Updated August 25, 2021Intermittent fasting is a method of eating in which a person only eats during specific times of the day. While intermittent fasting has gotten highly popular in recent years, fasting to improve your health originated in ancient history and evolved with various cultures across the globe.When intermittent fasting, people generally restrict their fasting times to 10 or more hours of the day and eat during the other portion. Other intermittent fasters may have one or more days of the week where they limit their caloric intake immensely or stop eating entirely.Not only can intermittent fasting help with weight loss, but it also provides numerous benefits for your sleep. Let’s take a closer look!Improves Sleep QualityPeople who intermittently fast note improvements in their sleep quality as soon as one week of dieting.Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View sourceEven short-term fasting can reduce:Premature awakenings at nightRestlessnessLeg movements while sleepingInflammationThis leads to better sleep overall. When intermittent fasting, people remain in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep for slightly longer than normal. The stage of the sleep cycle is responsible for your memories, learning, and mood.Regulates Circadian RhythmA major benefit of intermittent fasting for your sleep is that it promotes a healthy functioning circadian rhythm.Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source Your body’s circadian rhythm plays a major role in your sleep-wake cycle along with functions including:MoodDigestive systemImmune systemWhile our circadian clocks are primarily driven by sunlight, another valuable factor istime cues based on when we eat.Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source Scheduling your meals, as you would when intermittent fasting, reinforces your body’s natural circadian rhythm.A synchronized circadian clock makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up, helping with your overall sleep schedule.Increases Human Growth Hormone ProductionPeople who intermittently fast generally have higher levels ofVerified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source human growth hormone compared to those who follow a normal eating pattern. Additional human growth hormone helps with:Muscle growthMetabolismFat lossIt also maintains and restores organ tissues and cellular repair, including in the brain. Plus fasting can promote healthy gene expression.Based on a 2013 study,Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source higher levels of human growth hormone may also increase a person’s slow-wave sleep and decrease a person’s sleep disturbances.Boosts Energy and Focus During the DayWhen intermittent fasting, you may notice yourself being able to focus better during the day and feeling more energized overall. This is because fasting regulates your body’s orexin-A levels,Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source a neurotransmitter responsible for being alert and awake.People who intermittently fast have lower orexin-A levels at night and higher levels during the day. These levels promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle.Maintains a Healthy Body WeightWhile intermittent fasting isn’t guaranteed to burn fat, many people use it to maintain healthy body weight and reduce the risk of obesity. In 2014,Verified Source ScienceDirectOne of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources.View source researchers found people who intermittent fasted lost between 3 to 8 percent of weight over 3 to 24 weeks. Another study in 2017 found obese men who intermittent fast lost more weight compared to normal calorie restriction.The restricted eating periods prevent the overconsumption of food. After all, there’s less time to consume as much food as you would normally. Unless you’re purposefully eating calorically dense food to make up for the short eating period, eating fewer calories leads to weight loss.Plus, the act of routine fasting alters the body’s hormones to foster fat loss. When you’re not eating, the body’s insulin levels drop. This decrease in insulin causes the body to release glucose as energy.Repeatedly fasting keeps the body’s insulin levels lowerVerified Source Harvard HealthBlog run by Harvard Medical School offering in-depth guides to better health and articles on medical breakthroughs.View source for longer and increases the body’s human growth hormone production, facilitating natural fat loss.Other health benefits include lowering your type 2 diabetes risk, better overall heart health, reduced cancer risk, prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, and a potentially longer lifespan.Considerations When Intermittent Fasting For Better SleepWhile intermittent fasting can be greatly beneficial to your sleep, we have a few tips to optimize your eating and fasting schedule to further improve your sleep.Avoid Eating at Irregular TimesThe times you eat can affect your body’s circadian rhythm. When you eat, your body temperature rises. However, to best fall asleep, your body temperature should drop. So eating at the wrong times will make it difficult for your body to cool down for sleep, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep if you’re a hot sleeper vs a cold sleeper.If your eating schedule conflicts with the natural cycle of your circadian rhythm on a regular basis, your melatonin levels may decreaseVerified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source and your body will spend less time in REM sleep.Avoid Going To Bed HungryIf you can avoid it, don’t sleep on an empty stomach. Being hungry causes your body’s cortisol—the stress hormone—levels to rise. The stress placed on your body makes it difficult to relax and at nighttime this affects your ability to fall asleep peacefully.Ideally, plan your eating schedule so your last meal is 3 hours before you sleep. Like we mentioned previously, if you eat even a healthy late night snack too close to your bedtime, your body’s digestive process will leave you awake rather than helping you relax.SEE ALSO: Can a Banana Before Bed Help You Sleep?Remain HydratedMany of us confuse hunger and cravings with dehydration. We may crave food and want to break our fasts. Yet in reality, all we need is some water. Be sure to drink plenty of water per day to avoid feeling overly hungryVerified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source and, of course, reap the benefits of staying hydrated.Plus, being dehydrated at night may worsen your sleep quality.Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View source So it’s important to make sure you drink enough water regularly throughout the day.At the same time, be sure not to drink too much water right before bed. Too much water will only disrupt your sleep since you’ll end up waking up periodically to use the restroom.There are some days though, when you may want to fast entirely while abstaining from both food and water. In those cases, make sure to hydrate during the hours you are scheduled to break your fast.Trial and ErrorWhen it comes down to it, it may take a couple of tries to get into the rhythm of intermittent fasting. Between the different fasting schedules and ensuring you eat enough during your eating periods, it may take a few days or weeks before you feel confident in your diet. Remaining patient and sticking to your new eating habits can prove beneficial in the long run.Potential Schedules For Intermittent FastingThere are various schedules people commonly follow when intermittent fasting and some schedules have more flexibility than others. Choosing a schedule can come down to your needs and what fits best for your lifestyle.Below are a few popular fasting schedules people follow.16:8One of the most popular fasting schedules is the 16:8 diet. The 16:8 diet is where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours per day. Many people who follow the 16:8 diet skip breakfast, eat their first meal at noon, and eat their last meal at 8 p.m.12:12A great introduction to intermittent fasting is with the 12:12 diet. You have two 12-hour windows per day, one for eating and one for fasting. The shorter fasting period makes it easier for you to transition into longer fasting periods if you choose.5:2The 5:2 diet is a weekly schedule in which you eat normally five days of the week. Then, you only eat 20 to 25 percent of your regular caloric intake for the other two days.Women usually eat about 500 calories on their fasting days. Men eat around 600 calories on their fasting days.Alternate-dayAlternate-day fasting is as the name suggests. You eat as normal one day, then fast the next day.Some people who alternate day fasting avoid eating entirely on fasting days. Others limit their caloric intake to no more than 500 calories.24-hourAlso called eat-stop-eat, the 24-hour diet involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. With this in mind, not eating for 24 hours is challenging at first. Going without food for a day can cause issues such as fatigue or irritability. This is why we do not recommend it for first-time fasters.Meal skippingMeal skipping is a flexible way to intermittently fast and may feel more “natural” compared to other schedules. Using hunger signals, skip one or two meals per day. However, be sure to eat nourishing and filling foods during the meals you do eat.20:4One of the most challenging fasting schedules suggests a 20-hour fast each day, followed by one giant meal within 4 hours. During your fasting period, you can eat small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables to promote sleep, but nothing else.As with the 24-hour fasting schedule, we don’t recommend the 20:4 diet for first-timers.Sunrise-SunsetDuring the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset and abstain from food and water entirely. This lasts 29 to 30 days each lunar year and provides a clear indication of when people should and shouldn’t eat or drink. Fasting during this month also requires people to monitor the exact sunrise and sunset times in their area each day.FAQsIs intermittent fasting safe?Intermittent fasting is generally safe, but not for everyone. If you’re pregnant or nursing, skipping meals is unideal. Similarly, if you struggle with diabetes, heart disease, kidney stones, or similar issues, speak to your doctor before making any drastic dietary change. People who struggle with eating disorders should avoid intermittent fasting entirely.What is the best schedule for intermittent fasting?It’s hard to determine which fasting schedule is best since it ultimately depends on your preferences and what suits your lifestyle. Several popular fasting schedules include 16:8, 5:2, and 24-hour (“eat, stop, eat”). If you’re new to fasting, some easier fasting schedules are meal skipping and 12:12.How often should you intermittent fast?For people who are new to fasting, you don’t have to dive in head-first. You may try fasting every other week initially to see how you like it and adapt to this dietary change. Eventually, we suggest following your fast schedule regularly. While the exact schedule of your fasts can vary, it’s best to fast for several weeks to months at the very least to notice substantial benefits.Still, some people see changes in their sleep quality and other bodily functions after only a week of intermittent fasting. If you choose, you could intermittently fast to some degree permanently—after all, many of us fast unconsciously due to our day-to-day schedules.Does intermittent fasting burn fat?Intermittent fasting doesn’t automatically burn body fat. However, the restricted eating windows when intermittent fasting makes it harder to eat as much as you would when dieting normally. Unless you manage to consume large portions of food within several hours, you’ll most likely intake fewer calories than normal, ultimately leading to weight loss.What can you consume while fasting?During your fasting period, it’s okay to consume zero-calorie liquids such as water, tea, or coffee. Avoid sugary beverages such as juice, soda, or smoothies. It should be fine to chew gum or take supplements during your fast so long as they are zero-calorie.In most cases, you shouldn’t consume any food during your fasting period. Certain types of fasts allow for low-calorie snacks, though this is rare. Be sure to consume whole foods with carbs, vegetables, and proteins during your eating hours. Include healthy fats and fiber as well as they’ll keep you fuller longer, making your fasting hours more manageable.For the period of Ramadan though, individuals fasting should not consume anything including zero-calorie foods or beverages. During this time, the only eating, drinking, or chewing is reserved before sunrise and after sunset.ConclusionIntermittent fasting isn’t for everywhere. However, it may be worth a shot if you want to:Improve your sleep healthPotentially lose weightReduce stressMinimize your risk of diabetes and other conditionsIf you’re new to intermittent fasting, avoid jumping straight into intense fasting regimens. You’ll have an easier time starting with a short fasting period, such as a 12-hour duration or shorter per day. Then you can steadily increase your fasting hours as you see fit. It’s a matter of finding which fasting schedule works best for you to ensure the diet isn’t overwhelming.About the author Kiera PritchardKiera Pritchard’s curiosity around dreams and dreaming sparked her passion for sleep science. In addition to freelancing for eachnight, Kiera is also a physical trainer and strives to help others lead healthy lives while asleep and awake. Since joining our team, Kiera has compiled multiple sleep health guides offering our readers advice on how to improve their days and evenings. Find more articles by Kiera Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.