Dr. Aisha Hussain Al Adab, an expert in sleep disorders at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), is cautioning that excessive night eating can negatively affect sleep quality and lead to sleep disorders.
“Meals eaten during Ramadan are often large and contain fried and sugary foods. Gatherings often turn into celebrations, with meals becoming feasts. Eating sensibly and avoiding large, excessive portions, especially directly before bedtime, is an important part of ensuring good sleep quality,” says Dr. Al Adab.
According to Dr. Al Adab, due to the unique nature of Ramadan, many people have irregular sleeping times during the day because they stay awake late at night to perform acts of worship and to socialize. She says establishing and maintaining regular eating and sleeping patterns throughout the month is an important part of successfully ‘readjusting’ after Ramadan. She says this is particularly important for those who have experienced sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep in the past.
“Individuals who have a history of poor sleeping patterns are most at risk of insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders after Ramadan. For these individuals, establishing a regular sleeping and eating pattern during the Holy Month is very important. Eating directly before sleeping should be avoided as the body’s digestive system should be resting, not digesting food while sleeping,” noted Dr. Al Adab.
As the final week of Ramadan approaches, Dr. Al Adab recommends gradually adjusting waking and sleeping times over several days. She says this will help the body’s biological clock to re-synchronize.
According to Dr. Al Adab, Ramadan can be a challenging time for many people due to altered sleep and eating patterns. She says each year after Ramadan, the Sleep Clinic at Hamad General Hospital experiences an increase in the number of patients referred to the service. Around 40 patients are referred to HMC’s Sleep Clinic each week for various issues relating to sleep disorders.
“The shifting of eating patterns and the types of foods eaten can actually reprogram the various clocks our body runs on, making it more difficult to sleep during certain times and increasing fatigue and tiredness during other times,” noted Dr. Al Adab.
She says that when people change their sleeping pattern they can experience not only sleepiness but also headaches and mood swings, especially if they fail to prepare for the change by slowly adjusting sleeping and waking times and decreasing caffeine intake.
To help regulate sleeping patterns, Dr. Al Adab recommends the following tips:
- Create a bedtime ritual that will help you unwind, such as reciting or listening to the Quran, taking a warm shower, or practicing some gentle yoga stretches.
- Avoid using electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets in bed; power off these devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool.
- Try not to stress about the amount of sleep you are getting. The more you stress and worry about having the ‘best’ sleep routine, the more difficult it is for your body to relax and shut down.