Eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner in a 10-hour window could dramatically improve your sleep and your health, an international body clock expert says.
Dr Satchidananda Panda, a circadian biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, will address a sleep conference in Brisbane this week on the benefits of so-called time-restricted eating.
His laboratory research over the past decade has found limiting the hours over which you eat can improve your circadian rhythm, the 24-hour clock which controls almost every process in your body, including the sleep-wake cycle. There are also benefits to hormonal balance, gut health, heart health, endurance exercise capacity, sleep, blood glucose control, liver health and reduce overall inflammation, he will tell Sleep DownUnder 2018, an annual gathering of 550 sleep experts.
His findings originated in mice but more recent works suggests the benefits of time-restricted eating (TRE) hold true in humans.
“We’ve found that when we eat may be as important as what and how much we eat,” Dr Panda says. “In fact, our work suggests that these benefits can be gained even when you don’t change what you eat, as long as it’s in a limited time period.”
Dr Panda’s lab explored the genes, molecules and cells that keep the whole body on the same circadian clock. They were exploring how the liver’s daily cycles work when they discovered that mice that ate within an 8-12 hour period remained slimmer and healthier than those who ate the same amount over a longer period.
“Our research shows that when we tap into our circadian rhythm we can use it to maximize our wellbeing, minimize our waistline and enjoy a deeper slumber,” he says.
Dr Panda has advice for those interested in trying the TRE approach. Pay attention to the total time interval from the first calorie to the last every day and try to limit eating to a 10-hour window. If this is too hard, limit it to 12 hours, still an improvement on the 15-hour eating window half of all adults enjoy.
“Try to be in bed for 7-8 hours, and avoid food for at least an hour after waking up and 2-3 hours before going to bed,” he says. “Medications and water can be consumed outside this window and occasionally one can eat outside this window once or twice a week.”
To help assess one’s daily eating pattern and to adopt a TRE regimen to daily life, Dr Panda’s group has created a free program, available from mycircadianclock.org. After signing up on the website, you can download a free research app and follow a 14-week program.
Many people will begin to notice benefits within a fortnight, the expert says.
“You’ll find it profoundly helps improve the quality of your sleep, increases energy, reduces some weight, reduce acid reflux and help prevent or better manage metabolic diseases,” says Dr Panda, who wrote a book on the topic, The Circadian Code.
Researchers have also found a lifelong habit of eating all calories within 12 hours can significantly reduce risk for breast cancer, or its relapse.
Australian sleep specialist Dr Siobhan Banks from the University of South Australia, welcomes this relatively simple, easy-to-implement strategy to improve sleep at a time when up to half of Australian adults are not getting enough.
“Ideally we should be getting 7-8 hours of good quality shut-eye a night but busy lives, work demands, social expectations and family life often don’t allow it. A diet-based approach that can boost the quality of your sleep is good news,” Dr Banks says.
“And better still if it can also be used to help delay or control chronic metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity that are the leading causes of morbidity and death in modern society. If successful it has the potential to reduce healthcare costs and add healthy years to our life.”
Dr Panda is a speaker at Sleep DownUnder 2018, the annual conference of the Australasian Sleep Association, held October 18-20 at the Brisbane Convention Centre. The congress showcases the latest in exciting clinical research to improve the sleep of everyone from babies and teens to shift workers and the elderly. Specialists will canvas every facet of our nighttime slumber with investigations of problems like snoring, insomnia, narcolepsy and daytime sleepiness.
For further information, contact Lucy Williams on 0403 753 028 or Tamara McLean on 0431 255 093
About the Australasian Sleep Association
The Australasian Sleep Association is the peak scientific body in Australia and New Zealand representing clinicians, scientists and researchers in the broad area of Sleep. Our vision is the provision of world standard research, education and training, and establishment of clinical standards to ensure clinical best practice in sleep medicine resulting in an informed community with healthy sleep practices.
Australasian Sleep Association