Post-Ramadan ‘jet lag?’ Top 10 tips to beat it
Here are the 10 best tips to get back into regular sleeping, eating, and working patterns
Ramadan has left most of us with upside down routines of eating at night and sleeping during the day. The Eid celebrations have most likely not changed this rhythm. So, as Eid has come to an end and work is calling, what can we do to beat our post-Ramadan jet lag while avoiding sleepiness, headaches and mood swings? Here are the 10 best tips to get back into regular sleeping, eating, and working patterns.
1. Gradually readjust your sleep and wake-up schedule
You cannot expect your body to get back to its normal patterns if you have been sleeping during the day for an entire month. Instead, gradually readjust the time you go to bed and wake up. For instance, try hitting the pillow at 1 or 2 a.m. the first day and get up at 9 a.m. The second day it will be easier to go to bed on a regular time.
2. Go back to eating three meals and two snacks daily
Just like with sleeping patterns, when it comes to eating habits it is also easier to change gradually from night-time meals to eating regular meals during the day. Going back to eating three meals and two snacks daily will not only help you fight the post-Ramadan jet lag but also increase metabolic rate, which likely slowed down during the holy month as a result of fasting. It is important to eat in moderation and at least two hours before going to bed to avoid sleeping disruptions.
3. Expose yourself to strong light for at least one hour after waking up
The more daylight you see, the easier it will be for your body to readjust its biological clock and fight day-time sleepiness. Specifically after waking up it is good to expose yourself to strong light, whether this entails going outside or sitting in front of a large, bright window.
4. Avoid high-calorie sugary and fatty foods
Following a month of fasting it is tempting to indulge, but foods high in sugar or fat can lead to all kinds of digestive problems, including stomach ache, acid reflux, sleep disturbance, and vomiting. While there is nothing wrong with the occasional sweet, health practitioners strongly recommend people to keep eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats during and after Eid.
5. Stay hydrated
Ramadan may have left some of us slightly dehydrated, so it is important to drink lots of fluids following the holy month. More than half of our body weight is made up of water, and every cell, tissue, and organ in the body needs water to function. Hydrating the body is not restricted to drinking water; fruits and vegetables often contain plenty of water as well and may be even more hydrating than water alone, thanks to the electrolytes and minerals found in them. With a water content of 96 percent, cucumber is the most hydrating food available. Other good choices are tomato (95 percent water content), celery (95 percent), green pepper (94 percent), watermelon (92 percent), and strawberries (92 percent).
By now, you are probably familiar with the numerous health benefits exercise has, but did you know it will also help you fight your post-Ramadan jet lag? Even light exercise, which includes walking, stretching, cleaning the house, or even praying, helps to sleep better at night. As heavy exercise concerns, it is best to do this in the morning or afternoon; a strenuous workout at night will likely make it more difficult to fall asleep.
7. Avoid caffeine
Consuming caffeine, a stimulant of the central nervous system that can stay in the body for about 8 hours, is never recommended in the late afternoon and at night, but doctors recommend forgoing caffeinated drinks or foods altogether while trying to resynchronize your circadian rhythm. This includes coffee, tea, soda, and even chocolate. If you must, limit your intake to one serving in the morning.
8. Avoid bright lights in the evening
Just as it is important to expose yourself to bright daylight in the morning it is recommended to stop watching TV, looking at a computer, or using any other bright screen two hours before going to bed. Any forms of light suppresses the production of the sleeping hormone melatonin, but the short wavelength blue light screens emit is the most disruptive to the body clock. Instead, read a book, listen to relaxation music, do some stretching, or meditate to unwind.
9. Take a warm bath before going to bed
Do you, the aforementioned tips notwithstanding, still struggle to fall asleep at night? Take a warm bath before hopping into bed. Not only does this help you relax your body and mind, the big chance is that the drop in body temperature when you get out of the bath will make you feel sleepy.
10. Take a short nap
Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to sleep for most of the day. Forcing your body to rest at night and be active during the day is the only way to get over your jet lag. If it is impossible to keep your eyes open all day long, allow yourself a short snooze. However, limit your nap to 30 minutes to avoid waking up feeling sluggish, and do not take naps after 4 p.m. or you may have a hard time to fall asleep in the evening.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Aug. 9. 2014.
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