With the month of Ramadan here, changes in sleeping patterns can lead to feelings of fatigue and grogginess throughout the day. However, experts say there are many ways to keep the mind sharp while fasting.
Fasting can have positive effects on one’s well-being and spiritual growth, and its benefits can also extend to your physical health, including brain health. Research has shown that fasting results in increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), which is a family of proteins that help produce brain cells and increase resistance to dysfunction and degeneration, thus improving brain function.
Dr. Deepak K. Lachhwani, Chief, Neurology, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, highlights four behaviors to help keep your mind sharp during Ramadan:
1. Get Moving: Many people choose not to engage in physical activity when they’re fasting. However, regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and stimulates chemical changes in the body that enhance learning, mood and thinking. The best time to exercise is an hour after Iftar or taraweeh prayers.
2. ‘Exercise’ Your Brain: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading or memorizing the Quran, not only improves brain function but also promotes new brain cell growth. These types of activities are also great to share with family before or after Iftar.
3. Watch What You Eat: Incorporate foods into your Iftar meal that are rich in antioxidants, including fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains, because they help preserve memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Spend Time with Others: Engaging socially is important for brain health as it reduces stress and enhances intellectual stimulation. The opportunities to do so are numerous during Ramadan, whether it is during Iftar or Suhoor.
Dr. Lachhwani also emphasizes the importance of managing other health risks such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, as these medical conditions are also linked to brain function, “Control blood pressure by cutting down on salt and sugar. In addition, stay active, socially connected and positive to maintain brain health and overall health,” he suggests.