Sleep is essential to maintaining health and wellbeing, and there are implications when we don’t get enough. One of the most common times for disrupted sleep routines is Ramadan, when social activities can keep people awake well into the night.
Kate Bridle, lead sleep technologist at the London Sleep Centre Dubai, says that the disrupted sleep routine can impact daytime functioning, reducing alterness, causing mood disturbances and creating an increased risk of injury.
“It is important for the human body to be fuelled with good-quality sleep, food and drink,” Bridle says. “Our bodies respond to what we are putting into them. With the lack of any of these, we find ourselves tired and overwhelmed, and our emotions and spirit indirectly feel hampered and low.”
She says sleep deprivation also affects hormones in the body which control appetite. “When sleep deprived your appetite increases, making fasting during Ramadan even more difficult.”
Bridle has these tips for better sleep during Ramadan:
Try to get the same amount of sleep over the 24-hour period. Usually, most people would sleep during the night for seven to eight hours in one block, but during Ramadan this is not possible. Try to make up for the lost nighttime sleep when possible.
• Make a plan before Ramadan which fits in with your schedule and that you can stick to as best as possible. This may involve going to bed earlier than normal. For example, try to go to bed by 11pm and have four hours’ sleep following iftar, then wake up at 3.30am ready for suhoor and fajr and return back to sleep at around 5am for two hours. If you are working reduced hours then this sleep can be a little longer. If not, then a nap after work, but before iftar, can make up for the last one to two hours of lost sleep. This new routine may mean sacrificing or reducing time spent socialising or on leisure activities, but your body will thank you for ensuring enough sleep. Whatever plan you make, try to stick to the same routine daily. Our bodies respond well to routine.
• If your energy levels are still low during the working day, a power nap can be helpful. Find a quiet place away from the work station, such as your car, and take a 20-minute nap. Set an alarm to ensure you do no oversleep. Try not to sleep for longer than 20 minutes during this daytime nap as your body will go into deep sleep and you will wake feeling tired and groggy. Power naps are especially important for those who feel sleepy when driving home at the end of the day.
As well as maintaining sleep quantity over the 24-hour period, it is equally as important, if not more, to ensure that the sleep you do get is of good quality.
• Ensure your sleep environment is quiet and dark. Earplugs and eye masks work wonders for getting into and staying in a deep sleep.
• Diet is also important for sleep quality. Many people consume heavy, calorie-loaded and sugar-rich foods at iftar. These food types will significantly disrupt the quality of your sleep as your body will be trying to digest it when it needs to be sleeping and resting.
• Avoid very spicy foods. The stomach lining is sensitive post-fasting. Subjecting it to spicy food while breaking the fast will cause gas and heartburn, leading to disruptive sleep during the night.
• Avoid fried foods such as samosas, fritters and spring rolls. These foods are loaded with fat which the liver cannot process, so they are stored away as fatty tissue. They take a toll on the digestive tract and cause acidity, which in turn leads to sleep disruption.
• Avoid coffee and caffeine-containing products. Caffeine stays in our system for around seven hours so ensure that you take it at a time when you do not plan to sleep within the next seven hours. Many people feel that caffeine does not prevent them from falling asleep, which may be true, but it does affect your sleep quality.
• Avoid processed and salty foods, which are high in sodium and will cause dehydration.