Aug 28, 2018
Could You Sleep Better with Fasting?
Here's the cliff note on this podcast: I sleep better thanks to fasting. If you sleep better you're going to naturally be supporting balanced hormones. Get the details here!
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 don’t set up a binge-purge cycle. I believe in a strong nutrition foundation first before beginning on a continuum of fasting. That continuum begins with at least 12 hours overnight and between meals. Many women are not doing that simple step to enhance hormone balance.
That is, after they’ve identified what their best dietary plan is right now. 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 daily habits.
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.
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 on 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, good habits, and a dreamy bed. My Sleep Number 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 but I do sleep better.
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. If you sleep better you'll naturally have more balanced hormones.
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 so 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 to sleep better but I got it. I was actually more ready to go to bed, though and woke more refreshed than usual.
There’s not a ton of science connecting sleep and fasting. Some of the superficial information is basic. Having too large a dinner or skipping dinner both 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 better.
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, but 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.
The third time I experienced the most psychological resistance. Though I knew I’d felt noticeably different 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 had noticeable results in addition to the sleep: I also reduced my coffee by 66%. If you’re sleeping better less coffee may happen naturally. I felt less bloating, though I wasn’t bothering me to begin with 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.
If you’re seeking some hormone support, naturally, and a sleep better aid with nothing but positive side effects, reach out for more information about the fasting mimicking diet or my Sleep Number bed and Dual Temp layer.