It is widely accepted that sleep is a medical and psychological necessity. Despite this, sleep patterns are dramatically different in various parts of the world. Numerous cultural and environmental factors play into what sleeping trends are seen in a particular area. Specifically in the Middle East, five distinct sleeping trends emerge that are closely linked with the majority’s observation of the month of Ramadan.
Culturally Acceptable Napping
Middle Eastern communities allow for and promote taking a daytime nap while observing the month of Ramadan. Workdays are shortened to accommodate for this. Research conducted at the University of Palestine showed that 74% of Palestine’s young adults took daytime naps. In contrast, only about 34% of adults in the Western world nap during the daytime. Workdays are typically eight hours long, and once children reach the age of five, they are expected to stay awake all day.
Poor Sleep Among Children
Recent research shows adolescents in the Middle East experience high levels of poor sleep quality. Around 10% of students regularly pull all-nighters on Sundays and only return to sleep after a full day of schooling on Monday. About 4 in 10 younger Middle-Eastern children experience delayed bedtimes, very early school start times and daytime napping. This is a much higher rate than seen in Western societies that promote a large chunk of sleep every night and discourage napping.
Early Sunday Mornings
Sunday mornings are the day of the week with the earliest wake-up times in the Middle East. This may be attributed to the western belief in Sunday as a day of rest. In contrast, the majority of the world experiences the earliest mornings on Mondays when their work week is just beginning. The United Arab Emirates wakes up the earliest around 7:18 am.
Thursday’s are for Rest
While the majority of the world reports waking up in the best mood on Saturdays, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE report feeling the best on Thursdays. The western world tends to sleep in more on Saturdays after a long work week. Surveys have concluded that Middle Eastern responders had longer sleep periods on Thursdays.
Inconsistent Sleep Patterns
People in the Middle East tend to have inconsistent sleep patterns due to habits established during Ramadan, which occasionally results in sleep disorders. This period is commonly associated with feasting and partying throughout the night, and sleep schedules are typically disrupted for a few months. Many people lack an understanding of proper sleep habits, but an increasing majority is aware yet apathetic towards the negative consequences of poor sleep. Daytime sleepiness is heightened among everyone who fasts.
The period of time is held with such regard that the entire culture has evolved to adapt to the consequences of drowsiness during the day. Workdays are shortened for everyone, and academic and occupational expectations are lowered for a short span of time. Sleeping long hours during the day is common during the Holy month because many people feel they can fast more easily by sleeping through their hunger. Once they wake up and feast, people feel more energized and have trouble going back to sleep. It is considered normal to only get around four solid hours of sleep.
The sleeping trends we see emerge in the Middle East include culturally acceptable napping, poor sleep habits among children, early wake times on Sunday, longer sleep periods on Thursdays and overall inconsistent sleep patterns.