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Does Sleeping Count As Fasting? Tips for Fasting Beginners

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 8, 2022

Many individuals following an intermittent fasting regime struggle to power through long hours without food. It’s no wonder people are curious about assigning a good number of hours to a nocturnal fast. The question is – does sleeping count as fasting?

In this article, you can discover whether sleep counts, how sleep affects fasting, and vice versa.

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Does Sleeping Count As Fasting?

Yes, sleeping does count as fasting during an intermittent fasting schedule. Fasting is the willful abstinence from food for a prolonged period. To remain in your fast, you must not consume any calories as doing so will trigger your digestive processes.

When you sleep, your body remains in a fasted state because you are not consuming any food or calorie-containing beverages. The fasting period continues, and you can count sleep as part of your intermittent fasting window.

Most people will still need to fast in the waking hours to ensure the fasting window is long enough to reap the health benefits. But scheduling your fast around your bedtime is a great way to take up a significant chunk of your fasting hours.

How Does Sleeping Affect Fasting?

Sleep is a vital part of your health and wellbeing.

When following an intermittent fasting plan, your body must adapt to a new way of functioning. Restful sleep becomes even more necessary for good health and wellness. Plus, a good night’s sleep can affect fasting outcomes.

The positive effects of healthy sleep include:

  • Increased energy levels to help you power through a fast
  • Fasting enhances levels of the human growth hormone, which, during sleep, restores cell metabolism and burns fat
  • Greater appetite control, as sleep deprivation increases hunger and cravings
  • Healthy insulin levels as sleep disorders can increase insulin resistance

How Does Fasting Affect Sleep?

Improved sleep quality is one of the purported benefits of intermittent fasting. The practice can help you build a healthy circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock. Unfortunately, intermittent fasting can cause insomnia and other sleep issues.

Your body goes through many changes during intermittent fasting, and several factors can contribute to disrupted sleep.

Possible causes include:

  • A drop in melatonin levels (the hormone responsible for your sleep-wake cycle) can cause insomnia.
  • Calorie restriction can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, causing anxiety and inhibiting your ability to sleep.
  • Irregular eating patterns can cause bodily changes that disrupt sleep. For instance, eating late at night can raise your body temperature.

5 Ways to Fix Sleep Problems When Fasting

If you’re having sleep trouble, you’re not alone. Let’s look at 5 effective ways to fix and prevent sleep problems when fasting intermittently.

1. Stick to a set sleep schedule

Creating a structured sleep schedule is an excellent sleep habit. Going to bed at the same time each evening and waking up at the same time each morning helps maintain the timings of your circadian rhythms. It makes it easier to wake and drift off to sleep.

Top tips for sticking to a healthy sleep schedule include:

  • Create a bedtime and a morning routine
  • Switch the lights off at a set time
  • Avoid playing on your phone or watching TV right before bed
  • Eliminate daytime naps from your routine

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2. Stay active

Regular physical activity can improve sleep health and make it easier for people to get to sleep. Combining exercise with intermittent fasting can enhance the benefits, helping you burn more fat and retain lean muscle mass.

There are multiple ways to stay active. You could try:

  • Walking or cycling to work instead of driving
  • Implement a walk wherever possible, such as on your lunch break or after work
  • Join the gym
  • Practice home workouts
  • Try the exercises on the DoFasting app, which are tailored to those on an intermittent fasting program

3. Avoid large meals and drinks before bedtime

It’s best practice to time your eating schedules so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. You should avoid eating large meals and drinks before bed, as eating late at night goes against your body’s natural circadian rhythm. It can also result in weight gain as your metabolism slows at night.

The DoFasting app provides you with a customized fasting schedule created by experts. It can help you control your meal timings and manage portions to get the most out of your fast.

4. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol

While caffeine consumption can aid your fast, it is necessary to limit your intake to avoid sleep disturbances. Having a cup of black coffee first thing in the morning is perfectly safe, but you should avoid drinking caffeinated drinks before bedtime.

Drinking alcohol can also affect sleep, causing disruptions and reducing REM sleep. Plus, it’s full of calories that will not benefit your weight loss program.

You can control your caffeine and alcohol intake with some simple changes, such as:

  • Opting for decaf coffee
  • Swapping caffeinated tea for herbal teas
  • Only drinking alcohol on special occasions

5. Consider taking melatonin

Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps control the timings of your circadian rhythms. Fasting may cause your melatonin levels to drop, leading you to become sleep deprived. It can also increase your cortisol levels, keeping you awake at night.

Melatonin supplementation can help during intermittent fasting. It can reset your circadian rhythm, helping you return to a healthy sleep cycle without breaking your fast.

4 Tips to Incorporate Intermittent Fasting Into Your Daily Routine

Below you can find four intermittent fasting tips for beginners to kickstart your journey and set yourself up for success.

1. Know your goal

Before you begin fasting intermittently, you must be sure of your goal. Knowing what you want to achieve is a critical part of the process. It enables you to keep progressing and working toward an end goal. It also promotes consistency in your fasting progress.

2. Choose the type of fasting that works for you

The perfect intermittent fasting method fits in with your lifestyle, making it easier to maintain without interrupting your day-to-day activities. If your chosen fasting type isn’t practical, you’re not going to achieve weight loss or reach your ideal body weight.

There are plenty of schedules and modifications to choose from. Popular methods for beginners include the 12-hour fast and the 14:10 fast, as they are less restrictive. You can try 16:8, ADF (alternate-day fasting), or OMAD (One Meal a Day) as you progress.

3. Start the fast slowly

It is critical to begin your fasting journey slowly. Jumping straight into a prolonged fast isn’t practical for newcomers, as the body must adapt to the process.

The 12-hour fast is great for beginners as the eating window is more accessible. For example, you could eat as usual during the day and have your last meal at 8 PM. You would then fall asleep and have your first meal at 8 AM.

In time, you can expand the fasting window according to your body’s capabilities. You can then consider the best intermittent fasting types to achieve optimum weight loss based on your body type.

4. Listen to your body

Listening to your body is key throughout your intermittent fasting program.

If you’re feeling completely exhausted from your fast, you may need to adjust your fasting window. Some people need longer to adapt to fasting than others. You may need to review your diet during the eating windows to ensure you get enough nutrients.

When you listen to your body, you can take steps to make your intermittent fasting journey more comfortable. Doing so will help you sustain your fasts and boost fat loss.

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Conclusion

So, does sleep count as fasting?

Yes, it does. Depending on your intermittent fasting schedule, you can continue the fasting window overnight while you sleep. It can be a helpful strategy for those who find it difficult to restrict energy intake during waking hours and struggle to sustain long fasts.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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