Sleep deprivation is common during the month of Ramadan, and it can make fasting more difficult. It is therefore important to get enough sleep every day, cautioned Dr. Abdulaziz al-Hashemi, consultant of Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Disorders at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
Sleep is a normal physiological need for the body, like eating and breathing, and is required to maintain well-being and psychophysiological functions. Poor sleep can adversely impact daytime performance. Ramadan, which involves month-long daily fasting during daylight hours, is often accompanied by a disruption to normal sleep patterns.
“Sleep deprivation increases the hormone ghrelin which stimulates the appetite and suppresses the hormone leptin which controls the appetite. When a fasting person is sleep deprived, the impact is compounded. Furthermore, eating behaviours are usually altered after sleep deprivation. Sleep-deprived humans show an increased appetite for high-carbohydrate, calorie-rich foods, and this can result in weight gain,” Dr Hashemi noted.
He also highlighted that overeating can cause indigestion, gastro-esophageal reflux and colon discomfort that could increase the risk of developing sleep disorders during Ramadan.
“It is important for fasting individuals to ensure they get the same amount of sleep as they usually get over a regular 24-hour period. People usually sleep during the night for seven to eight hours in a single stretch, but during Ramadan, this is not the case. It is advised to make up for lost night time sleep,” he explained.
Dr al-Hashemi said that when people change their sleeping and waking pattern, they suffer sleepiness, headaches, and mood swings. “Changes in the bedtime and wake-up schedule can increase the risk of developing a circadian rhythm disorder, such as delayed sleep phase disorder. Establishing and maintaining a regular sleep pattern during Ramadan is important for facilitating re-adjustment after the holy month,” said to Dr al-Hashemi.
“People who have a history of irregular sleep patterns may suffer insomnia and chronic biological clock disorders after Ramadan, in addition to having difficulties adjusting back to their original sleep pattern. This can hinder their normal work or study schedules,” he said.
Dr al-Hashemi advised gradually re-adjusting the sleep and wake schedule over several days, especially during the last days of the Eid holidays, ahead of a return to work or school. He says this is an important step towards re-synchronising the body’s biological clock.
Additional tips for regulating sleep patterns during Ramadan include increasing exposure to sunlight, eating a nutritious diet, taking naps during the day, avoiding caffeine and artificial light including electronic devices within four hours of the desired bedtime and sleeping in a dark, cool room.
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