Annually, millions of Muslims around the world take part in intermittent fasting during the holy month of Ramadan in which they fast from dawn until sunset as an act of worship. And while it’s meant to be a time for self-reflection, many post-secondary students are unable to take a break: Their busy academic schedules are filled with classes, deadlines, and projects.
Fasting can make students feel exhausted and burnt out, which can compromise their academic performance and lead to less work getting done at important times.
“I have always been a pretty productive student who enjoys keeping up with my tasks, however since Ramadan fell on the most demanding time in a student’s term,” said Laiqah Egeh, a social sciences student at the University of Toronto who is currently fasting said in an interview via Instagram.
“It has been difficult to stay motivated and productive when Ramadan is what I am focusing on the most.”
Egeh also said fasting is affecting her focus while she works on final assignments.
“Usually my focus is determined by my energy and if I have the tools and necessary food I can be extremely focused,” she said. “But since I’m fasting I am definitely struggling to focus and whether I struggle or not I still have due dates and responsibilities so I tend to just push myself.”
One study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization earlier this year found fasting negatively affected student performance in countries that are not predominantly Muslim. In predominantly Muslim countries, on the other hand, fasting had a positive effect.
Some post-secondary institutions offer students support for studying while fasting. For example, the University of Toronto asked students to share their tips on Instagram. One suggested eating dates provides healthy energy. Another suggested studying before the body digests all its food.
“When [people] fast, the body does not have its usual access to glucose, forcing the cells to resort to other means and materials to try and produce energy,” the Boulder Medical Center explains on its blog.
“Low blood sugar related to intermittent fasting can cause [people] to feel weak and tired during the day.”