After fasting daily for 13 to nearly 14 hours throughout the holy month of Ramadan, UAE residents are advised to exercise caution when changing their dietary routines abruptly.

As the Eid Al Fitr holidays end on Monday, April 15, and children gearing up to resume school, medical experts in the UAE recommend that families gradually transition back to their usual eating patterns and sleep schedules.

Most children were on a long three-week spring break, so it would be crucial to gradually adjust sleep schedules to align with the upcoming school routine.

According to Doctors, parents must also incorporate healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats into meals and snacks as these foods provide essential nutrients and help maintain energy levels.

"Adults should incrementally shift bedtime and wake-up times earlier by 15-30 minutes each day," said Dr Karthika Sasidharan, Specialist Paediatrics, Aster Cedars Hospital and Clinic.

School-time eating patterns

They pointed out that families must plan their meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This helps avoid impulsive food choices and ensures balanced nutrition throughout the day.

Additionally, one must make gradual changes to eating habits rather than implementing drastic restrictions, as this allows for a more sustainable transition to healthier eating patterns.

"Consistency in timing is paramount to reinforce the body's circadian rhythm, promoting smoother adaptation." They explained that a phased reintroduction of nutritious meals is advised when transitioning from holiday to school-time eating patterns. "Families should prioritise balanced nutrition by gradually reducing indulgent or irregular dietary choices. Advance meal planning can facilitate the establishment of wholesome eating habits," she added.

Expect initial disruptions

They pointed out that anticipated challenges may include resistance to change and potential mood or energy level disruptions.

Dr Ahmad Alkhatib, Consultant Family Medicine, Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, said, "Families may encounter challenges such as resistance from children and juggling work responsibilities. Open communication, setting achievable goals, and positive reinforcement can help overcome these obstacles. By prioritising routines before school starts, children can optimise their physical and mental well-being, ensuring they are prepared to excel academically and socially."

Medical professionals stressed that during bedtime, parents must ensure that the bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet.

"Consider using blackout curtains if necessary. Limit screen time before bed. Encourage children to avoid screens such as smartphones, tablets, and television at least two hours before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle and thereby sleep will be delayed," said Dr Diya Abdul Rasheed Naseema, Specialist Pediatrician, Medeor Hospital, Dubai.

Children should be encouraged to engage in physical activity during the day, as regular exercise can help promote better sleep at night. However, vigorous exercise close to bedtime must be avoided. "This may have the opposite effect and make it harder for children to fall asleep. Also, limit children's consumption of caffeinated beverages, especially in the evening and before bedtime, as caffeine can interfere with sleep quality and make it harder for children to fall asleep," he added.

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