Avoiding headaches during Ramadan

Amany Abdel-Moneim , Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

A fasting headache is a type of head pain that occurs after not eating for 16 hours or more. It is linked to low blood-sugar levels, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal and sleep deprivation

Avoiding headaches during Ramadan
Avoiding headaches during Ramadan


As Muslims worldwide observe the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn till sunset becomes a cornerstone of spiritual practice.

Though fasting can have numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved metabolism, and mental clarity, it can also lead to fasting headaches for some individuals. This is especially common in the first few days of Ramadan until the body gets used to the changes in food type, intake, and schedule in addition to sleep patterns.

A fasting headache occurs after not eating for 16 hours or more. It is linked to low blood sugar levels, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal and sleep deprivation. It usually goes away after eating.

Luckily, if you listen to your body, prioritise hydration and nutrition, reduce caffeine intake, choose decaf alternatives, and manage blood sugar and stress levels effectively, as well as get enough sleep, you can minimise the risk of headaches and discomfort during Ramadan, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the spiritual journey of fasting. 


Here are some tips to help you ease fasting headaches:


Stay hydrated:

Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches during Ramadan. To combat this, prioritise hydration during non-fasting hours. Drink plenty of water, fresh juices, and other hydrating beverages throughout the night and eat a Sohour meal rich in fluids. Aim to consume at least eight glasses of water daily to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration-induced headaches.


Reduce caffeine intake: 

For those accustomed to consuming caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea, abruptly cutting back on caffeine during fasting hours can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including headaches. Substitute caffeinated drinks with decaf coffee or soda, herbal teas, or water during non-fasting hours to avoid dehydration and minimise headache risk.


Opt for balanced nutrition:

Maintaining balanced and nutritious meals during Sohour and Iftar is crucial for stabilising blood-sugar levels and preventing headaches. Include complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fruits, leafy vegetables and fibre in your meals to provide sustained energy throughout the day. Avoid excessive consumption of sugary, processed foods or sodas, as they can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and trigger headaches.


Get enough sleep:

Quality sleep plays a vital role in preventing headaches during Ramadan. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night and establish a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body’s internal clock. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, minimise screen time before bed, and ensure your sleeping environment is conducive to restful sleep. Prioritising sleep will help alleviate fatigue and reduce the risk of headaches during fasting hours.


Manage stress: 

The physical and emotional demands of fasting, coupled with daily responsibilities, can increase stress levels and aggravate headache symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and light physical activity into your daily routine. Take breaks to rest and relax and prioritise self-care to alleviate stress and prevent headaches.


Limit physical exertion:

During fasting hours, avoid strenuous physical activities that can aggravate dehydration and fatigue. Pace yourself and conserve energy by minimising physical exertion whenever possible. Opt for light exercises such as gentle stretching, yoga, or walking during non-fasting hours to stay active without overexerting yourself.


Seek relief with natural remedies:

Apply a cold compress to your forehead, practise relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, or drink herbal teas with calming properties like peppermint or chamomile. Head massages are also effective in reducing pressure or tension around the head, as well as the severity and duration of pain. Additionally, consider using essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus for aromatherapy to soothe headaches and promote relaxation.


Ask for medical advice: 

If you experience persistent or severe headaches during Ramadan, consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice and treatment recommendations. They can help identify underlying causes and develop a plan to manage symptoms effectively.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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