For millions of years, our ancestors were only able to hunt and gather throughout the hours of daylight. This likely meant that they had very limited, if any, access to food late at night.
Researchers in the area of chronobiology (exploring how circadian processes effect health) have now discovered circadian clock genes that control the function of our digestion and metabolism.
The latest science suggests that our digestive enzymes and various other aspects of the digestion process function best during a specific time window of the day. This ‘circadian eating window’ may span approximately 10-12 hours from the time at which you consume your first food or drink of the day (not including water).
The circadian digestive process has implications for various areas of health including appetite regulation, nutrient absorption, weight management, sleep quality and the vulnerability for developing digestive disorders including reflux, ulcers, inflammatory bowel issues and irritable bowel disease.
Recently, researchers Sachin Panda & Valter Longo also discovered that confining the consumption of all foods to an 8-12 hour period each day (just as people did only a century ago) might stave off diabetes, obesity and other metabolic problems. They have coined this term Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF).
Key steps things to consider:
- Try to consume all of your food and drink (not including water) within a daily circadian eating window of 10-12 hours.
- Aim to consume your last food and drink 3 hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid big meals just before bedtime when your digestion functions less optimally.
Following these three steps will not only contribute toward improvements in sleep quality, but they may also aid your digestion, improve weight management and reduce the risk of developing chronic disease later in life (all issues that ultimately impact on sleep).
Tomorrow I’ll be back to discuss the contents of the food that we eat, the impact that this can have on our gut health, and, of course, how this influences the quality of our sleep.
Don’t forget to reach out if you have any questions or feedback.
PS. For those interested in the research and the science in this area I advise reading Dr Sachin Panda’s recent book ‘The Circadian Code’