10 May Improving Your Overall Sleep Quality
Sleep Better EVERY night! Improving Your Overall Sleep Quality!
PICTURE THIS: Have you ever had a night where you slept for 8 or even 10 hours, but you woke up feeling awful and exhausted? Perhaps your neighbours or kids were making a lot of noise, or a building nearby had flashing lights which bore through your window. These are examples of reduced sleep quality!
You know now that sleep is extremely important in Ramadan, and how to repay your sleep debts. There’s one final tip to make the most of your sleep in Ramadan: Improve your sleep QUALITY.
Even if your sleep QUANTITY is adequate, you must optimise your sleep QUALITY to feel fully rested.
On the flip side, EVEN if your sleep QUANTITY is NOT enough… if you improve your sleep QUALITY, then you will feel more rested and less exhausted than you might have felt otherwise!
Improve your sleep quality by improving your “Sleep Hygiene” by getting rid of “sleep thieves” in your bedroom!
Improving Your “Sleep Hygiene”
Go through this list and identify which of the following SLEEP THIEVES are hiding in YOUR bedroom! Can you knock a few off this list?
SLEEP THIEF 1: A room that is not completely dark
Our bodies react strongly to light. Light suppresses the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. So when you want to feel awake, a great thing to do is to go outside and get some sunshine!
But, a bad idea when you’re trying to fall asleep at night is to expose yourself to bright light that will make it harder to fall asleep…. like… your cellphone. That blue light beaming out from your screen tricks our brains into thinking that it is daytime, making it harder to drift into a comfortable night’s sleep. Unfortunately, most bedrooms are full of blinking lights and electronics!
Action: Here’s a quick test! Go into your bedroom, close the curtains, your main light, and the door. How dark is it in your room? Can you see your hands in front of you in the “dark”? Do you see any blinking lights from alarm clocks, heaters, chargers or other electronics? Turn them ALL off and create the darkest environment possible. Covering lights on chargers and electronics with pairs of socks is an easy way to block the light!
If you simply cannot turn off the lights, invest in a soft eye mask to prevent the light from reaching your eyes. You can also use a towel or your arm to block light while sleeping.
SLEEP THIEF 2: Room temperatures
We all love wrapping ourselves in a warm, snuggly blanket. But cool environments actually help sleep quality.
If you’re always sweating in your bedroom at night, turn the temperature down and see if it helps! Warm showers before bed can also help, because of the effect of your body cooling off and the heat release that follows exiting the warm shower into a cooler environment.
SLEEP THIEF 3: Stimulants
Studies have shown that caffeine acts as a stimulant that can affect your sleep quality. Ideally, you don’t want to have any coffee 6 hours before bed. This may pose a challenge if you enjoy coffee at Iftar. If you must, try to have your iftar coffee as early as possible to avoid disrupting your sleep. Or, opt for caffeine-free tea for a calming bedtime drink (like chamomile!). You also want to reduce chocolate before bedtime, as chocolate has stimulating properties.
SLEEP THIEF 4: Nighttime Worrying & Stress
Let’s face it: stress and worrying can sometimes be the biggest thieves of our sleep! Sleep Doctor Dr. Chris Winter suggests keeping a notepad on your bedside table. If something jumps into your mind to worry about while you are trying to sleep, just scribble it on a piece of paper and allow yourself the piece of mind to know that it’s written down, as you will handle it tomorrow inshAllah.
SLEEP THIEF 5: FORCING yourself to sleep!
Don’t try to force sleep when you are not tired. If you cannot sleep and you’re lying in bed for a long time, consider sitting up and reading some Quran or a book or engaging in some dhikr or a sleep-inducing activity. Lying in bed sleepless is a sure-fire way to make yourself more anxious and wired about why you can’t sleep, which will make it even harder! Don’t force it, and try to do a relaxing activity that helps you to unwind and allows sleep to gently come over you instead. For bonus points, take advantage of the opportunity and pray Qiyaam ul-Layl in the blessed nights of Ramadan when you find that you can’t sleep.
Implementing these 5 strategies to improve your sleep hygiene can result in a significant improvement to your overall sleep and resulting energy levels!
Improving Your Energy: Synchronising with your body’s internal clock
Sleep and wakefulness are linked. The way you sleep helps improve your energy in the day, and the way you live your day according to your internal body clock can help improve your sleep at night!
Right after you wake up is a prime opportunity to feel more alert and awake in the day, by using CONSISTENT zeitgebers to synchronise your body’s internal clock.
Zeitgeber means “time synchroniser” in German. These are environmental cues that our bodies use to synchronise our sleep-wake cycles.
One of the reasons we feel so tired during the day and we have trouble sleeping at night is because we aren’t matching our sleep and wake times with the naturally occurring environmental cues (Zeitgebers) that tell our bodies when to feel alert vs. when to feel sleepy!
Some examples of powerful Zeitgebers are…
- Social interactions
- Eating/Drinking patterns
You can think of these as “clues” that tell your body if it’s time to feel alert, or if it’s time to feel sleepy.
For example, eating is a powerful Zeitgebers that helps your body keep track of time. The more consistent you are with these Zeitgebers throughout the day, the easier it will be to wake up and fall asleep. With Zeitgeber consistency, you will also feel more rested after a good night’s rest, and the more alert you will feel in the day.
By being consistent with your Zeitgebers, you give your body’s close a predictable cycle to set a comfortable pace every day.
The challenge in Ramadan is that some Muslims engage in all-night-long eating binges, which is extremely confusing to your body. Your body does not expect to be eating when it is time to sleep. So if you spend all night snacking, you will negatively affect your ability to fall asleep.
Try to be moderate with your nighttime eating in Ramadan. Eat your iftar, perhaps a snack after Taraweh, and then stop eating for the rest of the night until suhoor. Remember, the point of the night is to worship and rest, not to binge on as much food as possible in preparation for the next fasting day. Click HERE to learn how to fuel yourself right by downloading our free Healthy Eating Ramadan Checklist!
Another way to capitalise on environmental Zeitgebers and feel more alert is through CONSISTENCY. Try and make the following events in your daily routine as CONSISTENT as possible from day-to-day during Ramadan.
- Your wake time: Pick a realistic morning time and try and make it regular! It is much less confusing for your body than a constantly shifting unpredictable alarm! Note this may shift on weekends if you are catching up on your sleep debts, but when possible, aim for consistency.
- Your sleep time: If you ever feel ‘tired but wired’ and have trouble falling asleep, setting a consistent bedtime can help slide yourself into a routine in which your body naturally begins to feel sleepy as your internal clock learns it is approaching sleep time. Pick a sleep time in Ramadan and stick with it. Don’t play around with your bedtime and bounce around from sleeping at midnight, to 2am, to 11:30pm. Be consistent and remember to prioritise your worship, then your sleep.
- Your light time: Setting a “light shut-down time” is a great practice that will have a BIG impact on your quality of sleep. It doesn’t have to be drastic, but promising yourself that after Taraweh it’s “screen-off” time can do wonders for your sleep quality. This will also help you maximise on sleep time and worship in the blessed Ramadan nights!
- Your meal times: Scheduling your meals around the SAME time every day is a big help in providing consistency for your internal clock. In Ramadan, your suhoor consistency is set for you, so you only have to make sure to maintain consistency with iftar and be mindful of late night snacking.
- Your exercise time: Exercising is a natural Zeitgeber that will perk you up and have you feeling alert and recharged! Be sure to read the RamadanReset.com article on EXERCISE IN RAMADAN to educate yourself on best practices, and consider purchasing the Ramadan Reset Complete eBook for a full fasting workout schedule!
Identify your sleep thieves, and try to remove them from your sleeping environment! This is what sleep experts call SLEEP HYGIENE. Following these tips will help you achieve good sleep hygiene inshAllah, and help you clean up your sleep so it’s as restful as can be inshAllah!
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!
- BaHammam, Ahmed. (2007). Does Ramadan fasting affect sleep?. International journal of clinical practice. 60. 1631-7. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/
- BaHammam, A. (2003). Sleep pattern, daytime sleepiness, and eating habits during the month of Ramadan. Sleep and Hypnosis, 5, 165-174.
- Harvard Health. (2018). Repaying your sleep debt – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/
- 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/
- Winter, W. C. (2017). The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and how to Fix it. Penguin.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.