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Ramadan and mental health

By Chloe Hall

Mahira is a young Muslim woman who leads a busy conventional lifestyle, working full time in a supermarket, while helping her mother to look after her younger siblings. Alongside religious observance and learning, for many people like Mahira, Ramadan provides an opportunity to enjoy changes to personal routines. For example, she fasts, aims to spend some time volunteering, and tends to see more of her family and their friends than usual. Changes like these can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. 

Mindfulness, living in the moment, listening to our senses and taking time to be aware of our surroundings are all appropriate responses, especially during a time of fasting, devotion and thinking about others. However, Mahira is very aware of those people who might find such changes to personal routines difficult when it comes to safeguarding their mental health. ‘If someone has bipolar disorder they need to rest well. It’s not easy to maintain sleep patterns during Ramadan. That really matters to people who are bipolar. And then there are those with eating disorders. Fasting might cause them extra problems.’ It’s important to remember that people managing conditions like these are not required to fast during Ramadan, as their mental and physical health takes precedence.

It is especially important to look after your diet during Ramadan, which is a time when people eat during the evening and before sunrise. It may prove more challenging than usual to maintain a balanced diet. It may also be worth considering foods which release energy slowly. Mahira recognises that it is equally important to keep hydrated while fasting. ‘Dehydration makes you tired, can give you headaches, and can make it difficult to concentrate on routine things’. So it’s very important to drink plenty of liquids during the evenings and early mornings. The British Nutrition Foundation offers advice on fasting through a time of devotion like Ramadan. 

It’s not only Ramadan itself that can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders. The prospect of fasting could lead to anxiety and loss of self esteem, even before the holy month has begun. People can also feel self-conscious about reaching out to discuss their situation. 

Nonetheless, it is very important for anyone with a mental health issue to carry on prioritising their mental wellbeing to avoid unintended setbacks. Mahira knows that Ramadan is not about making people feel worse about themselves. ‘There’s an inner strength that people draw on, but nobody should harm themselves or set treatment plans back. Ramadan should also be a time to think positively about yourself and the good things in your life.’ 

Mahira points out that there are many people who are diabetic. The NHS provides advice about fasting and potential dangers like hypoglycemia, if you have diabetes. As already noted, if you are unwell or have a long term medical condition, you are not required to fast. It is a personal choice, and everyone’s situation is different. 

Ramadan is naturally a time for charity and assisting others. Researchers show that helping other people is beneficial to mental health as it can relieve stress, anxiety and boost self-esteem. Mahira suggests that charity doesn’t necessarily mean making a donation, it could be cooking a meal for others or joining in with community events. The sharp rise in the cost of living has left many people to cope with financial worries. It is completely understandable if they cannot commit to a charitable donation at the moment. There are many ways to help others. 

Experts suggest that socialising and spending time with friends and family generally leaves people feeling more fulfilled and positive. This may mean that they are less prone to mental health issues. Mahira agrees, ‘Ramadan can actually boost your mental well-being.’ Attending the mosque, reading from the Qur’an, and offering prayers are affirming experiences. And there are online and media channels dedicated to prayers and teachings which may be especially useful to those who are unable to attend a mosque. 

Taking evening and nighttime meals can have a disruptive effect on sleep patterns. Researchers suggest that it may help to plan for a daytime nap. People could also allow extra time for breaks if they are continuing to work. Low energy, lethargy and increased tiredness can impact on mental wellbeing and leave people feeling irritable and anxious. A nap could help to avoid this. 

Of course, Ramadan does not mean that mental health issues are less important. There are many reasons why people struggle with their mental health. There are several options if you, or someone you know, are presently finding things difficult. Talking to a trusted friend, relative or member of the congregation at the mosque may help. You can always approach your GP for support and advice. Medical experts are well placed to advise on mental health issues and how to observe and enjoy Ramadan while ensuring that you can continue to take care of yourself.

In conclusion, everyone needs to continue to look after each other during Ramadan. And that means careful planning at a personal level, and generally taking care of our mental health. Mahira agrees, ‘We should try to remain positive, and definitely enjoy Ramadan, but reach out if we are finding things difficult.’ 


There is a lot of advice and help online for anyone who is finding things difficult during Ramadan or at any time. For example, you could try these sources of information.

Posted on: 18th March 2024

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