Intermittent Fasting and Sleep: A Review of Human Trials

Nutrients. 2021 Oct 1;13(10):3489. doi: 10.3390/nu13103489.


This review examines the effects of two popular intermittent fasting regimens on sleep in adults with overweight and obesity. Specifically, the effects of time restricted eating (TRE; eating all food within a 4-10 h window) and alternate day fasting (ADF; 600 kcal fast day alternated with ad libitum feast day) on sleep quality, sleep duration, sleep latency, sleep efficiency, insomnia severity, and risk of obstructive sleep apnea, will be summarized. The role of weight loss will also be discussed. Results from our review reveal that the majority of these trials produced weight loss in the range of 1-6% from baseline. Sleep quality and sleep duration remained unaltered with TRE and ADF, as assessed by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The effects of intermittent fasting on sleep latency and sleep efficiency are mixed, with one study showing worsening of these parameters, and others showing no effect. Insomnia severity and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea remained unchanged in the trials assessing these metrics. Taken together, these preliminary findings suggest that TRE and ADF produce mild to moderate weight loss (1-6%) but their effects on sleep remain unclear. Solid conclusions are difficult to establish since participants in the studies had healthy sleep durations and no clinical insomnia at baseline, leaving little room for improvement in these metrics. Moreover, none of the trials were adequately powered to detect statistically significant changes in any measure of sleep. Future well-powered trials, conducted in individuals with diagnosed sleep disturbances, will be necessary to elucidate the effect of these popular diets on sleep.

Keywords: alternate day fasting; insomnia; intermittent fasting; obesity; sleep apnea; sleep duration; sleep quality; time restricted eating.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caloric Restriction / adverse effects*
  • Caloric Restriction / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Fasting / adverse effects*
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / diet therapy
  • Overweight / physiopathology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Weight Loss / physiology