This post covers the relationship between fasting and sleep, and my own experience regarding those topics. This post is sponsored by the good folks at Sleep Number. As always, all thoughts are my own.
Improve Your Sleep with Fasting? You Must Be Kidding!
Fasting can help, but before you do that, a great option can be to…
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The right exercise for YOUR body (not a 25-30 year old)
Ways to gain limitless energy
Healthy ways to manage stress
Exercises to strengthen your core
How to activate the Fountain of Youth (in your real life)
As many of my followers and subscribers already know, I don’t advocate fasting for everyone. Many of the women I work with have a relationship with food that first has to improve overall so that we set ourselves up for success (i.e., we don’t set up a binge-purge cycle). I believe in a strong nutrition foundation first before beginning on any fasting continuum. That continuum begins with at least 12 hours overnight and between meals. Many women are not doing that simple step to enhance hormone balance.
Set up a Strong Nutrition Foundation
For exercise to be successful a strong nutrition foundation has to be in place. That is, identifying what the best dietary plan is for each individual at the current point in time. Before you manipulate when or if you eat, you need to make sure you’re eating what’s right for your body, and that you’re absorbing nutrients. Fasting is something you may do for a short time for a positive benefit but you’ve got to have a good foundation every day. You’ll create a stronger, healthier, vibrant body, with positive and consistent daily habits. I’ll link to the Flipping 50 28-day Kickstart if you want support finding your best foundation for both exercise and exercise nutrition.
Given my stance on fasting it may surprise you that I’ve tested the fasting mimicking diet developed at the Longevity Institute at USC. I’ve used it the last three months and because I don’t have significant weight to lose, or major concerns with health markers, my biggest reason for trying it was that I never recommend something I haven’t used. I am asked frequently about fasting, weight loss, health concerns, and the interaction with menopause symptoms. So I tested it. Below are the results of my experience.
I’ll use “fast” throughout this post to refer to the “fasting mimicking diet.”
My sleep improved and it shocked me.
I’m a good sleeper to begin with. I know the value of sleep as it relates to physical performance and optimal weight and energy, so I have good sleep habits. Since beginning a regular fasting program three months ago, I’ve had even more restful sleep, waking less, and feeling more refreshed in the morning.
At 54, I have experienced minor and very infrequent hot flashes and night sweats. I attribute my good fortune so far to a good diet, exercise, good habits, and a dreamy bed. My Sleep Number 360 smart bed with the Dual Temp layer has been a big part of buffing up my sleep in this last eight months. I would never have guessed a mattress would make so much difference!
Hormone balance begins with sleep.
A good mattress should be a prescription for women in peri-menopause! Fasting too may be a part of cracking your own code on hormone balance.
During the fasting mimicking diet you’re eating an overall low calorie plant-based diet. You do actually get to eat three meals and snacks depending on the day. Your body is “tricked” into a fasting state where it begins to burn ketones, or fat, rather than sugar, for fuel.
The re-entry into healthy eating after the fast is when the magic happens. It’s much like the workouts you do provide the opportunity for fitness and the rest between your sessions is when the fitness actually happens.During the five days of the fast everyone’s experiences are reportedly different both daily and overall. My own three five-day fasts were each unique.
The first fast had novelty and I felt good and more energetic during the day and rested surprisingly well at night. I say surprisingly well because I enjoy good sleep most nights already. I wasn’t looking for improvement there. I was actually more ready to go to bed, though and woke more refreshed than usual.
Fasting and Sleep
There’s not a ton of science connecting sleep and fasting. Some of the superficial information is basic. Having too large a dinner, eating too close to bedtime, or skipping dinner each tend to disrupt sleep.
It turns out there is scientific evidence that fasting increases parasympathetic output – the part of the nervous system you need for quality sleep.
If you crash during the day and stare at the ceiling at night like many students before Flipping 50 programs you’ll love this: fasting can improve circadian rhythm, meaning you sleep again.
No surprise to my Flipping 50 fans who know me for hormone-balancing exercise and lifestyle habits, there are hormones involved in this fasting-sleep improvement phenomena. Serotonin is our feel good hormone – and more of it calms us down – and melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep. Melatonin production, you may remember from prior posts, is reduced with age. Fasting helps increase your body’s production of both those hormones that are key to sleep so you can get a better night.
I found that though I had slightly different overall experiences during each of the three five-day fasts I did, I was able to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. I didn’t sleep longer as some of my clients have reported. That was likely due to the fact I am by nature a long sleeper and regularly enjoy eight if not nine hours.
I found the first fast easy. It was novel and interestingly enough I began it after a 12-hour fast for a blood test, which felt like a bit of momentum. My first meal that morning after I had the blood draw was a part of the fasting mimicking diet.
The second time through, a month later, the novelty had worn off. I knew what to expect and by day three and four – the toughest for me psychologically, not physically – I was over it. On day five it was nearly done and easy to finish. Mind you, I never felt it was “hard” to do physically. I programmed exercise during each fast specifically to support it and act as detox.
The third time I experienced the most psychological resistance. Though I knew I’d felt noticeably different (better) during and long after the last two I was inconvenienced. I had to turn down some social opportunities. Lunch invitations with family members and dinner with out of state guests both came and I declined.
Would I do it again? I will, though not soon. I’ve definitely had noticeable results in addition to my sleep: I also reduced my coffee by 66%. [Possible connection there!] If you’re sleeping better less coffee may happen naturally. No need for the pick-me-up. I was up! I felt less bloating, though It wasn’t a complaint I had necessarily, you don’t know how good you can feel until you do! I’m also more keenly aware of the amount of food I was eating out of habit. I need less except when I’m exercising and I’m much more mindful about that now.
Intermittent fasting and hot flashes. Is there a connection?