Dubai: I always used to eat my suhoor late at night before bed during Ramadan. I always told myself that I would rather be just hungry, instead of both tired and hungry. Recently, my parents inspired me to join them at their 3am meals, telling me that it was a positive tradition that is well loved during Ramadan. So I decided to try it.
The first night, I was plunged out of my deep sleep, confused and really, really tired. It's pitch black outside and my body is not ready to leave this bed. But I got up and ate, drank water and went back to sleep. The next day, I truly felt the difference between having suhoor before bed and waking up closer to sunrise to have my early meal.
Not to sound like that latecomer to the party, but it actually works. These days in Ramadan, I never actually feel hunger. At least not the same way I felt it before. Suhoor helped me maintain my energy levels throughout the day. I can do more these days and I can stay focused on work for longer.
There's no doubt that it is in fact very difficult to get out of bed, if you've only been sleeping a few hours and to even have an appetite so early in the morning.
But I've figured out how not to be entirely exhausted and to properly enjoy suhoor and in fact, look forward to it every time I got to sleep.
1. Go to bed early
A no-brainer but so hard to do during this month. The whole "Life begins at night" idea is a very common thought during Ramadan. But you have to make a conscious effort to call it a day and go to bed at the same time every night. Try on some nights to go to bed earlier than usual if there are no family plans. This way, when you wake up for suhoor, your body has already been given a long enough break for you to be able to get up and kickstart your brain.
Going to sleep at 1am only to wake up at 3am then back to sleep at 4.30am can get pretty tiring on the body, so give yourself those essential sleep hours from 10pm to 3am and you will notice a big difference in how your body reacts when you wake up.
2. Be smart with your alarm
You’re less likely to click that snooze button if your alarm clock is placed across the room. I know it's a torturous thing to have to get up and then use your brain to make your legs work. But if you are someone who snoozes a lot, then this masochistic move is for you. Just get up to turn it off so you aren't tempted to go back to bed. Head to your kitchen to eat.
3. Avoid caffeinated drinks before bedtime
It is soooo tempting to drink tea and coffee at night during Ramadan. Lots of people, who are used to drinking caffeine first thing in the morning, will make up their love for coffee by drinking it at night after iftar. Even if you are that person saying "coffee won't affect me at all!" or "I can drink coffee and go straight to sleep." It may not keep you up, but it does in fact give you restless sleep.
If you can, try to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks during Ramadan. It's a great chance to cut down.
4. Exercise regularly
Pretty much everyone knows that exercising has plenty of benefits. One of those is better and earlier sleep. Working out is a great way for your body to breathe properly, reduce weight, which actually helps you sleep better. Even taking a brisk walk before or after iftar, if done consistently, can give you a boost of energy and allow your sleep to be more restful. Work out either right before iftar, or at around 9pm.
5. Don't eat much after iftar
This is the most effective trick for me. Every night, when the sunsets and I end my fast, I eat a well balanced, lower carb meal. My goal is to lose weight in Ramadan, so after iftar, I make the hardest decision of my life and I skip dessert. That's right. No kunafa, no baklava. Just iftar at 7pm and water for the rest of the night. Sounds kind of sad, but doable when you get used to it.
But I allow myself to somewhat enjoy my suhoor. Before I go to bed, I think about what I am going to eat for suhoor and I always make it something good. Eggs for protein, cheese because who doesn't love cheese, a savoury pastry to enjoy with my food and a small piece of dessert after my suhoor. That means I look forward to waking up for my meal, especially because I go to bed hungry. Plan ahead, eat less at night and more for suhoor, which will give you energy throughout the day.
6. Make it a family thing
It's pretty unusual for a family to bond at 3.30am, but it's actually a really nice way to enjoy an extra dose of family time. Set a specific suhoor time and wake up with your entire family. It's pretty effective when you have a bunch of people trying to wake you up, or get you out of bed. When you know that you have something planned with others, you are more likely to wake up and look forward to hanging out.
7. Get excited about something you want to eat
Before you sleep, think of something that will excite you and make you hop out of bed in the wee hours of morning. For me it's cheese borek or the thought of the sweet rice pudding I get to eat after my meal.