Reset Your Sleep Cycle With A 16-Hour Fast

Your brain's natural tendencies don't easily accommodate international flights, all-nighters or rotating shift work. Refusing to eat for about 16 hours before waking up, however, can help reboot your sleep cycle.

Photo by arvindgrover.

Harvard researcher Clifford Saper explains that one's body has more than just a single clock dictating some magical eight-hour sleep period. Sleep needs are regulated in part by exposure to light, but also by food intake. By fasting for 16 hours before your breakfast in a new time zone or on a new sleep/wake schedule, or perhaps after some really rough sleep nights, one can "override" the body's other sleep clocks that have a really aggravating way of demanding obedience. The Wise Bread blog suggests 12 hours might be a decent compromise if you can't hold off for 16 hours, though Saper seems to suggest 16 is the magic number.

Saper explains more about the power of not eating on your sleep cycle in this interview clip:

If you've got your own first-hand research on the relationship of food and sleep changes, or you've got evidence that Saper's method works as suggested, let us know in the comments.

How to beat jet lag: Don't eat [The Globe and Mail via


    does it work if the next meal you'll eat isn't breakfast? or should you just fast for 16 hours prior to breakfast?

    Had my wife try this last night after she had stayed ruined her sleeping pattern the night prior. The results, after fasting 16 hours before she wanted to wake up there was no benefit. In fact she was worse off as she constantly woke up in the night, making her tired throughout today.

    In my opinion fasting so much ahead just wakes me up during the sleep feeling intensely hungry and then unless I don't eat something soothing, e.g. milk with honey or so, I cannot fall asleep again, so I am not sure of this method!
    What has worked definitely for me is a good body massage 4-5 hrs before the intended sleep time. That lures me calmly into sleep at right time. But, I stay by myself and don't have anyone who can give me massage whenever I want to fix my sleep cycle. :(

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