One of the most common times for disrupted sleep routines is Ramadan, when activities may keep people awake well into the night. Although there have been a number of health benefits linked to fasting during Ramadan, the negative effects of disrupted sleep patterns may lead to undesired outcomes. This disrupted sleep routine can impact daytime functioning, reduce alertness, cause mood swings and create an increased risk of injury.
Traditionally, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This means waking up before the sun rises to have a pre-fasting meal, or sahur, fasting all day and then breaking the fast at sunset with an iftar - followed by prayers that can go on late into the night. Although, this year will be different as many mosques remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic and most of these activities will be done from home.
At a time when a healthy immune system is most crucial, do these disrupted sleep patterns associated with early mornings and late nights put us more at risk of catching infections?
For your immune system to work effectively, it needs all the cell types that help you identify foreign organisms and destroy them before they cause infection. Studies have shown that cytokines, a key component of your immune system, not only work best during sleep but are actually produced when you are asleep. This explains why we need to rest when we are unwell as doing so not only conserves energy but also helps our bodies fight off the infection.
Generally, a good night's sleep is vital for good health. As the benefits of good quality sleep become better understood, we have observed that sleep is just as important to good health as nutrition and exercise. Lack of sleep also promotes hunger hormones to go into overdrive, something one can do without when fasting. Good quality sleep has been linked to a reduced risk of obesity, better concentration and memory, reduced risk of depression and anxiety and, most importantly, a healthier immune system which is especially paramount in these times.
Tips to sleep better this Ramadan
Endeavour to get the same amount of sleep over each 24-hour period. Usually, most people would sleep during the night for seven to eight hours at a stretch but during Ramadan, this is not possible. Try to make up for the lost nighttime sleep with day time naps 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 which your body will thank you for ensuring you get enough sleep. Whatever plan you make, try to stick to the same routine daily. Our bodies respond well to routine.
If you experience low energy levels during the working day, a power nap can be helpful. Find a quiet place away from the work station and take a 20-minute nap. Power naps are especially important for those who feel sleepy when driving home at the end of the day.
How To Improve The Quality Of Your Sleep
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 deep sleep.
Diet is also important for sleep quality. Avoid consuming 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 more sensitive during or following fasting.
Avoid processed and salty foods, which are high in sodium and will cause dehydration.
A great day starts with a good night's sleep. Ramadan is not only a period of fasting and spiritual growth but also an opportunity to improve your life holistically in ways that would allow you to reap lasting spiritual and health benefits if consistently practised throughout the year.
Make this Ramadan one to remember by incorporating good and healthy sleep practices.