Should You Try Intermittent Fasting in 2020? – Psychology Today

Posted: January 3, 2020 at 10:50 am

Always consult your doctor before undertaking a new diet or fasting routine.This is not medical advice, but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your physician or nutritionist.

Fasting has become extremely popular as a tool for weight loss, anti-aging, and longevity, and for its benefits to mental and physical health.

All this can take its toll on your energy levels, affect your mood, and of course, make it more likely youll gain weight.

You may not choose to try intermittent fasting during the holidaysI get it. But its worth a reminder, as we enter the season, that paying attention not only to theWHATof your diet, but also theWHEN, matters for sleep, as well as for your mood, cognitive performance, and overall health.

What is intermittent fasting?

When you practice intermittent fasting, you designate regular, specific times to eat nothing or to consume very few calories. When your body goes into a fasting mode, your digestive system quiets. Your bodyuses this timetorepair and restore itself at a cellular level. Fasting also triggers the body to use its stored fat for energy, making it a potentially effective strategy for weight loss.

The period of nightly sleep is a natural fast we undertake every night, most of us without even realizing thats what were doing. Indeed, a waking fasting state and a sleep state share several characteristics, including a body with cells engaged in repair, and a body that is taking a rest from the demanding work of digestion.

How does intermittent fasting work?

Creating a fasting routine isnt complicated. (But you should always talk with your doctor about making changes to your diet, and before you begin a fasting regimen.) There are a number of routines that are commonly used with intermittent fasting.

Its worth noting that despite all the attention its getting, fasting isnt a new practice. People have used fasting for thousands of years as a cultural, religious, spiritual and health practice.

The health benefits of fasting

A growing body of research shows the potentialbenefits for health and disease protection from intermittent fasting. Fasting can result in weight loss, according to research. Studies showfasting can improve insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation, and improve markers for heart disease including lowering levels of unhealthful LDL cholesterol. Intermittent fasting has been shown to have the potential totreat some cancers, as well asneurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimersand Parkinsons. Theres also evidence that fasting may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Time-restricted eating can improve immune function and enhancethe bodys ability to repair cellsand DNA. Fasting induces a cellular process known asautophagy, which is when the body clears itselfof damaged cells, spurring the growth of new, healthy cells. Autophagy is one way the body maintains more youthful, functional cells and protects against disease, by eliminating aged cells that behave dysfunctionally and clearing the body of toxins that build up in older cells.

Intermittent fasting increases the bodysnatural production of human growth hormone. Human growth hormone encourages fat burning and protects lean muscle mass, aids in cellular repair, and may help to slow aging. Fasting can reduce unhealthful inflammation and boost the bodys ability to protect itself against oxidative stress, which is one significant contributor to aging and disease.

The science of fasting and sleep

Eating and sleeping are two fundamental processes that are also deeply entwined. Both are essential for survival. Both are regulated by internal, homeostatic drives and also by circadian rhythms. Many people know circadian rhythms play a big role in regulating sleep. But eating, hunger, and digestion have their own circadian rhythmicity.

Eating and sleeping arent just influenced by circadian rhythms. They alsoexert influences back on those rhythms themselves. An irregular sleeping routine can de-synchronize a well-timed circadian clockand throw daily rhythms off course. Thetiming of meals also affects our circadian clocks and the function of circadian rhythms that exert a powerful influence over our sleep.

A growing body of research indicatesfasting has a strengthening effect on circadian rhythms, helping tokeep circadian clocks synchronized. Because circadian rhythms exert a strong influence over nearly all the bodys processes (as well as most of our behavior), a more robust, synchronized clock has profound effects on health. Well-synchronized clocks support healthy metabolic activity, stronger immunity, andbetter, more restful and restorative sleep-wake cycles. Disrupted circadian clocks are closely linked to aging and disease. Keeping the bodys master bio clock in sync is one criticalway to slow biological aging and potentially extend lifespan.

Other recent research has demonstrated theeffects thatfasting can have directly on sleep, and also on conditions that affect sleep. For example, one study in mice found that a24-hour fasting period, followed by a meal, led to deeper levels of non-REM sleep. Research has shown that fasting may help toreduce chronic pain,elevate mood and decrease inflammationall conditions to which improvements will also benefit sleep.

A lot of people turn to intermittent fasting and to calorie restriction as a means to lose weight. Studies indicate periodicfasting can help with weight loss,including helping to push beyond a weight loss plateau. Its important to note that researchincludingthis 2018 studyshow that even when fasting doesnt lead to weight loss, it canimprove underlying cardiometabolic health,increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, lowering inflammation, bringing appetite under control (including reducing cravings for sugar). Maintaining a healthy weight, protecting cardiometabolic health, and adhering to a healthful diet will all translate into more restful, plentiful, high-quality sleep.

Whether you explore fasting as a practice with the guidance of your doctor or begin to pay more mindful attention to your daily eating patterns, a greater awareness of thewhenof your eating will make you feel and sleep better, right through the holidays and beyond.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., DABSM

The Sleep Doctor

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Should You Try Intermittent Fasting in 2020? - Psychology Today

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