivity, and overall well-being: naps!

    As someone who’s busy with work, family and other obligations, I’m not always as energetic as I’d love to be. And that’s why I’ve been napping daily almost all my life. If you haven’t guessed it already, I love naps.

    But this love grew stronger and more intense when I came across this beautiful hadith:

    “Take a nap, for the shayateen do not take naps” (Reported by At-Tabarani, Al-Saheehah, 2647)

    We know that from the beautiful Sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH) that he had naps on a daily basis. While napping might seem like it’s a luxury that you can’t afford to implement, each and every Sunnah of our Prophet has tons of benefits for us in both worlds.

    Napping is Natural

    When we look at human history, we see that it wasn’t just the custom of the Arabs to nap during the day. For example, the Romans, Spaniards and many different societies around the world were napping from time immemorial.

    Anthropologists say that napping was a natural routine of human beings until the industrial revolution. With the advent of the industrial revolution, people started trading their time for money. So napping started to become uncommon and began to be viewed as a luxury.

    There is, however, a consensus amongst sleep scientists that napping is beneficial for better mental performance and overall health. Moreover, the need to nap is preprogrammed in our brains. So, the urge you get when you want to take a nap is natural and part of your DNA.

    Why Naps Can Change Your Life

    In her ground-breaking book, Take a Nap, Change Your Life, Dr Sara Medenick, a sleep research scientist at the Salk Institute, California, argues that taking a daily nap can literally change your life.

    Here are some of her research findings:

    Naps increase your performance

    One of the easiest ways to improve your health and productivity is to improve your performance. Like the Deen teaches us, the goal is to do everything with ihsan—with a focus on quality rather than quantity. However, your performance is influenced largely by your body’s energy levels.

    To maintain a constant energy level, you obviously need to work on nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management. But besides these things, a quick hack that promotes higher energy levels is naps.

    In order to understand this, you’ve got to know about sleep pressure. You see, after around 6 hours of waking up, your body has an urge to go back to sleep. This is what sleep scientist call “sleep pressure.” Sleep pressure is the reason for your post-lunch dip. And you might get this dip regardless of the types of food you eat. So, the urge to nap after lunch is a function of your circadian rhythm and is totally natural.

    What happens if you choose to not nap after lunch? Well, your performance level keeps going down, as shown in the graph below:

    However, you can improve your performance with a nap that’s as short as 20 minutes. Now, if you think you can rescue your performance with a cup of coffee, then be warned that your cup of joe isn’t as promising as a nap.

    The study conducted by Dr Mednick also shows that the participants who had a nap had a better verbal and motor memory than those who had caffeine. In fact, a placebo, which was just a sugar pill in this study, showed better results than caffeine. View the chart below for more info:

    Another study in the Journal of Sleep Research confirms the findings of Dr Mednick. Scientists compared results of using caffeine to taking a nap and they found that napping was by far the most effective.

    Here’s what Dr Mednick has to say about naps in general:

    “Learning after a nap is equal to learning after a full night of sleep! Test scores of non-nappers deteriorated across the day! That’s what my research proved.”

    20 more reasons why you should nap

    Apart from increased performance and energy, Dr Mednick lists 20 additional benefits of napping in her book:

    1. Increase your alertness.
    2. Speed up your motor performance.
    3. Improve your accuracy.
    4. Make better decisions.
    5. Improve your perception.
    6. Fatten your bottom line.
    7. Preserve your youthful looks.
    8. Improve your sex life.
    9. Lose weight.
    10. Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
    11. Reduce your risk of diabetes.
    12. Improve your stamina.
    13. Elevate your mood.
    14. Boost your creativity.
    15. Reduce stress.
    16. Help your memory.
    17. Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
    18. Alleviate migraines, ulcers and other problems with psychological components.
    19. Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.
    20. It feels good to nap.

    Yep, you read it right! Naps can even improve your night-time sleep. Contrary to common belief that naps negatively impact your night-time sleep, scientists say that napping during the day can actually improve your ability to get a great night of sleep.

    However, there is one important caveat to make: make sure your last nap of the day is at least 5 hours before your bedtime. And in general, you wouldn’t want a nap to last for more than 2 hours, as that also can disturb night-time sleep.

    Nitty-Gritty of Naps

    Ok, now that you know why having a nap is so beneficial, you may want to know how long to nap and the best time to nap.

    As far as naps are concerned, there are different types of naps. For your ease, I’ve simplified them into three different categories:

    The most common and most practical for most people is a power nap that lasts from 5 – 20 minutes. According to various studies, even a 6-minute nap can improve your memory and performance.

    A study conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also proves that pilots who napped an average of 26 minutes a day increased their performance by 34% and their alertness by 54%!

    Best time to nap?

    Your body tends to crave a nap at around 1-3pm. So, plan a nap around this time of the day. However, if this is impractical, you can have a power nap whenever you feel like you need one.

    And in Ramadan, when we mostly have less sleep at night, it’s ideal to have one full nap during the day. Again, if you can’t fit this into your schedule, then try to get some solid or power naps throughout the day. Work out the best nap type for you and try to fit in as many as you can, insha Allah, even if it’s as short as 5-minutes! Nothing can keep you more energised and productive than a nap.

    How to take a good nap

    • Schedule your nap: What gets scheduled gets done. So if you are serious about taking a nap, then plan and schedule it in your calendar.
    • Switch off your phone: Nothing ruins your nap than a sound of a message or call. So, keep your phone turned off.
    • Lights out: Make sure that your space is dark. This helps your body to secrete melatonin. If needed, you can also use an eye mask.
    • Find a quite a place or use ear plugs.
    • Watch your caffeine consumption: Cut your caffeine at least four hours before your nap. If you are planning to nap at 1 PM, your last cup of coffee should be no later than 9 AM.

    Wrapping Up

    There is no alternative to a good night’s sleep that consists of 6-7 hours. For example, sleeping less than 5 hours a night puts you in a pre-diabetic condition. So, if you’re serious about improving your health and productivity, then you’ve got to prioritise your sleep at night.

    In fact, sleep is an important habit I help my clients cultivate in my 6-months online coaching programme because there’s no shortcut to a good quality sleep.

    But taking a nap during the day is the closest best thing after your nocturnal sleep.

    Further Resources