Most people usually sleep later at night and wake up before dawn for a meal ahead of the day’s fast. These changes in sleep patterns can affect overall health and make fasting more challenging. Image Credit: Pixabay. For illustrative purposes only.

Abu Dhabi: Besides the obvious changes in mealtimes during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, there is also a marked difference in bedtimes.

Most people usually sleep later at night and wake up before dawn for a meal ahead of the day’s fast. These changes in sleep patterns can affect overall health and make fasting more challenging. Doctors have therefore urged residents to ensure a semblance of consistency in their Ramadan routines.

Dr Brian England, chiropractor and functional medicine expert at Wellth integrative medicine centre, said: “Sleep patterns are disrupted during Ramadan as people shift their eating and drinking patterns to later in the evening and at night. This shift affects the circadian rhythm hormones, causing a disruption of sleep and reducing sleep quality.”

Dr Brian England

He added: “[Such] sleep disruption prevalent in the Middle East, as people generally eat later at night, eat more simple carbohydrates, and sleep later during the day.”


Without checks, such disruptions can result in sleep deprivation, and also make fasting difficult.

“It is well known that we function better when we get sufficient good-quality sleep, but studies have shown that sleep also affects our satiety and hunger levels. According to this research, partial sleep deprivation is associated with changes in the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, which could make fasting more challenging,” said Dr Vaishal Shah at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Centre.

Dr Vaishal Shah

Studies have also determined that without sufficient and consistent quality sleep, the immune response is suppressed, making people more susceptible to infections in general, which they then take longer to recover from.

There are then spillover effects that affect heart health, mood, memory and cognitive function. In addition, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of accidents.

What you can do

The good news is that it is possible to work towards better quality sleep over the holy month. And while it is often tough to schedule the seven to nine hours of sleep that adults require, it is possible to improve sleep quality with some simple measures.

According to Dr Shah, three factors underpin quality sleep: sleep schedule, period without interruption, and sleep hygiene.

“Some people will change their habits drastically during Ramadan, and how they do this will depend on their lifestyle and commitments – such as work or family. It is impossible to say that one pattern is preferable to another. However, no matter which approach individuals adopt, there are steps they can take to help themselves get enough sleep during the month and to readjust more easily to their regular schedule afterwards,” Dr Shah assured.

Set sleep schedule

A step towards ensuring quality sleep is maintaining a consistent bed and wake time. This helps regulate circadian rhythms, and encourages restorative sleep.

It is possible to split up the required hours of sleep into a number of sessions. When doing this, Dr Shah advised that individuals ensure one consistent longer block of continuous sleep that is at least five to six hours long. The others sessions can be used to make up the recommended sleep hours.

“Studies have shown that people who were sleep deprived and were suffering from poor sleep quality benefited from taking a mid-afternoon nap for at least 45 minutes and had better cognitive and physical performance than people who did not nap or nap for shorter duration,” Dr England.

Dubai Health Authority sleep hygiene
A step towards ensuring quality sleep is maintaining a consistent bed and wake time. Image Credit: Stock image

Reduction in work hours

Also make use of the special accommodations offered in the UAE during Ramadan, which reduce work and school times by two hours every day. This reduction can afford many residents a chance to catch up on their sleep in the early morning, or during the later part of the day.

Turn off screens

In addition, sleep hygiene can help make sleep more restful. This includes turning off screens at least an hour before going to bed, and ensuring that the bedroom is a calm, relaxing space.

Diet and caffeine

Doctors also recommend cutting caffeine intake, especially as too much caffeine can delay sleep and also hinders hydration. Similarly, fatty, oily foods that are high in sugar can delay sleep, and reduce sleep quality as the body works overtime to digest the meal.

Focus on healthy foods at suhour (pre-dawn meal) that will provide slow release energy throughout the day, such as wholegrains and protein. Avoid anything too sugary as it can interfere with sleep in the short term, and can make you feel more tired later on.

Try to avoid caffeine as much as possible, particularly in the hours before you plan to sleep.


Exercise also plays a role in promoting quality sleep. Despite time constraints, it is therefore a good idea to fit in some physical activity in one’s daily routine.

“Exercising during the holy month of Ramadan has many health benefits, and these extend far beyond sleep. Exercising promotes better quality of sleep, improves cardiometabolic health, elevates mood, reduces stress, promotes weight loss, and increases muscle mass,” Dr England said.

Regular exercise contributes to a good night’s sleep. It helps tire out the body and relax the mind. However, exercising too soon before bed can have the opposite effect. It’s best to exercise earlier in the day, and not within 4 hours of your bedtime.

Sleep disorders

With its high rates of obesity and diabetes, many residents in the UAE also suffer from sleep disorders, including sleep apnoea. These individuals should be especially careful about the quality of they get, prioritising their sleep schedules and hygiene. In addition, they should continue using their CPAP machines to ensure that the sleep they get is restorative.

Ensure quality sleep

Make sure that your bedroom is comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark. Blackout curtains and earplugs can help prevent light and noise from affecting your sleep.

There is evidence that scents can affect your sleep. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, making you feel more relaxed and ready for sleep. Try using a scented candle, essential oil or potpourri to give your bedroom a relaxing fragrance that will help you sleep, as long as there is no sensitivity towards fragrances and breathing difficulties.

Avoid using your bedroom for activities other than sleeping. Watching television, eating, working, or using your computer in the bedroom can be distracting and keep you awake.

If you cannot fall asleep in 20 minutes, try leaving your bedroom and finding a relaxing activity until you feel tired.