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Fasting and sleep…a ​​difficult equation that requires adjusting the method of nutrition

When a fasting person asks: How can Ramadan affect my sleep? The answer will not be the same for all fasting people in different regions of the world. Because the matter will depend on variables that differ between those who are fasting.

Fasting and sleep quality

in general; If you are fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, the changes you make in your daily routine can have several effects on your sleep. Either negatively or positively.

When the changes you make in your daily routine are unhealthy, then fasting can affect the quality of your sleep. Because this will require your body’s biological clock to make some unusual adjustments so that your sleep problems do not worsen.

During fasting during the day in Ramadan, the fasting person abstains from eating food, drinking water, and other drinks, in the period between dawn and sunset. That is, he does not eat breakfast or lunch. Instead, the fasting person wakes up to eat a pre-dawn meal (suhoor). Then, after sunset, he eats the main breakfast.

And the matter is not limited to that; In fact, many fasting people do not sleep most of the night, and most fasting people spend the evening awake until late hours of the night. The majority of them go to work after sleeping only a few hours in the period between dawn and the beginning of work hours. Then some fasting people spend a long period of sleep during the late hours of the day, and wake up before sunset.

Seasonal factors

However, it should be noted that the effect of Ramadan on sleep varies from year to year, as the lunar Hijri calendar contains 354 days; That is, 11 days less than the Gregorian calendar. This means that the month of Ramadan comes 11 days early every year, and moves from one season to another every 9 years. As a result, Ramadan can affect your sleep a little differently each year. The duration of each daily fast during the month of Ramadan in the summer is longer than in the winter months. This is especially evident the farther you get from the equator. Meaning that there are more hours during the day in the summer and fewer in the winter, which means that, especially during the summer, the night hours are shorter and the dawn time to start fasting is earlier.

There is also another factor that can affect sleep during the month of Ramadan, which is temperature. The intense summer heat requires the fasting person to take a nap in the middle of the day, which in turn may negatively affect sleep at night.

Change in lifestyle and sleep

Despite the importance of this matter for those who fast during the month of Ramadan and the period that follows it, there are not many medical studies available on the effects of fasting on sleep. But what is available is still very useful in understanding how Ramadan may affect your sleep, especially the expected effects on sleep due to lifestyle changes associated with Ramadan. Among the main results presented by the results of these studies are:

– Although many fasting people report increased feelings of sleepiness during the day and decreased practical performance abilities, the results of peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven that despite the delayed bedtime and wake-up time for fasting people during the month of Ramadan, there is no objective evidence of increased sleepiness during the daytime fasting period. To a degree that affects mental abilities (not stressful physical ones) in practical performance.

Some studies indicate that the problem clearly appears when you do not sleep enough hours throughout the entire day, that is, when you do not sleep 8 hours during the day. Part of it is during the night itself, and the rest is compensated for by increasing the duration of naps during the day. And so; It is possible to prevent daytime sleepiness by completing the number of hours of daily sleep required for health, and for some of them to be during the night. If the fasting person is unable to achieve this, it is very expected that he will feel sleepy during the day.

Effect of eating time

Several studies have shown conflicting results regarding the time it takes to fall asleep and the total number of hours of sleep during the month of Ramadan. The majority of the discrepancy between these results is due to the effect of mealtime (dinner) on sleep. The studies that noted that the ease of falling asleep was not affected were due to eating dinner early (about 9 p.m.), and not delaying it until later hours of the night, which shows that changes in lifestyle and sleep during this month have the ability to interfere with sleep.

In terms of “sleep stages,” or “sleep structure,” and possible changes in those who are fasting during the month of Ramadan, some studies have shown that there is a significant decrease in the amount of “rapid eye movement (REM) sleep” at the end of the month of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, bedtime is also generally later, as family and friends eat and socialize long into the night. Some medical sources indicate that studies found that more than 60 percent of fasting people who stayed awake after 11 p.m. did so because they were communicating with family and friends and watching television. These same people tend to wake up early and sleep very late. Needless to say; Unfamiliar meal times and a disturbed body clock are a recipe for interrupted sleep.

Sleep stages affected

To clarify; During your sleep, you experience two types of sleep: the “rapid eye movement” stage and the “non-REM” stage. During each, your mind and body behave differently during these two different phases. “Rapid eye movement sleep” is a stage of sleep that is involved in processing emotional memories and ensuring our psychological health, thus improving the quality of mental attention and psychological comfort during the waking hours of the day.

The amount of REM sleep is affected by core body temperature. And so; The nocturnal increase in temperature is expected to shorten the duration of REM sleep.

During Ramadan, this may be due to eating a large meal late in the evening. One of the evidence for this is that some studies have observed an increase in body temperature during sleep, throughout the month of Ramadan, compared to when not fasting.

Improving sleep for fasting people

There is room for personal intervention in improving the quality of sleep for fasting people, by determining the time, quality and quantity of the components of the fasting people’s night meals. To clarify, the process of digesting food increases your body temperature. But in order for you to sleep, your body needs to cool down a little, so; Eating right before bed can be a perfect recipe for “lack of sleep” and “sleep disturbance.”

Some scientific sources put forward the idea that the decrease in the period of “rapid eye movement sleep” during the month of Ramadan may also be due to interruption of sleep and waking up to eat the suhoor meal before dawn. It is medically known that the early hours of the morning (after midnight) are the time when a greater percentage of “rapid eye movement sleep” is achieved naturally.

However, the observation that the period of “non-REM sleep” does not seem to change in people who are fasting during the month of Ramadan remains an interesting observation and requires further understanding of its occurrence.

Unusual meal times and a disturbed body clock are a recipe for interrupted sleep

There are multiple causes of sleep disorders in the fasting person

It is not inevitable that some fasting people will suffer from sleep disturbances during the month of Ramadan, and it is not inevitable that this will cause health repercussions during it, and also in additional suffering when trying to restore the normal sleep schedule after the end of the month.

The basis is healthy; The body and brain ask the person for a “period of stillness” by giving them enough sleep. Advice from the National Sleep Foundation in the United States includes that an adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day, especially at night.

By reviewing many medical sources, sleeping difficulties arise among fasting people for multiple reasons, including:

– Low level of physical activity during daytime fasting. According to medical sources, physical activity during the day is one of the strongest motivators for falling asleep at night.

– Dryness of the body due to lack of fluid intake and increased evaporation of sweat. Dehydration causes a decrease in blood flow, and oxygen with it, to the brain and muscles, causing difficulty in relaxing the muscles to facilitate sleep for a person, and discomfort in the work of nerve cells in the brain.

– Disturbances that a person creates for himself in the way he eats, such as delaying eating dinner, not eating the suhoor meal, as well as eating a lot of sweets and highly sweetened drinks… All of this causes discomfort to the body and fatigue to the brain (too much added sugars).

Some fasting people neglect or abandon the healthy habit of sleeping at night, increasing the length of the night stay awake, and staying in brightly lit rooms… All of this causes a disturbance in the functioning of the circadian rhythm, and thus suffering from sleep disorders, and disturbances in the extent of mental alertness during the day. .

Controlling sleep during Ramadan may begin with eating

Neglecting some people to get enough sleep during the month of Ramadan causes health repercussions, such as frequent headaches, mood swings, and loss of mental focus. This, in turn, affects one’s ability to control food intake and pay attention to healthy nutrition at night.

For the mental and physical comfort of those who are fasting during the month of Ramadan, it is necessary to adjust the sleep pattern through the following steps:

– Returning it to a balanced way of meeting the body’s food needs, according to natural adaptation to the Ramadan changes at eating times.

– Eat healthy quantities and ingredients for Iftar and Suhoor, and make them the two main meals to eat. That is, reducing the frequency of eating foods during the night between the time of breakfast and the time of suhoor meal.

– Reduce your intake of caffeine from drinks containing it, especially after midnight. Because caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that hinder the ease of falling asleep.

– It is necessary to get some sleep at night, even if the duration is less than the hours of night sleep required for health. Perhaps for at least 4 hours at night. This requires establishing a daily routine to modify the sleep pattern, and maintaining this routine. That is, a person sleeps and wakes up at approximately the same time every day, which helps the fasting person’s body adjust his sleep rhythm to become more comfortable, while making a slight adjustment to his biological clock.

– Paying attention to creating a suitable environment for sleep; Because the calm, darkness, and coolness of the bedroom are factors that help with sleep, while avoiding using electronic devices, such as the mobile phone, laptop, and television, near sleep time.

– Make sure to take a nap in the afternoon, but not for several hours, in order to stimulate activity in the body and revive levels of mental concentration.

* Consultant in “internal medicine”

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