Fasting and its positive effect on sleep

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Fasting has always been a part of religious practice and tradition. It’s also increasingly popular as a tool for weight loss, anti-ageing and longevity and comes in different structures. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, eating and drinking only early in the morning and late in the evening. The Jews engage in a 25-hour fast during Yom Kippur, and Christians fast for various durations over the day during Lent and other prayer programs.

Another fasting structure is intermittent fasting. During intermittent fasting, one restricts eating to specific times over the day’s 24 hours and fast during the other hours. This splitting of eating and fasting times varies according to the purpose of fasting. Some limit eating to 10 or 12 hours over the 24 hours of the day allowing for the fast to occur every day in the remaining 12 – 14 hours. Others observe a 24-hour fast for one or more days.

Research shows that fasting can in many ways improve sleep, especially short-term fasting. 

During fasting, people have higher levels of a body chemical called human growth hormone produced during sleep. This chemical burns fat, restores muscles, and helps the body repair itself. With the digestive system also resting, it further approves the body to focus on that repair and restoration. So, people who fast may wake up refreshed and restored. Other fasting benefits include weight loss, better body chemical reactions, reduced blood sugar and cholesterol, strengthened immune system and delayed ageing. 

While fasting improves sleep quality, it may also impact sleep in negative ways. When people eat at the wrong times or quantities, it can disrupt their sleep. Eating late at night raises the body’s temperature which is the opposite of what typically occurs with sleep, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Again, eating heavily near bedtime might upset your stomach making sleep restless. Also, the reduced food intake or extreme hunger from fasting may trigger an increase in cortisol, a body chemical associated with stress.

 One way to prevent these eating problems is to eat the right foods at the right non-fasting times. Avoid processed foods, high sugar and fried foods; focus on whole foods, plenty of fibre, vegetables, fruits, proteins like fish and healthy fats from nuts. Eat the meal at least 3 hours before bed to avoid sleep disruption by temperature raise and stomach upset while also preventing late-night hunger. Don’t go to bed hungry because the brain will be awake to find food. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol.  

In addition to what and when you eat and drink, good sleep behaviours help you sleep well. Do regular safe exercises. Enjoy bedtime with book reading, calming music etc. A soothing bath or meditation helps one to unwind and relax before bed. Ensure you sleep on a quality mattress and pillow, in a place smelling nice, without noise or light especially the blue light from digital devices.

By choosing the right fasting schedule and foods plus adopting healthy sleep habits, you can fast and also achieve quality sleep.

You need to remember that when you sleep, where you sleep and how you sleep affect your mental health, physical well-being and living a healthy life. We all need quality sleep to be set for productivity in our endeavours.

 Do you need further information on the above subject? Are you looking for ways to maintain quality sleep for general well-being and healthy living? Remember, a doctor is an appropriate person to offer relevant advice for the maintenance of quality sleep and solution to sleep difficulties. Do you want to contact the Orthopedic Sleep Consultant, Dr Charles Uzodimma, kindly send your request to sleepinfo@vitafoam.com.ng. You can also send your message on   WhatsApp 08129982143.

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