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:
- Increase your alertness.
- Speed up your motor performance.
- Improve your accuracy.
- Make better decisions.
- Improve your perception.
- Fatten your bottom line.
- Preserve your youthful looks.
- Improve your sex life.
- Lose weight.
- Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Improve your stamina.
- Elevate your mood.
- Boost your creativity.
- Reduce stress.
- Help your memory.
- Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
- Alleviate migraines, ulcers and other problems with psychological components.
- Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.
- 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.
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.
- The article is inspired by the book, “Take a Nap, Change Your Life” by Dr Sara Medenick. If you’d like more info about this topic, then I’d definitely recommend this book.
- I always carry an eye mask and a pair of eye plugs with me in my carry bag. I recommend this: Bedtime Bliss BTB01.
- Join my 6-months online coaching programme so that you can transform your life by getting into the best shape!