DUBAI // People living in the Middle East have little awareness of how to sleep properly, according to a specialist in lung conditions.
Dr Amro Al Astal, a leading pulmonologist at the American Hospital Dubai, added that Ramadan heightens the problem.
During the holy month, people adopt bad habits such as sleeping long hours during the day, staying up all night and smoking shisha in the evening.
Although those who sleep in the day during Ramadan might get the recommended six-and-a-half to seven hours rest, Dr Al Astal insisted it was not quantity, but quality, that counted.
"The problem with Ramadan is people now tend to sleep as long as they can during the day," he said. "This makes our sleep cycle out of scope because we are programmed to sleep during the night and to be awake during the day."
Dr Al Astal recommended three to four hours of "solid" sleep during the holy month between 11pm and 3am, saying the benefits of sleeping at night included feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
But while people were aware of the hazards of changing their sleeping pattern, they did so anyway, according to Salman Zahid Qureshi, a comedian from Pakistan. "Most people, even if they are aware, they just don't care during this month, sadly," he said. "Most think what they are going to do because of the short working hours is stay up late at night.
"Along with this whole shisha culture, they think it's OK to do that and sleep in the afternoon. They feel like they won't feel the fast that way."
Mr Qureshi admitted that this year had been particularly tough on his sleeping pattern.
Longer working hours and living with his brother, who has a newborn baby, have put an end to his afternoon naps.
"I'm getting to bed at about 1am, getting up at 4am, then trying to get some sleep at 5am, so it's all over the place," he said.
Sleep was a very important process, emphasised Dr Al Astal, who works at the hospital's sleep centre. He said the consequences had a lasting effect throughout the day. "If we don't get enough sleep we are tired the next morning, we are less productive, we are more nervous and we are short-tempered. We have to sleep to counteract all these things."
But for some people, knowing these facts was still not enough.
"Given you are required to function and go to work during Ramadan, it is important to have that sleep be consistent and throughout the night without having such disruptive patterns. That can be hard for me," said Marwa Medhat, an Egyptian.
"Nap-wise, they shouldn't be more than 30 minutes to one hour long because it makes you lazy and messes your sense of productivity. "
Occasionally, sleeping until shortly before she has to break her fast, Ms Medhat often had trouble getting back to sleep, her energy levels having risen after eating.
"I console myself in the benefits of constraint and practising my patience, refraining from the gluttonous tendencies of our culture today," she said.
People need to be more aware of their sleeping habits before it is too late, Dr Al Astal said.
"Sleeping is not granted. Some people go to sleep, wake up and they don't feel how complex this process is until they get problems with their sleep."