Thursday, September 18, 2008

Khailulah, siesta, midday napping and Brain

Do you ever feel your energy levels dip after lunch? Do you sometimes wish you could have a siesta to make you feel more refreshed? We have all heard or embraced the siesta habit at some point in our lives. Siesta is the Spanish word for the afternoon nap and khailulah is its equivalent in Arabic. This longtime practice is still respected in the Arab world (the Middle East) and Latin and Mediterranean countries. It is said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) practiced the khailulah and recommended it. It is an ideal way to jumpstart energy and stimulate the brain half way through the day, getting rid of lethargy produced by the noon heat in order to restart work afresh.

In fact, siesta or taking midday naps are good for your brain and the best part is siesta or Khailulah is sunnah of the prophet. Scientists know that we have a tendency to feel tired in the early part of the afternoon, but they also know that a short period of shut-eye can increase productivity by over 30% and alertness by as much as 100%. Tests by NASA have shown that memory and concentration are also given a boost, while stress and risk of heart disease is reduced by 34%.

Researchers at the University of Haifa in cooperation with the Sleep Laboratory at the Sheba Medical Center and researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal recently concluded that a daytime nap changes the course of consolidation in the brain in several positive ways. This research mirrors several other recent studies with similar conclusions.

In this new research, it was revealed that a daytime nap speeds up and improves memory consolidation. Two groups of participants in the study practiced a repeated motor activity, which consisted of bringing the thumb and a finger together at a specific sequence. The research examined the "how" aspect of memory in the participants' ability to perform the task quickly and in the correct sequence. One of the groups was allowed to nap for an hour and a half after learning the task while the other group stayed awake

The group that slept in the afternoon showed a distinct improvement in their task performance by that evening, as opposed to the group that stayed awake, which did not exhibit any improvement. Following an entire night's sleep, both groups exhibited the same skill level. "This part of the research showed that a daytime nap speeds up performance improvement in the brain. After a night's sleep the two groups were at the same level, but the group that slept in the afternoon improved much faster than the group that stayed awake

Further, Scientists at The University of Manchester have for the first time uncovered how brain cells or 'neurons' that keep us alert become turned off after we take our lunch. Dr Denis Burdakov, the lead researcher based in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences said that after a meal the glucose blocks neurons that make orexins, which are tiny proteins that help us stay conscious. Due to this we tend to be sleepy after a nice meal in the afternoon. Wallahu A’lam

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