Posted on July 14, 2014

Establishing and maintaining regular sleeping patterns during Ramadan is an important step to “readjusting” after the Holy Month, according to Dr. Abul Aziz Al Hashmi, Consultant of Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Disorders at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

“Due to the unique nature of this holy month, many people experience frequent and irregular sleeping times during the day because they stay awake during the night to perform some religious rituals or socialize,” said Dr. Al Hashmi. He said the problem is comparable to circadian rhythm sleep disorders usually experienced by those traveling eastwards or across several time zones where a passenger may suffer from circadian dysrhythmia, commonly known as jet lag.

Dr. Al Hashmi said this is usually caused by the change in their bedtime and wake-up schedule and this can increase the risk of developing biological clock disorder such as delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) or melatonin secretion rhythm disorder. “When people change their sleeping and wake-up pattern, they may also suffer sleepiness, headache and mood swings,” he said. “Overeating, particularly eating high calorie sugary or fatty foods, weight gain, dyspepsia (indigestion), gastro-esophageal reflux or colon disorders can also increase the risk of developing sleep disorders during Ramadan.

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“Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland (a small endocrine gland) in the brain. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour ‘clock’ that plays a critical role when we fall asleep and wake up,” he stated; adding: “When it is dark, the body produces more melatonin but its production drops when it is daylight. Being exposed to bright lights or watching TV in the evening can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles and causes insomnia.”

However, he said a person can strike a balance between sleeping and performing religious rituals or socializing during Ramadan by adjusting their sleeping time schedule. “People who have a history of poor sleeping patterns may suffer insomnia and chronic biological clock disorders after Ramadan, in addition to difficulties in adjusting their reversed sleeping pattern thus hindering their normal work or study time schedules,” said Dr. Al Hashmi.

He advised people to gradually readjust their sleep and wake-up schedule over several days, especially within the last days of Eid holidays, ahead of their return to work or school to help resynchronize the body’s biological clock.

He suggested that exposure to strong light for at least one hour after waking up is a helpful way of restoring normal sleep schedule. “Light is the most potent agent to synchronize the internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms and helps reduce the level of sleep hormone (melatonin) in the blood. This does not necessarily require staying outdoors under the sun, but exposure to light coming through a window should do.” 

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