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The Unexpected Benefits of Fasting: 4. Deeper Sleep

The fourth piece in my series on the fantastic and perhaps unexpected benefits of fasting.

As many of my followers already know, I’m a big fan of fasting and have done regular fasting for the past 3 years, utilizing the fasting mimicking diet developed at the Longevity Institute at USC. And I’ve profoundly felt the beneficial impact of fasting in many ways – with improved sleep being one of the biggest surprises for me!

I was actually a pretty good sleeper to begin with, but since beginning a regular fasting program, I’ve noted that my sleep is much deeper, I don’t awaken during the night, and I feel considerably more rested and refreshed upon awakening in the morning.

Taking note of this benefit, I set out to discover the scientific explanation, and uncovered some fascinating data I can now share with you. I couldn’t find studies explicitly studying the effect of fasting on sleep, but I found several which studied related physiological pathways, and are clearly drawing on the same underlying biological mechanisms.

The story begins near the beginning of Earth, as the first life forms emerged. Our planet has always had a 24 hour rotation of its axis – giving us two very different environments … a day and a night. We humans became two different creatures – one thriving by day, the other by night! They are extraordinarily different creatures residing in the same body … so different from each other in a multitude of ways!

The beautiful story of the harmonious development of all living creatures on Earth … aligning with Earth … is the story of evolution … the adjustments of life to exist in synchrony with Earth’s intrinsic 24 hour rhythm. This incredible synchrony optimizes health and survival by matching life’s beat to that of the beat of Earth, and is the foundational basis for the story I began to explain … that of the profound impact and relationship between fasting and sleeping. Let me now continue this story.

Here is a summary of what I concluded from my deep dive into this duo of fasting and sleep. Though scientific research on this topic is limited, what there is … is powerful in its implications!

Let me give you some more foundational background on this topic. There are two branches of the nervous system which control and balance all of the automatic functions of the body, such as breathing, heartbeat, temperature, gut motility, and so forth. It’s called the autonomic nervous system and its two branches are called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. When the sympathetic component is activated, there is a faster heart beat, a higher temperature, constriction of blood vessels, and a general feeling of stress, anxiousness, and agitation. The sympathetic nervous system is activated during times of emotional and physical stress. Needless to say, there isn’t much in that scenario compatible with getting a restful night’s sleep.

On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is quite the opposite. It slows heart rate, dilates arteries to create wider vessels, slows the gut, and creates an overall sensation of calm, serenity, and peace.

In a healthy individual, there is always a balance of these two diametrically opposed neurological parts. Depending on the situation, your body should be wired and on edge, alert, stimulated, and ready for all that is about to happen, or it should be contemplative, relaxed, and dreamy. And certainly when you’re hoping to go to sleep, a state of high alertness and being on edge would not help a bit!

There are articles published showing that short term fasting can impact the functionality of the autonomic nervous system! In the studies, they measured heart rate variability and certain energy frequencies which are markers for the status of the autonomic nervous system. And the fantastic news is that fasting actually impacted the balance, and increased parasympathetic output – the component of the autonomic nervous system necessary for quality sleep.

Fasting also promotes certain functions of the body which serve to essentially reboot the gut microbiome and the circadian rhythm! Now that too is great synergy! The microbes in our GI tract are key to mental health, and actually can both independently produce melatonin, as well as stimulate the special lining cells of the gut to make serotonin and melatonin! And I’m sure you’ve heard of those substances! They are the key neurotransmitters and hormones which calm us and help us sleep, among many other attributes. This could help explain how fasting came to improve my sleep. There is the potential that fasting can increase our body’s production of theses vital substances, needed fit rejuvenative sleep!

As well, our circadian rhythm helps keep us stay on beat the primordial rhythms, so we can sleep and rejuvenate when night fall arrives. Fasting may very well work to keep us on the aligned with our planet’s revolution!

Most probably, the potential of these amazing and surprise features of fasting have combined to help me to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, sleep deeper.

I strongly suggest you give fasting a try if sleep is an issue for you! If you should have terrible insomnia, fasting may be the first step to turning this problem around. And even if you’ve been a good sleeper, you’ll likely sleep more sounding and feel just plain better!

I always recommend the fasting mimicking diet developed at the USC Longevity Institute, for those willing to try fasting. I personally have tried to water fast in the past, and failed pretty rapidly and miserably. I was never even able to complete a full 24 hours!

I’ve never failed nor even come close to failing the fasting mimicking diet. I strongly recommend you give it a try!

Getting some high quality zzz’s … now that is a powerful potential reward!

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