Intermittent fasting is currently increasing popularity amongst other diet plans and fitness strategies. People choose it for various reasons: some are trying to lose weight, others want to improve their physical or mental health, and some are looking for a significant change in their lifestyle.
Another reason for adopting this eating strategy is sleep. Fasting and sleep are two processes that humanity has known for as long as it exists – needless to say, they have their own unique connection that you might use in order to improve quality of your sleep.
Let’s dive into it and see what is intermittent fasting and how it can affect your sleep problems.
Definition and Origins
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a cyclic eating pattern that is based on alternating periods of eating and periods of fasting. Unlike many modern nutrition plans, it is not built on restrictions (such as diets where you refrain from eating certain types of food), but it rather specifies when you should be eating – and when you should be not. Judging by the chosen approach, it is safe to say we’re talking about an eating pattern rather than a diet.
People have been well-acquainted to fasting since the beginning of human era. Ancient hunters and gatherers (just as every other creature living in nature) did not have a constant source of available food – there would be days when our ancestors couldn’t find anything to eat.
It is natural for every species to be able to stay without food for a significant amount of time – and humans are not an exception. Our bodies have evolved to be able to function normally without everyday access to nutrition, although nowadays it is no longer a necessity in many well-developed countries.
From this perspective, fasting from time to time is actually more natural and healthy for a human body rather than having 3-4 meals per day. Being known to humans since ancient times, fasting has a history of serving as a vital religious, spiritual, and health practice in many cultures. For example, in some religions it is necessary to abstain from food for a few days in order to cleanse your body or to prepare yourself for certain practices or rituals.
How Does It Work
As it was mentioned earlier, IF is not about what you eat, it is about when.
Practicing IF means regularly abstaining from food for chosen periods of time. This is when you should eat nothing or consume very little amount of food. Common practice of IF is usually based on either fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week, or having a consistent fast of 14-16 hours each day. Others choose a significant calorie restriction for 2-3 days per week, consuming only around 500 calories on those days and eating normally on others.
Fasting puts your organism into a calmer mood, quiets your digestive system; your body uses this time for resting and restoring itself. It is also when your organism puts the stored fat into work – thus this strategy becomes especially useful for those who are trying to lose weight.
Effect of Fasting On Sleep
It is not a secret that one of the biggest problems for US today is overconsumption of food. Apart from the obvious negative effects it brings along, it also affects your sleep in an unpleasant way. Eating excessively or eating at the wrong times can significantly reduce your sleep quality, making it harder to fall asleep and to feel rested afterwards.
Wrong timing of meals has a significant impact on our circadian clocks – and the work of circadian rhythms are crucial for human sleep and health.
When you are fasting, your digestive system quiets down, and your body goes into the ‘energy-saving mode’ of sorts. Does it sound like a good time for a nap?
It sure does. Healthy sleep is a natural part of fasting cycle – simply speaking, if you eat right before bedtime, your body will be actively working on digestion, making it harder for the whole organism to calm down and get rest.
Intermittent fasting can also improve the work of your circadian clocks, which has a direct effect on your sleep quality. More synchronized circadian clock will lead to better sleeping, easier times falling asleep, and feeling well-rested in the morning.
Sleeping Well While Fasting
Intermittent fasting and sleep quality are tightly connected; however, the impact of IF on your body depends on many factors –individuality of your organism, the specifics and duration of fast, your current heath condition. In order to help yourself successfully incorporate IF into your daily routine, try to pay attention to the following tips:
Staying hydrated is extremely important – especially if you are fasting. Drinking plenty of water prevents hunger cravings, helps you focus, and positively impacts your night sleep.
Listen to Your Body
Every organism is unique, so its response on a newly acquired eating pattern will differ from person to person. We can rely on research and studies to some extent, but there is always a room for the unknown. Listen to how your organism reacts on changes throughout time, and don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor in case of troubles or health concerns.
Make Meaningful Meals
Although this eating practice has no restrictions of certain foods, it is still important to provide your body will all the essential nutrients and vitamins it needs. Try to limit refined sugar and overly processed food and give preference to whole foods, veggies, and healthy proteins. Not only will this positively affect your sleep, but it will also provide your body with an energy boost for the day.