Need a shot of energy to get through the evening? Why resort to artificial stimulants when you can do it naturally, Atefa Jamal explains.

Feeling a bit drowsy after lunch? Can’t seem to give it your all in the afternoons? Need something to perk you up? Well don’t reach for that cup of tea or coffee, just shut your eyes and take a nap – a Power Nap that is.

Dr. Maas, the Cornell psychologist and author of Power Sleep (Villard Books, 1998), writes, “naps greatly strengthen the ability to pay close attention to detail and to make critical decisions, . . .napping should not be frowned upon at the office or make you feel guilty at home,” in fact he states, “it should have the status of daily exercise.”

The journal Nature Neuroscience published a research by Harvard University that assessed the effects of an afternoon nap on learning and memory skills. The study compared the performance of two groups of people during a single day and then the following morning. The group that was not allowed to sleep at all during the day, performed poorly on a learning test given in the afternoon and evening, whereas the second group that was allowed to take a nap fared significantly better in the tests they preformed later in the day. Furthermore, after 24 hours, the performance of those who took a quality nap was just as good as that of those volunteers (in previous studies) who were tested after they had slept two full nights.

Sarah Mednick, researcher at the Psychology Department at Harvard University, concludes: “From the perspective of behavioral improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning on this perceptual task”.

Neuroscientist Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School, observed: “Napping may protect brain circuits from overuse until those neurons can consolidate what’s been learned about a procedure.”

Dr. David Dinges, sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, strongly advocates taking a “power nap” during the day to head off the cumulative effects of sleep loss. He explained that the brain “sort of sputters” when deprived of sufficient sleep, causing slips in performance and attentiveness often resulting in “microsleeps” – involuntary lapses into sleep, in which accidents can occur.

Furthermore, studies show that sleepy workers make more mistakes and are more susceptible to heart attacks and gastrointestinal disorders. Consequently, some companies in the west have set up nap-rooms with reclining chairs, blankets and alarm clocks. They claim napping has reduced accidents, errors and increased productivity, even though it shortens the workday slightly.

In fact, within the Empire State Building a company called Metronaps rents out specially designed pods for napping, at $14 for 20 minutes.

Researchers like to point out that many a famous personality were napping enthusiasts, (Einstein, Edison and Churchill to name a few) but unfortunately what many of us don’t realize is that taking a Siesta was one of the practices of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa)!

Many Hadeeth mention the Prophet (sa) taking a Qaylula – (short rest), after Dhuhr prayers, both at home and when traveling (Bukhari). Though still practiced in the Middle East, Latin America and some European countries, it is considered to be cultural and, until recently, frowned upon by most of the business class.

The Prophet (sa) is our role model, and his actions are divine inspiration that Allah ordered us to obey His Messenger (sa). In doing so we obey Allah (Surah An-Nisa 4: 80).

Thus taking a short nap after Dhuhr prayers, with the intention of following the Sunnah and using the rest of our day productively can help us earn Allah’s (swt) blessings. Some scholars say it can also help us establish Tahajjud.

To establish this Sunnah, it would be best to start our day-to- day activities right after Fajr, as the Prophet (sa) would. Then Insha Allah follow his custom of scheduling our work around the times of Salah, so as to allow us to take a short Qaylula before Asr prayer, thus refreshing ourselves to get through the rest of the day. This may seem easier said than done, but Allah (swt) has promised that He will make easy any effort we make to get closer to Him.

The Prophet (sa) said: “My Lord says: ‘If My slave comes nearer to me for a span, I go nearer to him for a cubit; and if he comes nearer to Me for a cubit, I go nearer to him for the span of outstretched arms; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’” (Bukhari)

The nap need not be very long, as Scholars like Ibn Jawziyyah strongly discouraged sleeping beyond Asr time as it leads to grogginess. Even researchers today recommend a 20-minute nap while others suggest 30 to 60 minutes. Beyond the recommended time leads to deep sleep from which it is difficult to awaken. Parents of little kids have been advised to take a quick nap while the kids are napping, instead of dashing around to get other work done.

Moreover, you don’t actually have to fall asleep; a Qaylula can simply mean putting up your feet and taking a physical and emotional break from your hectic schedule (a good chance to make Dhikr, etc.).

So call it Qaylula or Power Nap, there is ample proof that this Sunnah like all actions of our Prophet (sa) is beneficial for us in our daily lives, and its implementation will help us make the most of our time, Insha’Allah.