By now, you’ve probably heard of the keto diet. The keto diet can affect your weight, skin, mental health and disease risk in beneficial ways, but did you know that the keto diet can also affect your sleep patterns?
Here’s how the keto diet can affect your sleep. Of course, it’s worth noting that everyone’s diet experience will be different, and you should consult your doctor before starting any diet plan.
How the Keto Diet Impacts Sleep
In the short-term, the keto diet can negatively impact your sleep.
Insomnia is common among those on a keto diet, especially early in the transition to keto.
Here is the science behind it:
Carbohydrates are usually the body’s main source of energy because they provide the body with a constant supply of glucose and improve the entry of the amino acid L-tryptophan into the brain. L-tryptophan contributes to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for calming the body and helping to improve sleep and health. Serotonin is converted into melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Since a keto diet does not contain many carbohydrates and dietary L-tryptophan is not included, this can lead to low serotonin and melatonin levels.
Another reason keto affects sleep is that it may make the dieter feel a little nibbly. Feeling hungry may make it difficult to fall asleep.
When you’re hungry, it’s hard to feel rested enough to fall asleep. However, complex carbohydrates, which are fiber-rich, are encouraged on a keto diet to create a feeling of satiety or fullness because they take longer for your body to digest.
Some people may also be midnight snackers. They wake up in the middle of the night to eat a snack or meal. This can lead to more arousal (also known as wakefulness). These people may have a hard time falling back to sleep after eating in the middle of the night.
But long-term, the keto diet may improve your sleep.
When it comes to sleep, the keto isn’t all bad. Once the initial symptoms of insomnia are gone, many people report sleeping better and more deeply. You may also experience an increase in alertness and awareness during the day, making it easier to fall asleep at night. This increase in energy is due to a chemical in the brain known as adenosine. Adenosine is involved in regulating sleep. Certain studies have shown that a keto diet promotes the production of this chemical, which helps stabilize sleep patterns. Adenosine also helps regulate your central nervous system and may lead to deeper slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative stage of sleep.
Quick Tips for Good Sleep On Keto
Based on what you’ve just learned, here are some quick tips for successful sleep on a keto diet:
- When starting a keto diet, allow two to four weeks to get used to keto and break your carbohydrate addiction. (To confirm that you are in ketosis, measure your ketone bodies).
- Eat carbs later in the day. On your keto diet, people are allowed to eat some carbohydrates, and you will savor them. If possible, enjoy these delicious indulgences later in the day, rather than first thing in the morning. When you schedule your daily carbohydrate intake about four hours before you go to sleep, you’ll probably sleep better and be less likely to wake up hungry.
- At night, minimize blue light from phones, tablets, TVs and computers to promote optimal levels of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
- Increase your salt intake to prevent low sodium levels and to optimize your antidiuretic hormone (ADH). (ADH helps you sleep without the need to urinate).
- Consider potassium and magnesium supplements to correct electrolyte imbalances. Magnesium is particularly helpful in counteracting stress hormones such as cortisol, which is often dysregulated in keto beginners.
- Consider GABA or melatonin supplements as temporary sleep aides.
- Avoid unhealthy stimulants. You may have eliminated many unhealthy habits and behaviors after adopting a keto diet and embarking on your weight loss journey. But it’s important to remember that everything from alcohol and cigarettes to caffeine will not only derail your diet, but will keep you up at night.
When switching to the keto diet, some people experience sleeplessness or insomnia. However, there are a few strategies you can try to help alleviate the discomfort when switching to keto. Once they adapt to the keto diet, their sleep quality might get improved. But do remember to consult your healthcare providers before try any diet.