The Ramadan Sleep Challenge

Why do we all feel so TIRED while fasting??

SUMMARY: No matter where you are in the world or how long your fasts will be this year, your sleep quantity and quality in Ramadan matters and needs to be planned for. This article discusses the importance of prioritising your worship opportunities and minimizing social/leisure reasons for sleep deprivation (late-night shopping, post-Taraweeh coffee adventures) to help you make the best out of the gift of this month that has been granted for us! 

 

We’ve all experienced feeling sleepy while fasting after a particularly long Taraweh prayer, but is everyone’s sleep affected during Ramadan?

International Sleep Researcher Dr. Ahmed Bahammam identified several factors that can disturb regular sleep and circadian rhythms during Ramadan:

[Ramadan includes] a sudden change in the circadian pattern of eating, whereby caloric intake increases at night, and the long duration of this practice (1 month), which may allow adaptation to the new regimen. In addition, there are changes in day-night activity patterns, such as rising for the predawn meal (suhur) and prayer, as well as attendant changes in lifestyle and habits that occur during Ramadan in some Islamic countries, such as opening of stores and shopping malls until late at night. All these factors indicate physiological and behavioural changes occurring during the month of Ramadan. (1) 

In Ramadan, Muslims experience both religious reasons for changes in sleep patterns (eg. staying up for night prayers, waking up for suhoor), as well as cultural/community/social sleep disturbances (eg. late-night shopping, chatting with friends at coffee shops after Taraweh, watching TV, etc.)

As a general principle, sleep disturbances for leisure or cultural reasons (eg. socialising, shopping, online or TV browsing) should be MINIMISED during Ramadan. Religious reasons for changes in sleep patterns (eg.  prayer and suhoor) must be prioritised and accommodated for.

This may seem obvious (“Of COURSE I am not wasting my time in Ramadan!!”).

However, one study found that 60% of fasting individuals who stayed awake after 11:00pm attributed their wakefulness to socialising with families and friends and watching TV (2).

While socialising in the community is healthy and beneficial, in Ramadan, the nighttime is precious. We must be extra vigilant as to how we spend the blessed hours from Maghrib to Fajr.

The Prophet ﷺ said: This month (of Ramadan) has begun and there is a night in it better than one thousand month. (So,) any one deprived of its (blessings) is actually deprived of all goodness. Indeed, He is truly deprived who is kept away from its good. (Ibn Majah and authenticated by Al-Albani)

In addition to the nights of Ramadan being blessed, your energy levels for the next fasting day are closely dependent upon the quality of sleep you get every night. If you live in a country in which nighttime is short, it is important to prioritise your sleep and head to bed as soon as possible after Taraweh. This will ensure that you can wake up and gain the blessings of suhoor:

The Prophet Muhammadﷺ said: “Eat Suhoor, for there are blessings in it.” (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim)

The Prophet Muhammadﷺ said: “The Suhoor is a meal of blessings, so do not leave it, even if one of you just takes a gulp of water, as Allah sends mercy and His angels seek forgiveness for those who take Suhoor” (Ahmad)

A solid sleep schedule will also make it easier to awaken at night and reap the blessings of the night prayer:

 Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best month for observing fasting after Ramadan is Allah’s month of Muharram, and the best Salah after the prescribed Salah is Salah at night.” (Muslim)

A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful servant of Allah?” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

There are many opportunities to socialise in a healthy and blessed way in the daytime during Ramadan, including community and family iftars. Your nights in Ramadan are literally sacred – try to fill your nights exclusively with worship, sleeping, or the required nutritional eating to refuel and reduce tiredness and maximise energy levels.

Why Your Sleep Matters in Ramadan

You’re probably already aware that lack of sleep can have severe negative consequences on your health.

Research has found that sleep deprivation may be associated with: 

  • A greater propensity for weight gain and obesity in both children and adults (7).
  • Increased levels of the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin and reduced levels of the satiety hormone leptin (so you feel hungrier) (8).  When you are sleep deprived, you need to pay special attention to healthy eating so you don’t get trapped in the cycle of poor sleep and weight gain! Click HERE to download our free Healthy Eating Ramadan Checklist!
  • Late bedtimes are particularly likely to lead to long-term weight gain (one 2015 study analysed data from 3,300 youths and adults to investigate the effects of chronic sleep deprivation and found that for every hour of sleep an individual lost in the study duration due to a delayed bedtime, they gained 2.1 points on the BMI scale over a 5-year period) (6).
  • Lack of sleep is associated with reduced impulse control and greater risk taking behaviours. Lack of sleep dulls activity in your brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control. (5) You may be more likely to make impulsive, poor decisions.
  • Lack of sleep makes you more likely to succumb to cravings and indulge in unhealthy foods (5).
  • Lack of sleep is associated with stress, irritability and souring your mood (5).

 

We all know how tired, cranky and lethargic we feel when we are sleep-deprived, especially when we are also hungry while fasting. When we are tired, our worship potential is compromised. When we improve our sleep, we have better focus in prayer, more concentration at work, and feel more grateful, allowing us to embody the true spirit of Ramadan. Once you understand the importance of your sleep in Ramadan, it’s easy to decide to prioritise it!

Everyone needs different hours of sleep. But are you getting enough sleep for YOUR body? In the next article, learn how to tell if you are sleep-deprived with clever tests so you can plan to adjust your sleep accordingly this Ramadan inshAllah! Read the next article on HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU REALLY NEED? to find out if you’re sleeping enough!

Healthy FOOD, EXERCISE and SLEEP must come together for your HEALTHIEST Ramadan ever! Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

The Ramadan Reset eBook is your complete solution to healthy eating, exercise, sleep, coffee and so much more in Ramadan! With 90 dietitian-created recipes, full fasting fitness schedules for ALL levels, your Ramadan will never be the same! Click HERE to learn more!

References

  1. BaHammam, Ahmed. (2007). Does Ramadan fasting affect sleep?. International journal of clinical practice. 60. 1631-7. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net
  2. BaHammam, A. (2003). Sleep pattern, daytime sleepiness, and eating habits during the month of Ramadan. Sleep and Hypnosis, 5, 165-174.
  3. Harvard Health. (2018). Repaying your sleep debt – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/
  4. VonRueden, K. (2014, September). Sleep Deprivation in the Workplace: The Hidden Side of Health and Wellness. In ASSE Professional Development Conference and Exposition. American Society of Safety Engineers. Available from: http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/729_vonrueden.pdf
  5. Winter, W. C. (2017). The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and how to Fix it. Penguin.
  6. Asarnow, L. D., McGlinchey, E., & Harvey, A. G. (2015). Evidence for a possible link between bedtime and change in body mass index. Sleep, 38(10), 1523-1527.
  7. Knutson, K. L., & Van Cauter, E. (2008). Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1129(1), 287-304.
  8. Broussard, J. L., Kilkus, J. M., Delebecque, F., Abraham, V., Day, A., Whitmore, H. R., & Tasali, E. (2016). Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction. Obesity, 24(1), 132-138.
  9. Broussard, J. L., Wroblewski, K., Kilkus, J. M., & Tasali, E. (2016). Two nights of recovery sleep reverses the effects of short-term sleep restriction on diabetes risk. Diabetes Care, 39(3), e40-e41.
  10. Greer, S. M., Goldstein, A. N., & Walker, M. P. (2013). The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature communications, 4, 3259.

 

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