Time-Restricted Eating May Help Support Sleep

Time-Restricted Eating May Help Support Sleep

Time-restricted eating is an eating pattern that focuses more on meal timing than caloric intake. You may be more familiar with intermittent fasting, which is a form of time-restricted eating. A person following this eating pattern will eat within a specific time frame every day. More often than not, the eating window ranges from six to twelve hours a day. During the remaining hours of the day, zero-calorie beverages, such as water or sparkling water are permitted. Some people also drink plain black coffee or unsweetened tea. 

A lot of people use time-restricted eating to promote weight loss. Although it is effective for some people, this eating pattern doesn’t always help everyone lose weight. Recent studies found that people of different ages and levels of health experience different benefits from time-restricted eating. Some people may improve gut microbiome, while others may experience improved body composition or a reduction in diabetic symptoms. 

Can Time-Restricted Eating Support Sleep?

More recently, researchers found that time-restricted eating may promote better sleep and overall quality of life. Eating during a longer window, or regularly changing that window, has the opposite effect. Some people keep their feeding window at four to six hours per day, but that isn’t feasible for the average person. Experts note that sticking to an eight- to 12-hour feeding window is more ideal and easily attainable. 

How does time-restricted eating impact sleep? Researchers attribute this benefit to the way it supports the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock. When you eat, exercise, and expose the body to light at the same time every day, the body can get used to a routine. Once the body gets used to this routine, you can fall asleep more easily and wake up at the same time every day. Experts note that establishing delineated times when you eat and fast is necessary for healthy metabolism and good sleep, from a chronobiology perspective. 

A sample eating window could be between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eating full meals during set times and reducing snacking, nibbling, or grazing, may also help you promote sleep. If you are a snacker and eat throughout the day, you may have difficulty sleeping or poor sleep quality. 

What Should You Eat During Your Feeding Window?

What do you put on your plate during your daily eating window? Limiting your eating time does not give you the go-ahead to eat whatever you want. You could very easily consume upwards of 3,000 calories in a 10- to 12-hour eating window. Sleep experts suggest that you steer clear of any foods that are high in trans or saturated fats and refined carbs. 

Existing data indicates that diets rich in carbohydrates contribute to drowsiness and fragmented sleep. This primarily has to do with the way the body metabolizes simple carbs. By avoiding foods that contain simple carbs or unhealthy fats, you may experience better sleep quality. A recent review found that a Mediterranean-inspired diet, which is rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, fiber, healthy fat, and anti-inflammatory properties, is associated with better sleep quality. 

Experts suggest enjoying most of your plant-heavy meals earlier in the day because delayed eating may disrupt the circadian rhythm. Stop eating at the same time every night, ideally three hours before bedtime, so that you can give your body lots of time to digest before sleep. The body responds positively to this type of routine and may help you experience an easier time falling asleep.

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