Today, Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with more than 1.9 billion devout Muslims following its teachings. Predominantly a Middle Eastern religion, today it’s practised in most countries.
One of Islam’s holiest traditions is the observance of Ramadan, the month of holy fasting. According to Islamic belief, it was during Ramadan when God gave to the Prophet Muhammad the Quran, which is the holy book of Islam.
Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan annually but its beginning and end differs, depending on the first showing of a crescent moon. This year, the intermittent fasting began on April 12th and is due to end on May 12th.
During this period, Muslims participate in Ramadan fasting, one of the five pillars of the Islamic religion, as a way to cleanse the body and mind.
Ramadan is a time of prayer and reflection, so maintaining a regular sleep schedule is necessary. When eating habits change, getting enough sleep becomes tricky but it can be done.
Here are some tips to ensure you have some good night’s sleep until the end of Ramadan.
Focus on deep sleep
Total sleep time isn’t the only way to measure quality of sleep. Even when observing Ramadan, adequate sleep is still a priority. However, with all the preparations involved, it’s often overlooked.
Fajr, or the first prayer of the day, is scheduled very early. If your biological clock or circadian rhythm is out of sync, it’s difficult to wake up in time for the mosque’s call.
To maintain a regular bedtime, it’s important to first understand sleep stages. There are essentially two major sleep stages divided into sections. Namely, deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep.
Deep sleep is the first stage of sleep. This state sees bodily functions slow down in preparation for sleep, including lower body temperature and slower brain movements caught by an electroencephalogram or EEGS.
What makes deep sleep so important?
The faster you reach deep sleep, the easier you transition to REM sleep. REM sleep is the stage where most dreaming occurs and sleep experts believe is where our bodies are the most relaxed. Basically most health benefits come from this stage.
Sleep latency, the amount of time it takes to reach REM sleep should be as fast as possible as any amount you spend awake means less rest for your body.
REM sleep duration also dictates how well rested you’ll feel in the morning, so it’s advisable to get to deep sleep and into the latter stage of sleep in the shortest time possible.
Most people, however, find it hard keeping a regular sleep pattern which makes getting into deep sleep harder. Your main opponents are outside stimuli that keeps your consciousness awake.
Make your room as sleep inducing as possible by preventing harsh lights from getting in. Thick curtains work best, so is repositioning your bed. Bright lights confuse your circadian rhythm so keeping them out of your room is necessary.
Except for the call to prayer, ensure that no sound disturbs your sleep. If you live in a neighbourhood where loud noises can’t be avoided, sound-proof your sleep by wearing ear plugs.
Turn off or refrain from using your phone before going to bed. Aside from distracting you from the solemnity of the event, they perk up the brain which makes you awake and attentive when you should be powering down for sleep.
Pay attention to digestion
During Ramadan, Muslims are allowed two meals, namely suhoor before sunrise and iftar just after sunset. Fasting is practised between these two meals, while focus is on prayer and self-reflection.
Experts recommend waiting at least 3 hours after eating before sleeping. Others may worry that doing this leads to lack of sleep but not doing so can lead to other issues. By sleeping as soon as you finish a meal, you risk indigestion which can wake you up throughout the night.
When morning prayers are part of your routine, daytime sleepiness is one thing you wouldn’t want. Manage your time wisely, especially after eating and you’re good to go. If you don’t pay attention to your meal times, your quality of sleep also suffers.
Monitoring your carbohydrates consumption and caloric intake for the day helps. Going beyond the recommended intake makes digesting meals harder, shortening your regular sleep duration.
Another way to avoid indigestion is to minimise the portions we eat, spacing them out with water to facilitate digestion easier. The less you eat, the less your stomachs need to work breaking down our food. We know this can be tricky with nightly feasts of incredible food, but don’t go overboard every night.
According to experts, sleeping on your left side is a good way to prevent heartburn and indigestion due to the shape of the stomach and it’s position in the body. The right side, on the other hand, might aggravate heartburn.
These are just some of the ways you can prevent indigestion and related problems from interfering with your needed sleep. Also keep in mind that your normal diet also increases or decreases risk of having sleep related health problems.
Fight sleep deprivation with power naps
When fasting, your overall health dictates how well you can control hunger. The healthier and well-rested you are, the easier getting through the day with minimal food becomes. That’s why a regular sleep pattern is necessary.
In a perfect world, you wake up and sleep in regular intervals, giving your body the energy it needs to finish the day. Reality doesn’t always happen as planned though.
While you can’t always get all the sleep you want the night before, sneaking naps throughout the day will help you manage your drowsiness.
We talked about the benefits of daytime napping before and they all apply during Ramadan. It’s hard to reflect and centre yourself when you’re sleepy. To keep yourself awake and alert, a quick 15-minute nap won’t hurt, or even a longer 1 hour nap if you have the time.
Make sure to nap only when necessary and if possible, don’t take one hours before your bedtime to preserve your regular sleep schedule.
Value your sleep
While observing Ramadan and other religious events, it’s hard not to lose yourself in devotion. That’s not a bad thing, as long as it has a positive effect on how we appreciate ourselves and the people around us.
However, taking care of yourself, especially when it comes to sleep, also matters. You show appreciation of blessings you receive by taking care of yourself, including having enough sleep.
Remember, it’s not wrong to mind the body while feeding the soul. Ramadan Mubarak!