Table of Contents
- Keto Insomnia: Defined
- Insomnia on Keto: Causes and Cures
- 1. Less Carbs Equals Less Sleep
- Solution: Finding Suitable Carbs Intake Time
- 2. Histamines – Hidden Keto Insomnia Cause
- Solution: Choosing The Wrong Foods at the Right Time
- 3. Minerals Deficiency In Keto
- Solution: Balance Electrolyte Intake
- 4. Keto Transition Period
- Solution: Accelerate Ketosis Process
- 5. Blood Sugar: Imbalance may Induce Keto Insomnia
- Solution: Eating at Regular Intervals
- Additional Tips: Keep Hydrated
- Ketosis and Insomnia: What Studies Suggest
- Keto Insomnia: How Long Does it Last?
- Like any other fad diet, besides various benefits, keto diet has a few drawbacks.
- Keto diet may lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia, though only for a short period of time.
- Insomnia stems from adopting keto diet that is linked with low levels of serotonin and melatonin. Excessive energy levels may add to the cause too.
- In the long run, keto diet can help us have a deeper sleep. Besides, it may lead to less requisite sleep in total.
Keto Insomnia: Defined
Keto insomnia is an umbrella word stands for having sleeping issue while embrace keto diet, especially at the beginning of the scheme. Though insomnia is a common problem among keto dieters, however, scientists, so far, failed to draw any decisive conclusion as to what causes this anomaly – unevenness in sleep pattern. Nonetheless, a few theories are floating around keto domain.
One theory comes up with the explanation that keto insomnia is an outcome of creepy keto flu – a bunch of bodily symptoms that our body encounters during ketosis. This theory also asserts that keto flu come into the fore when our body starts to move from one energy source to another. May be insomnia decides to pay a visit to cause annoyance in our life during this transition period.
Another theory put emphasis on energy level. When we reach ketosis state, our body tends to generate extra energy than normal. One little example would make this reasoning clear. When we indulge ourselves with too many carbs-filled foods at lunch, at the end of the meal, we feel tired and drowsy. Therefore, it’s not a rocket-science that limiting carb intake would do the opposite – feel more boosted up and energized. This is true for people whose staple food is boiled rice, or pasta/pizza.
When we embrace keto diet and reach ketosis state, we observe some anomaly in our daily life. Having a hard time sleeping is one of the issues we deal with when our brain thrives on ketones – a state where the body uses fats for fuel as an alternate energy source in the absence of carbohydrates. Those who are new to keto diet click on the following link to learn more about ketosis.
Insomnia on Keto: Causes and Cures
We all know what insomnia is all about. May be we have heard about obvious causes of sleep issues like:
- Substance abuse
- Mental issue
- Caffeine addiction etc.
These are all common causes that everybody knows. We will try to cover it from a different viewpoints and try to discuss about the causes that we unheard off.
Have you ever imagined carbohydrate, in fact, lack of it can cause sleep issues.
1. Less Carbs Equals Less Sleep
Well it all starts with tryptophan. The foods that we consume on keto like nuts, meat, fish etc. emits a lot of tryptophan, which is basically an amino acid. This amino acid plays a very important role in the whole process. This particular acid tryptophan converts into serotonin. Technically, it doesn’t quite convert into serotonin, rather it works as a catalyst to produce serotonin.
Now, this serotonin works as a soothing neurotransmitter that helps us remain relax and calm down. Serotonin is also an originator of another neurotransmitter known as melatonin. We are less or more familiar with melatonin as we have seen this on the level of a sleeping tablet container. This particular neurotransmitter helps regulate our circadian rhythm.
Now, if we connect all the dots, we get a simple equation. No tryptophan equals less serotonin equals less melatonin equals poor sleep. So, we are able to figure out the equation that lets us know as to how the supply of tryptophan fizzles out, when we’re on a low-carb diet or at least we’re not absorbing it into the brain.
Gillian McKeith, Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist and author of “You Are What You Eat: The Plan That Will Change Your Life” explains,
“While on keto diet, you put a limit on your carbs intake, so your body doesn’t get enough L-tryptophan (an amino acid stems mostly from carbs) which supposedly works as a catalyst in swelling serotonin and melatonin”
Remember, earlier we mentioned that carbs is a very important nutrients of foods that we take and our body naturally uses carbs as fuel source along with fat. See fat adaptation section.
Now, we can draw the conclusion on why people dubbed carbs as comfort food. Among many reasons, tasting good would stand first and this good feeling might lead to some comfort. But they literally do induce our comfort level more by helping us produce serotonin.
Solution: Finding Suitable Carbs Intake Time
When we are on keto diet we’re not getting enough tryptophan into the brain due to lack of carbs availability. So, how can we deal with this issue?
- Supplement: we can go for tryptophan supplement. In fact, studies have shown that intake of tryptophan supplement can help us sleep better. However, supplement is not for everyone and doctors discourage supplement intake because supplement does have its own drawbacks.
- Better option: we can make the process easier if we consolidate our carbohydrates to the evening time. When in ketosis, people possess a wrong notion that they are not getting carbs at all. As we mentioned before, people can consume carbs ranging from 30 to 60 grams depending on their energy needs, insulin sensitivity, and activity levels.
But what we have to do is allocate those carbs to the evening time. As a result, we get a nice little insulin spike in the evening that allows the tryptophan from the protein we’re consuming to enter into the brain. Consequently, those produced serotonin help us relax, fall asleep and stay asleep.
Gillian McKeith, Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist explains,
“Once we take carb-ridden diet, our blood sugar surges & crashes and ultimately dissolve. Then function of cortisol, the “stress hormone”, comes into action and helps induce better sleep”
Here staying asleep is the key factor. Scientists conducted a lot of studies on this issue and some studies prove that very low carb diets are associated with shorter amounts of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) periods of sleep by total ratio sleep.
This basically means that when on a low carb diet, if we sleep for eight hours, we may experience only two hours of REM sleep out of that eight hours. Whereas, no low-carb diet might expand the duration of REM sleep, let’s say two hours of REM sleep can turn into four hours.
Therefore, our focus should be on increasing the duration of that REM cycle. If we are able to do so, then we would feel better, feel more alert. And ultimately this may lead us to achieve our fat loss and weight loss goals.
No matter how we try to get rid of carbs, carbs is an important nutrient for balancing our body’s equilibrium. Carbs produce some soothing neurotransmitters in our body which help us feel relax and fall asleep.
2. Histamines – Hidden Keto Insomnia Cause
People usually don’t talk about this as it involves a bit of science. Reality is nobody likes to do science, everybody wants quick fixes. So, let us make it as quick and easy as possible.
Histamines are another issue that drive us to insomnia. I am sure, a lot of us have heard the word antihistamine before. People with allergy problems, may even take Benadryl, Claritin something like that before.
So what is histamine?
Histamine is a byproduct of a cell. It’s a chemical reaction that occurs when our body detects anything as an alien element and immediately gives a resistant response to that substance.
Let’s take pollen as an example. Pollen is normally innocuous to our body. However, for any unknown reasons, if our body sees it as a threat and deemed that it can cause harm; this might lead our body to trigger a series of chemical reactions that can cause our immune system to initiate some particular cells to produce histamines. These histamines play a considerable role behind making us energized.
When we take an antihistamine like Benadryl to cure your allergy problems, we feel drowsy after a while taking the dosage.
If antihistamines make us feel sleepy, simple reasoning enlightens us that histamines might do the opposite – wake us up.
When we are on keto or a very low carb diet, an inevitable phenomena happens. Presence of high amount of protein causes a big flood of histamines. So now the big question is as to what we need to do to keep that under control.
Solution: Choosing The Wrong Foods at the Right Time
Keeping the influx of histamines under total control is next to impossible. But what we can do is we can make sure that we only consume foods that are extra high in histamines in the morning and not at night. List of some of those foods are given below:
- fermented and smoking meats
- smoked salmon
- canned mackerel
- canned tuna
We should try to avoid eating a lot of the processed canned meats and fish in the evening time simply because they’re higher in histamines.
We have to also uncheck the fermented dairy from our evening meal list. Our desire for Greek yogurt and stuff like that should be reigned in. Even we should keep traditional yogurt off the menu in the evening time.
Besides, we can control our histamine issue by choosing the right foods. Below a list of foods that can cause both good and bad to our body depending on our choice:
|Foods to Consume||Foods to Avoid|
Remember, this caution is only for people who are having issues with sleep. Otherwise, these aforementioned meals are perfectly fine for people who do not have any issue with sleeping.
Histamine is a byproduct of our cells that make us feel energized. Hence, we don’t feel drowsy. Right choice of food at the right time of day can help us get rid of this keto side-effect.
3. Minerals Deficiency In Keto
While we are on a ketogenic diet, we tend to lose a lot of minerals in part during the first couple of weeks. Because during that phase, our body is flushing out this extra fluid that was usually held on to by those glucose molecules. As we mentioned earlier, glucose levels in our blood drop when we put a rein in our carb intake.
Potassium, calcium and magnesium are the three important minerals and electrolytes that our body lose when it reaches ketosis state. When we are deficient in these minerals, it can elevate pulse rate, blood pressure. Hence, it may lead us to feel a little more anxious and restless than normal. This can also lead us to stay awake instead of falling asleep.
It could also affect the muscles because these three minerals are a physiological tranquilizer that calm the nervous system down. During that time, we can see some symptoms in our body that become unable to ignore:
- Cramps in legs and other parts of the body
- Ambiguous thinking
- Fluctuation in mood
- Pain in kidney
All of these happen due to low potassium and magnesium.
Solution: Balance Electrolyte Intake
We have to keep a vigil eye on our electrolyte intake before and during ketosis.
We can refill those wasted potassium easily by using supplements or using lite-salt into our keto diet. Lite-salt is special kind of salt that contains both sodium and potassium.
To refill wasted calcium and magnesium is a bit challenging. Because our body finds it difficult to absorb some forms of calcium and magnesium and that leads to digestive issues. Experts recommend calcium citrate intake to refill the vacuum of calcium.
Magnesium can be found in many keto-friendly foods. Besides, we can use some supplement to replenish it.
Balancing electrolyte intake at the beginning of the keto diet is a must task. Have a tour to high-quality electrolyte supplements to reduce any side effects of low electrolytes, including insomnia.
Experts recommend for fulfilling minerals deficiency from foods rather than through supplementation. Following are a list of foods that possess bulk of minerals:
- Leafy vegetables like kale and spinach
- Whole grains like oats and brown rice
- Legumes like chickpeas and kidney beans
- Raw Cacao
- Bone broth etc.
Due to put a limit on carb intake, while on keto, glucose level in our body tend to fall. As a result, our body flush out extra fluid, including three important minerals, as there are less glucose molecule to hold those fluids. These minerals works as physiological tranquilizer that keeps calm our nervous system.
4. Keto Transition Period
When we embrace keto diet, we achieve ketosis by taking higher amounts of protein and fat, simultaneously putting a rein in our carbs consumption.
Latest study finds that this sudden transition from standard to keto diet can temporarily affect our sleep, as our body needs to make some adjustments to this different approach to food intake.
Remember, our body used to run on carbs up until introducing keto diet. So, it naturally needs some time to adjust with the lack of carbs. Besides, different experiments also find out that adapting to the new macros of keto diet affect our sleeping routine.
A study conducted on non-obese, good sleepers and during the course of the study they were put on keto diet for some time. Later the result showed that they had experienced compact REM sleep for a certain period of time.
Solution: Accelerate Ketosis Process
Some experts suggest that reducing the speed of entering ketosis state by consuming a bit more carbs than advised standard keto diet. Though, studies find some correlation between carbs cutting and sleep disorder. But it’s just a tip on the iceberg. There are a lot of issues that are involved with sleep disorders. Besides, some finds that procrastination in getting into ketosis can be cumbersome, rather they advocate for quickening the ketosis process.
Please read our Fastest Way to Achieve Ketosis State (within 24 hours) article as it would help you big time to accelerate the ketosis process.
Another aspect, people use supplements to accelerate the ketosis process, but honestly speaking, supplements are not for everyone. Experts recommends against getting in the habit of taking over-the-counter medication. Having said that, in case of chronic insomnia, crankiness and rough mood we may think giving them a try.
Any alteration to our food habit leads to some side-effects and insomnia is one of them. Besides, our body needs to make some adjustments to adapt to new macros of new food regimen. This adaptation to new macros of keto diet cause some disturbance in our sleep pattern.
5. Blood Sugar: Imbalance may Induce Keto Insomnia
We see a mixed bag of reaction from experts while it comes to the effect of keto diet on blood sugar level. We all know, keto diet is a fat based diet and it recommends us to consume seventy percent of our daily calories from fat. But the burning question is how this excessive fat intake is making an impact on our blood sugar level.
People have a common notion that the keto diet plays a role in decreasing our blood glucose level. However, according to Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD this assumption is partially true.
“Some individuals do experience high levels of glucose in their blood while on a ketogenic diet. The reason for this is that substituting fat for sugar isn’t exactly sustainable over time,”
According to Dr. Djordjevic, carbohydrate and fat are two nutrients that determine the presence of glucose level in our blood. When we indulge ourselves in consuming excessive dietary fat, insulin resistance in our body tends to go up. Subsequently, a spike in sugar level in our blood.
She was not afraid to reveal the flip side of the coin. She confesses that reigning in curb intake certainly helps decrease sugar levels. However, for the short term, it wouldn’t sustain in the long term.
How Blood Sugar Imbalance Causes Keto Insomnia
An unstable – meaning fluctuation is high during the course of the day and night – blood sugar level can disturb our sleeping pattern while on keto. Presence of too much sugar in blood can make us feel energized and help us feel awake.
On the contrary, when our body runs on low blood sugar, in response it starts to discharge cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that builds up naturally in our body and takes part in discharging deposited sugar into the bloodstream. Functionality of cortisol follows a natural cycle and low levels of this hormone help us fall asleep.
Besides, low blood sugar levels may trigger our hungry feelings which may play a role keeping us awake. Also, low blood sugar level can induce irritation which may not help our sleeping cause.
As we mentioned earlier, when put a reign on carbs intake on keto diet, levels of sugar in our blood tend to become low. When our body’s blood sugar levels become low, it has two options to execute – either carbohydrate consumption or cortisol discharge. Hence, the cycle remains.
Solution: Eating at Regular Intervals
we have to make a balance between fat and carb intake in order to balance our blood sugar levels. Experts suggest eating at regular intervals can help in this cause. When we feel very hungry between meals, we can go for some keto friendly snacks.
Additional Tips: Keep Hydrated
By nature keto diet is dehydrating. While on keto diet, people tend to wake up thirsty in the morning. Therefore, we have to make sure that we keep ourselves hydrated all the time. We discuss more in detail how adequate water drinking helps us get into ketosis faster.
Another slight adjustment that can help us in this cause is adding a little more salt to our diet.
Ketosis and Insomnia: What Studies Suggest
Tale of sleep disorder while on a ketogenic diet is very common in the keto domain. A sudden drastic change in dietary habit – reign in curve intake and significant surge in fat consumption – may lead to disruption in sleep pattern.
Studies aim to detect impact on sleep while on keto diet depicts a mixed bag of results. Some studies have come up with the result that ample fat intake may help develop a good sleep pattern. Whereas other studies suggest totally different results – high fat diet may lead to disorderly sleep and can cause insomnia.
The number of studies conducted on ketosis and sleep are very limited. Some research shows that people are reaping the benefits of low-carb, high fat diet through weight loss and this weight loss can positively affect our sleep pattern.
A recent study intended to find out the effect of keto on sleep revealed that sticking to this diet scheme helps decrease drowsiness during daytime. It is worth mentioning that the subjects of that study were obese people.
Another study with similar purpose came up with the same result – keto diet helps cut sleepiness during daytime. This experiment also found that keto diet plays a role in increasing REM sleep.
Other research conducted on a bunch of children with epilepsy found that keto diet helps surge REM sleep and quality of sleep.
Some exciting and evolving research exposing how keto diet makes an impact on a brain chemical known as adenosine. This chemical is considered as a vital catalyst to sleep regulation. Our body creates adenosine all through the day. Adenosine plays a part in decreasing our feeling for alertness and wakefulness as the day progresses. And consequently helps stimulate sound sleep at night.
Studies found a link between keto diet and adenosine build up in our body. This brain chemical helps soothe our nervous system, and also helps decrease ache and inflammation. All these factors lead us to a sound sleep.
Keto Insomnia: How Long Does it Last?
James is rolling on his bed for the last couple of hours. He turned off his room light two hours ago in order to fall asleep. Tomorrow, he has a job interview and has been thinking about it since morning. He is wondering if he has insomnia. Insomnia is a complex thing, not as simple as that.
What James is having is called acute insomnia. This insomnia lasts very short and happens due to experiencing various situations related to life: like getting engrossed in thoughts about earlier measures, undue worrying about upcoming actions. Anybody can go through this sort of sleep disorder. Good news is that it usually goes away without any treatment.
Martina moved to Saratoga from New York City three months ago to look after her family dairy business. In the last three months, at least two to three nights per week she experienced sleep disorder.
This insomnia is called chronic disorder. A change in overall environment may lead to this insomnia to Martina. Other issues like stated below may add to this long-term pattern of inadequate sleep:
- Unhealthy sleep habits,
- Change in work shift ,
- Particular medication and
- Other clinical ailment
If someone asks for a particular time-frame about keto insomnia longevity. Then the answer would be a shrug of the shoulders.
If any insomnia is caused by ketosis, then it will most probably go into exile within a couple of weeks. Because, sleep returns to normalcy soon after keto stimulation.
Therefore we have to make sure that we put our sleep hygiene on top and put enough emphasis on reaching ketosis within the earliest possible time. Which means we limit our carb intake within 20-30 grams and add some workout to deplete glycogen level swiftly.
If keto insomnia lasts for more than two weeks, then we have to address other facets of sleep.
Keto insomnia can really make our life a mess. It is considered as one of the traumatic side-effects of keto diet because the domino effect of sleep disorder can be detrimental to our overall health.
Study finds that adding an hour to our normal sleep time can assist us in choosing healthier food the following day.
Therefore, the above-mentioned practices can help us achieve our objective effectively: sleeping eight hours at a stretch and keeping insomnia at bay. Especially, we have to make sure that our body is getting enough melatonin while we are on keto diet.
If we want to lead a dynamic and enjoyable life, we have to take care of insomnia bug from our life. Because a night of sound sleep can play a big role in enhancing our quality of life.