During the Holy Month of Ramadan, our normal sleep schedule can be disrupted by social gatherings, activities, and heavy meals which often run late into the night – altering our sleeping and eating habits.
The disrupted sleep routine can impact daytime functioning, reducing alertness, causing mood disturbances, and creating an increased risk of accidents and mistakes at work.
Sleep deprivation also affects hormones in the body that control appetite. “When sleep-deprived, your appetite increases, making fasting during Ramadan even more difficult.”
Below are a few tips and habits that you can adopt to enjoy healthy sleep patterns and thus allow you to better focus and have energy during your day.
Try to regulate your sleep pattern
Setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it is the first step to keeping your biological clock steady, and allowing yourself to rest better.
To do so, start by pre-planning an adjusted sleep routine for Ramadan so that you’re sleeping and waking at around the same time every day.
Aim for a consolidated sleep
Longer blocks of sleep are more beneficial than multiple short naps, in order to get sufficient rest. Try to sleep for at least 4-5 hours at night after Iftar, before waking for Suhoor and Fajr.
While each sleep stage is associated with different types of brain activity and body functions, a fragmented sleep pattern affects the overall quality of sleep and can have negative consequences on the brain and body.
Grab a short power nap
A 20-minute power nap in the afternoon can revive flagging energy and focus levels. Setting an alarm “is recommended” as over-sleeping can counter the benefit of a short nap and may hold some negative health risks.
The biggest risk is sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is characterized by a temporary period of sleepiness and poor cognitive performance from the moment you wake up.
When this happens, you’ll wake up with a groggy feeling where you don’t even know where you are. Your nap may not even be reenergizing and refreshing.
Avoid eating and sleeping
Eating a meal too close to bedtime may harm your sleep, especially if it’s a large amount of food. As a general rule of thumb, wait about two to three hours between your last meal and bedtime.
This allows some digestion to occur and gives time for the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine.
Eating also prompts the release of insulin, a hormone that helps your body use the food for energy. This process can shift the circadian rhythm or your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Food can signal wakefulness in the brain and interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Heartburn, reflux, and indigestions are other resulting side effects that disturb your sleep if you eat and lay down.
Watch what you eat and drink
Keep it light most of the days!
Avoid eating heavy, or sugary foods at Iftar – your sleep can be disrupted as your body will be overworking to digest your meal. Very spicy foods can also be bad news for restful sleep.
Such foods can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as reflux or indigestion for some people, which may cause disruption of sleep.
Watch or try to remove your caffeine from your diet
Caffeine blocks adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy. When consumed too close to bedtime, caffeine may contribute to insomnia.
It can also increase the need to urinate at night, a condition referred to as nocturia. Not everyone is sensitive to caffeine, but if you are, consider restricting caffeine.
As for coffee and tea lovers who cannot wait to break their fast to get their dose of caffeine, try to limit it to 1 serving only.
Do not forget to focus on water intake to replace fluids and stay away from consuming high amounts of caffeinated/high in sugar beverages including tea, coffee, and sodas.
Limit the use of electronic devices
If you use your mobile phone, laptop and watch TV close to bedtime, studies suggest that the blue light from screens can interfere with sleep quality.
Research shows that the blue light from your phone and other screens may affect the body’s natural wake and sleep cycle.
Limit screen time to one or two hours before bedtime and activate the night-mode settings on devices and computers that minimize blue light exposure.
Anti-glare filters and anti-blue light glasses go a long way in helping prevent irregular sleep cycles when looking at a screen before you sleep.
Exercise long before sleeping time
It is recommended to exercise a few hours before bedtime to avoid disrupting sleep during Ramadan.
30 minutes of aerobic exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about four hours, inhibiting sleep. When your body begins to cool down, it signals your brain to release sleep-inducing Melatonin — after which you get drowsy.
Achieve a right sleep environment
Another minor change that could help you sleep better is regulating your bedroom temperatures to between 19-24°C.
An understanding of the link between body temperature and sleep is important.
Coupling that with a dark room, away from gadgets, is also proven to improve sleep as light tells the brain to remain awake and alert.