Can Intermittent Fasting Improve Sleep?
Can intermittent fasting improve sleep quality? Can fasting at night enhance our sleep recovery?
Food has a very large impact on our body rhythm. Thus it can help or hurt our sleep.
If you stop eating before sunset you’re actually pairing your body with its natural circadian cycle. We've evolved in sleep and wake cycle. Light and dark. Sun and moon. By pairing your digestive system with the clock in your brain you cause your body to go into a relaxation mode. Digestion itself is very stressful on the body. So fasting at night can enhance our sleep.
Research studies show that our digestive tract is very active in the middle of the day which is largely when we consume the majority of our calories. Naturally our digestive tract slows down after around 5:00 pm yet we’re eating until 8:00 or 9:00 on average.
With an earlier meal time and not eating after your final meal you cause your body to stress less and you’ll achieve a higher level of sleep. Imagine how well you’ll feel by waking up earlier or with more energy.
Studies show that intermittent fasting decreases insulin levels and increases melatonin levels. In addition intermittent fasting increases human growth hormone which also tends to rise as we sleep. While it’s a tiny spike, we want to optimize this increase to repair muscle tissues.
Intermittent fasting also increases your immune system health which sleep does as well. See how everything seemingly pairs together and how fasting can improve your sleep quality
What if you often wake up in the middle of the night hungry? This is a personal issue for me as well. When I train hard during the day and don’t eat enough food I wake up in the middle of the night with what I assume is a drop in blood glucose.
So how do I avoid this when I want to go to bed fasted? Your last meal of the day should be carbohydrate heavy. Carbohydrates increase dopamine and serotonin, brain neurotransmitters that increase relaxation.
Not just this but carbohydrates can relax you as they manipulate your insulin levels specifically if you trained hard during the day. You can replenish muscle glycogen while getting a recovery effect during your sleep.
You just want to make sure it is a fibrous carbohydrate that is low or devoid of gluten like rice or potatoes.
What about a protein shake before bed?
Often times in sports nutrition a protein shake, primarily casein protein, is recommended before bed. As casein has slower absorption rates in addition to being a pro inflammatory protein that can increase inflammation which speeds up muscle tissue recovery, You can try this but I’d consume it with my final meal of the day around 6:30 or 7:00 in order to get the fasting benefits of not eating too close to bed in addition to not needing to wake up to go to bathroom.
Give it a try. I bet intermittent fasting helps you sleep better.