What is Intermittent Fasting | Intermittent Fasting Benefits | Science on Intermittent Fasting and Sleep | Tips for Better Sleep While Intermittent Fasting
Obesity and overweight have become common problems across the world. As per the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide fall into the obese category. Another study indicates that obesity is related to lack of sleep or insomnia. Let’s find out why intermittent fasting can help with better sleep!
Lack of sleep means less than seven hours of good night’s sleep. Overweight and obese people have a high probability of encountering insomnia, low sleep quality, poor sleep patterns, and sleep disturbances, which may lead to daytime lethargy.
In the last few years, intermittent fasting (IF), a time-restricted eating pattern, has gained popularity as an effective dietary regime for weight loss.
Additionally, intermittent fasting has emerged as a promising dietary regimen to promote sleep. It is one of the best practices to strengthen the body’s circadian rhythm. It helps enhance the body’s circadian clock by restricting the consumption of food after the evening.
In this article, let’s discuss how intermittent fasting can be helpful to induce better sleep.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting is the process of restricting your eating window to a specified time period of the day and fasting for the remaining time during that entire day. This schedule of eating and fasting may vary depending on your schedule and goals you are trying to achieve.
There are several kinds of intermittent fasting plans that have been designed by taking into account the needs of people. Some of them include the 16/8 plan, the alternate-day fasting method, the eat-stop-eat method, the 5:2 diet plan, etc.
For example, some prefer to follow the 16:8 plan, where they have to eat within eight hours of the window and fast for the rest of the 16 hours. Whereas, others may opt for a 5:2 fasting plan in which the calorie intake is restricted to 25% (i.e., a maximum of 500 calories per day) for two non-consecutive days and eat normally for the remaining five days of the week.
If you wish to learn more about intermittent fasting and its schedule, read “A Complete Guide To Intermittent Fasting & Schedule”
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works by allowing your body to expand the time duration of fasting so that it can finish consuming energy from your last meal and can start burning the stored body fats. During this process, your body also starts to repair the cells on a molecular level and modify gene expression.
Following are some bodily changes that happen when you do intermittent fasting.
- Enhanced human growth hormone (HGH): When you fast for a prolonged time, the human growth hormone increases at a faster pace. Higher HGH results in decreased fat mass and increased muscle mass.
- Improved insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting boosts insulin sensitivity and lowers insulin levels as well as insulin resistance. Lower insulin levels help your body to use more body fat, and leads to weight loss.
- Cellular repair: Intermittent fasting can help induce autophagy, a process that repairs the body at a cellular level. In this process, the cells break down and destroy the old and defective proteins present inside the cytoplasm of the cells.
- Expression of genes: It is a process that allows a cell to get activated and generate proteins and RNA. This process helps protect against various chronic diseases and improves longevity.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Several studies suggest that intermittent fasting is beneficial in the following ways.
- It helps in weight loss by improving your metabolic rate
- It reduces insulin resistance, thereby lowering the risk of type II diabetes
- It aids in lowering inflammation by reducing oxidative stress
- It helps improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood sugar levels, blood pressure, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels, which are the primary inflammatory markers for heart disease
- It induces a waste removal and cellular repair process called autophagy, which helps protect against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease
- It may help prevent cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy
- It may improve brain health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation and increasing the growth of new nerve cells. It also helps increase the level of BDNF (brain-derived neuropathic factor) hormone, which helps alleviate depression and other brain problems
- Intermittent fasting also prevents the brain from the damage caused by stroke
- It may help increase longevity
If you want to learn more on the benefits of intermittent fasting, read “8 Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting: A Complete List”
The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting and Better Sleep Quality
Most people have the habit of eating every few hours from morning to night. This pattern of eating restricts your total time of fasting, and the body keeps working even when you are asleep. Thus, your body enters into fed-state metabolism and depends more on glucose for energy than on fat.
On the contrary, healthy sleep occurs only when your body shifts toward the burning of fat. Since your body is already in a glucose-dependent fed state, it is not ready for sleep. However, intermittent fasting induces natural fat-burning during sleep, which is more of a feasible solution than fed-state metabolism.
As per research, intermittent fasting can buttress your circadian clock and improve your sleep quality. From managing your appetite to metabolism, your circadian rhythm plays a great role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle, along with the proper functioning of your mood, digestive system, and immunity.
The human growth hormone (HGH) level increases when you practice intermittent fasting. The HGH, which is generated during sleep helps in burning fat and revives muscle mass. It also helps your body repair itself at a cellular level and makes you wake up refreshed after sleeping.
Intermittent fasting helps produce a neurotransmitter known as orexin-A which is related to alertness. People who follow a time-restricted feeding (TRF) regimen used to have higher levels of orexin-A during the daytime and lesser levels at night. This helps them feel alerted and refreshed throughout the day, and they enjoy enough sleep during the night.
The benefits of intermittent fasting on sleep are prevalent soon within one week of practice. According to a study, it was found that the quality of sleep was radically improved within one week of intermittent fasting. The participants could sleep more restfully with enhanced sleep quality and better focus throughout the day.
It has also been seen that people who follow an intermittent fasting plan may experience REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep). It is a state in which your brain gets indulged in mental and emotional processing.
Intermittent Fasting and the Circadian Rhythm
The most important signals used by your body to maintain a correct circadian rhythm are food and light. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of your brain responds to food and other circadian indications. Knowing your eating schedule and fasting window sends signals to your body to adjust the circadian rhythm.
Aligning intermittent fasting and sleep time has a tremendous effect on healthy circadian function, which eventually results in a night of better sleep.
Intermittent Fasting and Increased Melatonin Production
Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels usually go down during day time and increase gradually in the dark. It is at its peak when you sleep during the night.
According to research, melatonin levels go up two hours before your normal sleeping time. But when you ingest heavy food before bedtime, it may raise your body temperature and delay the increase in melatonin.
On the contrary, when you go on a fasting state a few hours before your bedtime, it helps your body sleep effortlessly as your melatonin levels and body temperature experience their normal circadian rhythm.
Intermittent Fasting and Human Growth Hormone
According to research, intermittent fasting helps increase the human growth hormone (HGH) levels in your body. An increased HGH burns the body’s fat reserves for energy. This leads to low blood sugar levels and better sleep. In addition to this, higher HGH level induces cellular repair and muscle restoration as well.
Intermittent Fasting and Insomnia
When you are on an intermittent fasting plan, if you eat your meals at irregular intervals, it may disturb your sleep quality. This occurs because late-night eating may increase the body temperature. Heavy meals can trouble your digestion, leading to an upset stomach, which may hinder your sleep.
Tips for a Better Sleep While Intermittent Fasting
It is important to get enough sleep to get the maximum advantages of intermittent fasting. Because lack of sleep can lead to health problems like obesity and high blood sugar levels.
The following tips can help you keep up your energy levels and obtain the nutrients required when fasting.
Choose healthy foods and Eat at the Right Time
While intermittent fasting focuses on when to eat only, focusing on the right food is equally important for maintaining better health and quality sleep.
When you are on an eating window, try including whole foods in your platter along with other healthy foods such as lean protein, low-fat dairy, lots of fiber, and healthy fats. Whole foods are densely nutritious and help you with chronic health issues such as insulin resistance.
The timing plays a crucial role as well! Since your insulin sensitivity is at its peak during the early daytime, your body would be approachable to healthy carbs during that time. A moderate serving of carbs can induce better sleep and reduce sleep latency.
Keep Yourself Well Hydrated
Keeping yourself well hydrated by drinking healthful liquids like water and herbal tea can decrease your hunger and cravings for food. It also helps you sleep smoothly at night.
However, liquids that contain alcohol and caffeine not only dehydrate you but they have a harmful effect on your body as well as sleep quality. Research suggests that drinking alcoholic beverages before going to bed may disrupt the quality of sleep and decrease REM sleep.
Figure out What is Best for You
Everyone is unique, and so is their lifestyle. There is no one-size-fits-all method. Thus, you have to experiment and figure out what type of intermittent fasting suits you the best. If it requires any modifications to better fit into your regime, never hesitate to make the required changes.
Don’t Go to Bed Too Hungry
It might get even worst to sleep peacefully if you are too hungry because of the fasting schedule. When you crave food, your cortisol levels go up.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that may impair the quality of sleep. Having your last meal three hours before bed would allow you to have better digestion and help you enjoy your sleep. It would not leave you starving either.
Conclusion – Why Intermittent Fasting Can Help with Better Sleep?
To conclude, if you are facing insomnia and are willing to try some natural remedies, intermittent fasting can be a great choice. It is not only the best nondrug therapy for your sleep problems but also has several other health benefits.
With better sleep, intermittent fasting increases your energy levels and keeps you focused all throughout the day.
Ready to start intermittent fasting, read our 10 Types of Intermittent Fasting article to pick your favorite!