Insomnia and Intermittent Fasting

At about 01:00 in the wee hours of the morning, eyes open, pupils dilated, eyelids refusing to stay shut, the regret of that double espresso at 18:30 the previous evening sure hit me strong. My habit is to avoid caffeine after noon for a chance at a good night’s sleep. Coffee after 15:00 pretty much assures a disturbance to my sleep pattern. I know better, but I wanted to tell my friend that I’m going back to China in a few weeks. I chanced the evening espresso, and I lost. Oh well, it gave me a chance to think about writing this blog post.

Through my research, I have found that fasters experience fewer sleeping hours quite regularly. In the first few months of intermittent fasting, my wife and I would lie side-by-side pretending to sleep, so as to not wake the other, and then we would share notes the next day as to our inability to get into the desired state of unconsiousness, which only seemed to happen during fasting-day nights. After identifying the commonality of the problem, if one can call it such, I determined to find the reason.

It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson

Knowing that a good portion of our energy evaporates during the digestive process, and that that energy is redirected to cleaning, healing, and detoxifying the body during a fast, I figured sleeplessness resulted more from our physiology and represented less of a problem than most people thought. We are conditioned to believe, to the point of brainwashing, that we need eight hours of sleep. For normal eaters, especially those on the Standard American Diet (SAD), this may be true, but for fasters, who expend far less energy on digestion, I’m not so sure.

Common sense tells us that when full, we want to sleep, and when hungry, we perk up for want of food. Evolutionarily, this makes perfect sense: during times of feast, we need to rest and digest (part of the function of the parasympathetic nervous system), and during famine, we need to be more alert to food possibilities. Our ancestors did not have a convenience store on the corner of every grove. We evolved with feast and famine periods. As a matter of fact, when fasting the brain produces orexin, a hormone that keeps us awake and makes us want food when we are fasting; it is produced during the down regulation (decrease) of insulin. Since the body has no sugar to process (insulin processes sugar) during a fast, there is less insulin and more orexin, and consequently, less sleep.

Also, during a fast, our brain floods our system with adrenaline: “When the brain is threatened with energy starvation it will send a hormonal message to the adrenal glands to pour adrenaline into the system. Adrenaline is a hormone that converts glycogen– strings of glucose molecules stored in the body – back into glucose, so as to feed the brain again. But abnormal adrenaline secretion during the night can also cause insomnia and nightmares.” (from The Biochemistry of Insomnia). Adrenaline gets us all excited and ready to fight or flee. No wonder fasters have trouble getting to sleep.

Beat Insomnia?

However, there is good news for my fellow insomniac fasters: whether you fast or not, apparently, being told that you had a good night’s sleep improves your cognitive skills, according to researchers at Colorado College. So if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, have your partner, or a good friend, tell you that you did, even if it isn’t true, you will have a better day. This is known as “placebo sleep.”

As I see it, due to IF, I need less sleep, so a sleepless night, whether in Seattle, Pristina, or Nanjing, causes me no problem the next day. A cup of coffee and a good attitude and my day goes great. No moping around for me just because I missed a few hours of sleep. See how that placebo sleep works? Also, I look forward to a very peaceful sleep the next night.

We at Fast and Fit do not recommend pharmaceutical sleep aids, and natural sleep aids should be taken as a last, last resort. Perhaps a better idea, just take advantage of the extra time when sleep evades, walk around, catch up on some reading, meditate, stretch, write, do something productive, or just enjoy the rest, and relax. (Or get up and read my blog and make comments. Hehehe.)

So if you need extra hours in your day, insomnia and intermittent fasting can help. Feel free to follow my blog. As I explain the process and the benefits of IF and fitness from an experiential point of view, we will explore this life-enhancing lifestyle together. And tell me what you think in the comments below.  Until next time, stay fast and fit.

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11 thoughts on “Insomnia and Intermittent Fasting

  1. MarkOPete086

    Thank you so much, Elaine. I’m glad I fed your mind. Thanks for the feedback. Sorry it took me so long to reply. I’m new to this and I didn’t realise that I needed to approve your comment. I approve of your comment, too. Happy New Year, to you also.

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  2. Soul Gifts

    Thank you for the follow of my blog, Mark. Wish you well in the New year. It will be delightful, I am sure, to be back with your wife 🙂 There is much ‘food for thought’ in your blog posts !

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  3. Taina Hollo

    I have got insulin resistance because of 5 years of poor sleep (caused by menopause). I just could not have believed it, because I have eaten 3 LCHF meals a day all the time (well, 90 % of the time…)! If intermittent fasting makes me sleep even worse, can it still help in getting rid of insulin resistance? Or should I treat my sleep problems first?

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    • MarkOPete086

      Taina, so sorry it took me so long to respond. I was dealing with the death of a very close friend. Anyway, I don’t think intermittent fasting will have any ill effects on your sleep; it may even improve your sleep condition. However, it will definitely (if done properly) help with your insulin resistance, so I recommend giving IF a try. Here is a link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETJ2YYOdBNE&t=1663s) an interview with Dr. Jason Feng, a phrenologist, who puts all of his diabetic patients on IF and close to 100% of them come off their medication within two weeks to two months. If it works for diabetics, I’m sure it will work for pre-diabetics. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. If you have any other questions feel free to ask. I will try to get back to you sooner, next time. Again, so sorry. Mark

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  4. Brian L

    I read this at 4:53am while intermittant fasting. Strange thing, I feel more refreshed in the morning than normal. I have been doing 16 and 8 and also 24 hour IF lately, as well as no processed foods or added sugar.

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  5. Rozzalinda

    Hello thank You for the blog so inspiring.
    . I experience the same. When i eat one meal a day and that meal is raw vegan organic full of nutrients. Then i ONLY need 4 hours a sleep. Waking up so allert like im a superhuman . IT is incredible why we dont Try things for ourselves.
    I allways wanted to wake up early and be more produktive. But i never could. I wasted 10 hours a night on sleep every night just becouse i think my body needed to recover from the bad foods i was shoveling all day.
    . I guess this solves my problem. So what if studies Said You need 8 hours of sleep bla bla… If You feel awake Then just be produktive. With adjusting the diet i think the body Will find its Own rithem in time. Also spiritually i receive incredible results. If i want to have anxiety… Mind fogginess overall less productivity Even depression… All i need to do is just eat all day no discipline in eating hours… If i add unhealthy foods Then hell is braking loose in my mind…fear is taking over and dominating. But hey here i share ny experience and my husbands experience too. Defenetly IF is beneficial. In many ways. Oh ur also done with the hassle of cooking and shoveling all day. Now im inlove with foods i make my ritual giving IT a few hours of my attention Then im up and running. Instead of letting foods taking over our lives. This is not starvation is a good solution to our lives. Try IT out slowly build IT up. If You Are eating 4 times a day its hard to go to one meal a day. Slowly steady is the way . If not slowly Then persevere. Hope this hells anyone. If anyone wanna share any experience add me on Skype. mirela.leon1 or e-mail rozzalinda1111@gmail.com

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  6. Michelle

    thanks for the advice. I have started fasting and I notice every few days I am up 4:30 in the morning. this morning ( I have been up since 4;30 again) I googled insomnia and IF and Voila!, I found your blog. I appreciate your advice; it was very comforting and encouraging. Yesterday, was my day off from exercising so I wonder if exercising is a way of decreasing the cortisol because I have insomnia after my exercise “fasts”?
    I have a recovery advisor on my fitness watch and after my run on Wednesday it told me I needed 36 hours before I exercise again.
    I also read that it is good to exercise while fasting because the increase in Growth Hormone during fasting help a more expedient exercise recovery time.

    Anyway, I am enjoying the journey after discovering and devouring (I couldn’t resist the pun) Dr. Jason Fung’s two books two weeks ago. Many Blessings!

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  7. Tamara Hoerner

    Reblogged this on The Purple Almond and commented:
    Since starting intermittent fasting, I’ve been a bit more of an insomniac than usual. I thought I was going crazy, but this article provides a unique perspective on intermittent fasting, digestion and sleep. It makes a lot of sense and spurred me to do more research! Thanks for this fascinating article fastandfitweb.wordpress.com!

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