One of the pet peeves of Ramadan that most of us have to deal with is a disrupted sleep pattern. If you have a full-time job or school, it might not be as difficult to discipline your way around it as one would have to force themselves to stick to a routine. But for some who work multiple jobs and manage their own businesses, staying idle during Ramadan is tempting. That means, messing up the sleep pattern would likely be more inevitable for those who work around the clock. And it’s usually during Ramadan that I’ve realised how messed up my sleep pattern can be.
But then again, we all have different sleeping habits and routines; it is ultimately up to us which would work out the best. I personally prefer not to sleep after suhoor and fajr only because I don’t like the groggy feeling I would have to deal with after “taking a nap” that ends up being hours of sleeping. As a morning person, that would usually mean that I would waste the most important part of the day when I am usually productive and motivated.
Isn’t it the worst feeling when you wake from sleep only to feel like you need more sleep, instead of feeling refreshed?
Apparently, “sleep experts” indicate that the worst time to wake up is during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage.
This occurs during the fifth and final stage of sleeping when we typically dream with increased respiration rate and brain activity. This is also the time when we are completely at rest and when our bodies don’t move. Have you ever been interrupted when you are in a deep sleep? That’s why we may experience “sleep drunkenness” – a state where you don’t know whether it’s reality or not – and don’t realise what time of the day it is. I’m sure we all have experienced this at some point in our lives.
So, how would one know how to avoid waking up in the middle of REM? The mathematics of sleep cycle is quite complicated and can vary from one person to another. If you are dedicated to reclaim your sleep health, there are tons of sleep cycle calculators online.
There are also phone apps that track your stages of sleep and would only ring the alarm (closest to the time set by you) when you are at the light sleep stage, which is the best time to wake up to be fully rested. I’ve tried this before and it has worked so well especially when I slept later than my ideal bedtime or when I needed to wake up earlier than usual.
If you don’t feel like experimenting, the other classic option would be to take a nap. But it’s important to take a nap at the right time of the day at the right amount. A nap just before or after Zohor prayer is a Sunnah – also known as Qaylulah. Even if you don’t typically take a nap, resting your eyes and mind for 20-30 minute naps will improve your mood and alertness to continue hustling through your day. Also, a timeless and useful tip that we can extract from this Sunnah is to plan your day around prayer times. These are applicable even in other months.
But, fixing your sleep pattern in Ramadan is more than just trusting your body clock. It also depends on where you live.
Let’s say isyak is 11 pm and fajr is 3 am in the morning where you’re at. It would be humanely impossible to have enough of sleep if you’ve planned not to sleep after fajr. Some people nap in between maghrib and isyak and then, isyak and fajr. Then, they might stay up for a while after fajr and have a nap again. Basically, they would try to work their sleep around the prayer times. So, it’s hard to say when exactly they would have a full night of sleep if this is the case. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re experiencing a jet lag.
And this type of sleep isn’t a new ‘concept’ especially for those who live in the more northern part of the world. Apparently, in the medieval times, people used to sleep twice. This consisted of two sessions of four-hours of sleep with an hour or two as “break from sleep” where they would either pray, socialise and do something.
But in countries closer to the Equator, the isyak and fajr are far apart and laid out perfectly to the amount of sleep needed by an average adult. Not having any major seasonal change in tropical countries is obviously much easier to deal with.
Having experienced fasting in two different parts of the world, I can say that we all have a fair share of tests and trials in Ramadan. While it might be hot in the tropical countries, the prayer times are not constantly changing so it is easier for us to adapt and form a routine. Those living closer to the Polar regions have to struggle with longer fasting hours and changing prayer times. There is more to sleep patterns and weather when it comes to challenges in the month of Ramadan, of course. But that’s the point of it, I guess.
So, if you think sleep pattern is more to this than meets the eye, you are not the only one.
There are lots of other things to consider when we talk about the factors that can mess up our sleep patterns. And it doesn’t have to be Ramadan for us to be sleep-deprived. And, more importantly than following the standard practice of sleep is to find what suits your body clock and work or school schedule best.
Ultimately, Ramadan should not be a reason for us to hibernate just because we don’t feel as energetic. It’s one of the best times to reflect and improve our spirituality, especially at night.