If you've recently started the keto diet, you may have encountered a problem known as keto insomnia. It isn't life-threatening or dangerous, but it can disrupt your daily routine and cause you to feel constantly tired and exhausted. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and manage keto insomnia.
Not every method may work for you, but at least one tried and true method will likely help you manage the issue.
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Yes! Your diet does have an impact on how well you sleep at night. For example, having a high amount of caffeine in your diet, especially near bedtime, can make it difficult to sleep or cause you to wake easily during the night and have a less restorative sleep pattern.
A healthy diet full of nutrient-rich foods throughout the day can improve your sleep, while a diet lacking fiber and a high amount of sugar and fat may disrupt your sleep pattern. So, when someone is on the keto diet, they tend to have decreased fiber and an increased fat intake, often lowering sleep quality at first.
The times that you eat during the day can affect your sleep too. Eating late at night is associated with poor sleep; eating earlier and immediately when you get up in the morning is associated with higher sleep quality. This isn't necessarily true for everyone, but paying attention to what and when you eat overall is important.
The keto diet, or ketogenic diet, is a diet that consists of a low carbohydrate intake and a high fat intake. Most people start the diet to try to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle. There are many health benefits associated with the diet, such as weight loss and an alleged lower risk of cancer and other diseases.
When on this diet, you have to drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, eventually putting your body into a state known as ketosis. Ketosis essentially raises your metabolism, meaning you'll burn more calories than you normally would. This is due to a lower blood sugar and insulin level, which makes your body burn fat instead of sugar.
There are actually four types of ketogenic diets. Most people think of the standard well-known keto diet, where you don't increase your protein intake and instead focus only on your carb and fat intake.
Ketogenic diets include:
Standard keto diet: Low carbohydrate, high fat intake. Protein isn't the main focus of this diet.
Cyclical keto diet: This diet has higher periods of carb intake. A person will participate in the standard keto diet most days but may have two or three days during the week where they eat a normal amount of carbohydrates.
Targeted keto diet: More carbs are typically consumed before or after working out.
High protein keto diet: Along with lowering carbs and increasing fat, a person will focus on eating more protein.
Keto insomnia is a lack of sleep associated with partaking in the keto diet. Some dieters may not experience it, but it's due to the lack of carbohydrates consumed in the diet. A lack of carbohydrates means your body is starved of L-tryptophan, which enables your body to produce melatonin.
Melatonin is produced by inhibiting the production of serotonin at night, so while your body is making serotonin, it's simply not producing enough melatonin to help you sleep.
However, keto insomnia isn't something that lasts the entirety of the ketogenic diet. Once your body gets used to your new eating habits, you won't have so much trouble sleeping. People usually only experience keto insomnia when they first start participating in the keto diet.
Several things can cause keto insomnia, ranging from nutrient deficiencies to stomach issues associated with the ketogenic diet. As previously stated, eating a low-carb diet can result in a lack of certain essential vitamins or minerals, including L-tryptophan and melatonin.
Flu symptoms. Some people experience flu-like symptoms when they first start the keto diet. Typically, this only lasts a few days or a couple of weeks.
Electrolyte imbalance. Also common at the start of the keto diet, an electrolyte imbalance can contribute to poor sleep quality or insomnia. When you restrict your carb intake, your body will use up the remaining glucose stored. Along with that, you could shed electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
Digestive issues. Another common problem at the beginning of the keto diet is digestive issues. This may include constipation, diarrhea, gastric reflux, bloating, or other issues. It usually goes away after your body adjusts to the diet.
You can manage or try to prevent keto insomnia by doing a few things. In most cases, keto insomnia will eventually go away on its own, but it can be frustrating to go without sleep in the beginning stages of the diet. It's recommended a person sticks almost religiously to the diet for insomnia to go away by itself.
But that doesn't mean you can't try to manage insomnia. Listed below are a few tips you can use to manage keto insomnia.
Make sure you are getting essential nutrients. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are important sources of many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Cutting most of these out means you're likely getting less of the essential nutrients your body needs daily. You can try to counteract this by taking fiber supplements and being conscious of the nutrients in the food you eat regularly. Try to ensure you're getting vitamins in what you eat, and consider taking a multivitamin daily.
Don't eat just before bed. Eating before bed isn't a good practice for fighting insomnia. Try to avoid eating meals and drinking caffeine or alcohol late at night.
Sleep in a cool room, but keep your hands and feet warm. Sleeping in a hot room can disrupt your sleep pattern as well. Nobody likes waking up covered in sweat, but no one likes having cold hands or feet. It's best to sleep in a cool room with a warm blanket to stay as comfortable as possible at night.
Make sure the room is dark and quiet (or have some relaxing white noise in the background). Some people like to sleep in silence, while others like a little white noise, such as a box fan or sound machine, playing in the background. Whatever you like, make sure the room is dark, and you're relaxed and comfortable.
Limit screen time before bed. It's often recommended to put down your phone, get off the computer, or turn off the TV about an hour before bed.
Keto insomnia is frustrating, and it may tempt you to give up on the diet at first, but there are ways to manage it. A nutrient or electrolyte deficiency could occur with a keto diet, so be conscious of what you include in your diet — doing so will help your body get back to its normal circadian rhythm.
Staying healthy and listening to what your body is trying to tell you is the most important part of any diet. You should talk to your doctor before starting any diet to ensure that you act safely.