As we reach the middle of Ramadan, a vicious struggle begins for many Muslims. On one hand, we feel the month of Ramadan is slowly passing us by, and we hope to maximize the benefits of this blessed month. However, on the other, many Muslims also feel their energy, focus, and motivation plummeting. For many Muslims, the grand ambitions, goals, and excitement from the beginning of Ramadan have begun to fade by the middle of the month as the reality of low-energy, fatigue, exhaustion and hunger sets in. The time to boost our energy and prepare for the final nights is here!
The Prophet said: “This month (of Ramadan) has begun and there is a night in it better than one thousand months. (So,) anyone deprived of its (blessings) is actually deprived of all goodness. Indeed, He is truly deprived who is kept away from its good. [Ibn Majah Daif]
As the final special last nights arrive, this is no time to be lazy, low-energy or feel fatigued.
If you watched our Productive Muslim webinar on sleep and fitness in Ramadan, you know that sleep is essential for your energy in this month. Your sleep in Ramadan is one of THE most important factors impacting your energy levels, and productivity and concentration both in work and worship. However, many Muslims don’t prioritize it in Ramadan. One survey found that 60% of fasting individuals who stayed awake after 11:00 pm attributed their wakefulness to socializing with families and friends and watching TV – that’s a lot of wasted sleep opportunities! (1)
In Ramadan and especially during the last 10 days, it’s essential to prioritize worship and rest in the nights and cut out other activities. But even if you’re not wasting time during the nights in Ramadan, many Muslims feel a tension between sleep and worship during the nights. The nights are short, and with Taraweeh, suhoor and a busy work schedule, it can feel challenging to get enough sleep AND maximize night worship, even when you’re doing your best.
As we reach the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it’s time to get serious about your sleep. Ironically, the more you PLAN for your sleep and sleep SMARTER, the more opportunities you will have to take advantage of night prayers with high energy and full concentration.
Repay Your Sleep Debt To Boost Your Energy
Understanding the little-known concept of “Sleep Debts” will prove invaluable to help you maximize night worship opportunities and improve your energy levels this Ramadan. Research studies have identified that when you miss out on hours of sleep, your body accumulates the negative effects of these hours of missed sleep, like a growing debt. (1) Sleep debt is a mathematical relationship between the hours of sleep that you need each night (7-9 hours) minus the hours of sleep that you actually get. Each hour of lost sleep is added to your sleep debt (2)
If you need 8 hours of sleep per night, and in Ramadan, you are only getting 4 hours of sleep daily, then every night, you will roughly acquire a sleep debt of 4 hours. In the research literature, the exact mathematical relationship is slightly more complex, but for the sake of simplification, let’s leave it at that.
Every night that you miss out on sleep, your sleep debt grows. As your sleep debt grows, you will experience negative health consequences including decreases in cognitive performance, memory, an increased risk for weight gain, irritability, fatigue, increased hunger, and reduced impulse control. Many Muslims will experience these negative effects in Ramadan as their chronic sleep debt begins to mount.
Letting your sleep debt run wild is a major hindrance for your worship opportunities in the last 10 nights. By the last 10 nights, most Muslims are so sleep-deprived from the first 20 days of Ramadan that they can hardly keep their eyes open in the last 10! Don’t let this happen to you!
The good news is that you can reverse the negative effects of sleep deprivation if you repay your sleep debt – as long as you repay your sleep debt QUICKLY. The research suggests that you can repay your sleep debt before your sleep debt reaches a maximum of 20 hours of missed sleep, at which point you will have reached a point of “sleep bankruptcy” (3)(9).
Repay your sleep debt by doing in small, consistent amounts through the following strategies:
- Using “power naps” to fill in your sleep debt
- Aiming to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier by taking steps to get home faster after Taraweeh
- For women: Catching up on your sleep by 1-2 hours on your week of menstruation when you do not have to wake up for Fajr
- Adding 1-2 extra hours of sleep on the weekend when you don’t have work
Sleep researcher Kurt VonRueden suggests keeping a “sleep diary” in which you keep track of your hours of sleep missed (2). Even 15 minutes of extra sleep squeezed in regularly to repay your sleep debt can provide immense benefits for your ongoing energy in Ramadan.
Sleep Strategies Before, During & After the Last 10 Nights
Once you understand the concept of sleep debts, there are important sleep strategies you should take before, during and after the last 10 nights in Ramadan to ensure optimal energy. (If you’re not willing to put in the work to prepare for the last 10 nights… are you really serious about your desire to maximize your reward?)
BEFORE The Last 10
You are preparing your body to take it to the next level in your night worship. To optimize your energy and worship opportunities in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, you should take steps in the FIRST 20 days of Ramadan to try and repay as MUCH of your sleep debt as possible before the last 10 nights of Ramadan begins. By repaying your sleep debt regularly, you will reach the last 10 nights of Ramadan with high energy and focus. By taking care of your sleep debt earlier in the month and during the last 10 DAYS, you can dedicate yourself to getting the most out of the last 10 NIGHTS of Ramadan.
DURING The Last 10
You are in it to win it! The last 10 nights are a time to push yourself physically and mentally in the pursuit of spiritual rewards. Recognise that your sleep debt will widen significantly during the last 10 nights with increased worship, so take steps in the daytime to mitigate this as much as possible. Napping in the last 10 days is proven strategy to help power you through long nights of Qiyam prayers and keep your sleep-debt from spiraling out of control. If you’re taking a break from Qiyam, squeeze in sleep during the night instead of excessive socializing or time-wasting. Remember, your body recharges during your sleep to allow you to take it to the next level in your prayers!
AFTER the Last 10
On Eid, continue repaying your accumulated (by now, presumably large) Ramadan sleep debt by attending the second Eid prayer a bit later in the morning if your work schedule allows it. Have a look at your post-Ramadan work schedule and realize that for the immediate days after Ramadan and the month after, you should commit to spending a little longer time sleeping every night, to repay your residual Ramadan sleep debt through an enforced earlier bedtime. Part of preparing for Ramadan is being responsible in repaying your sleep after Ramadan ends!
Realise it is your RESPONSIBILITY to your body to catch up on your sleep whenever you can. Your body’s need for sleep needs to be respected, even as you try to make more time for worship:
The Prophet said: “Verily, your body has a right over you.” [Bukhari]
Remember that your sleep and energy are intimately linked – if you want to get the most energy for your Ramadan grand finale in the last 10 days, you need to respect your need for sleep and take steps to repay your sleep debt whenever possible – before, during and after the precious last 10 nights!
So, grab your pillow and don’t ignore your growing sleep debt as we enter the second half of Ramadan! May Allah grant us all the energy and tawfique to get the most out of this blessed month, Ameen!
- BaHammam, A. (2003). Sleep pattern, daytime sleepiness, and eating habits during the month of Ramadan. Sleep and Hypnosis, 5, 165-174.
- VonRueden, K. (2014, September). Sleep Deprivation in the Workplace: The Hidden Side of Health and Wellness. In ASSE Professional Development Conference and Exposition. American Society of Safety Engineers. Available from: http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/729_vonrueden.pdf
- Harvard Health. (2018). Repaying your sleep debt – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/repaying-your-sleep-debt
- Broussard, J. L., Wroblewski, K., Kilkus, J. M., & Tasali, E. (2016). Two nights of recovery sleep reverses the effects of short-term sleep restriction on diabetes risk. Diabetes Care, 39(3), e40-e41.