Keto Diet Sleep | Fighting Insomnia When Going Low Carb

Keto Diet Sleep

Keto Diet Sleep
How To Fight Low Carb Insomnia

Keto diet and sleep featured image

You would think that going through the effort of changing your diet and even introducing some exercising, that you would be rewarded with a good night sleep.

Generally speaking, that is a true statement, because the healthier your body is, the better your energy levels will be. Along with a better hormonal balance, you should be all set for avoiding common sleep problems.

Unfortunately, from my own experience, I have to say that especially in the early stages of keto sleep can be a bit of a problem. I think if I had known more about this issue before I started, I would have approached things a bit differently.

Anyway, over the years I have collected a lot of tips and tricks from my own experience, friends, and dieticians as well. The good news is that you can do things that will improve your pre and post Ketosis sleep quality a lot.

So, what’s the story with Keto and sleep?

Let’s take a closer look.

How Does The Keto Diet Affect Your Sleep Patterns?

OK, just to avoid confusion, I’ll start with some basics.

The keto diet is a type of low-carb and high-fat diet that aims to trigger changes in your metabolism.

It’s not just some fad concept, but a medically proven method that was designed over a hundred years ago to help treat epilepsy.

man sleeping peacefully because he's in keto

What happens when you switch from carbs to fat as a source of energy is that ketones are produced and released into your bloodstream.

Rather than your body being reliant on glucose, it will use fat from your food and that unwanted blubber you might have accumulated over the years (no judgement, I was one of the worst offenders).

If done correctly, it will lead to very effective weight loss, but there are some side effects including ketosis insomnia. However, in the long term, sleep will actually improve because of a few chemical things that happen in your brain.

Now for a little bit of science (don’t panic, it’s nothing too complicated).

Medical research (including this study) has successfully shown that there is a clear link between the level of a brain chemical called adenosine and a low-carb diet.

It is this simple chemical that also plays a role in sleep quality. During awake periods, its concentration should be higher, while during sleep times its level should go down. And because keto can help regulate this chemical, you will find that your sleep patterns drastically improve over time.

There are different sleeping levels, and while all of them are important, it’s the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase that tends to improve sleep quality the most. Clinical tests (including this one) have shown that a strict keto diet (more here) can actually increase REM sleep.

Another study from 2018, showed that daytime sleepiness on a ketogenic diet is also significantly reduced.

So, now that we have the theory and science out of the way let’s look at the causes of sleep issues you might encounter.

Keto Insomnia: What You Need to Know

woman staring at the alarm clock

Sleep deprivation is never fun, and if it’s ever happened to you, then you know how disrupting it can be. However, if you’re in the middle of a lifestyle change where you might be having trouble with all your new dietary needs, then it’s just like adding insult to injury.

I’ll be the first to admit that the initial couple of weeks are pretty crap, but once you get through them, the extra energy and weight loss are totally worth it.

Keto diet insomnia is one of those side effects that is quite common, but at the same time very short lived.

The reason this can happen is mainly down to low serotonin and melatonin concentrations which are directly linked to sleep.

Add to that the extra energy from all the fat burning and you can quickly find it difficult to:

  • Fall asleep in the first place
  • check
    Stay asleep for most of the night
  • check
    Get into healthy deep and REM sleep cycles

Pretty much everyone I know had some form of these issues in their ketogenic experience, but once you understand why it’s happening, it’s easy to come up with solutions.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes to see if some might apply to you.

It’s not uncommon to hear people report sleep problems when they start a ketogenic diet. A big reduction in carbohydrate intake combined with significant increase to fat intake—which happens on a keto diet—can cause changes to sleep patterns.

Dr. Michael Breus

The 6 Causes of Keto Diet Insomia

It is commonly known that diet affects your sleep, whether that’s ketogenic, paleo, vegan, you name it. When you make significant changes to the foods you’re eating, there can be some impacts on how well you sleep.

Let me share some insights I got from a nutritionist who has helped me with a lot of mistakes I made along the way.

1. Keto Flu

Man with a flu

This is a term used to describe the symptoms in the early stages of a ketogenic lifestyle change.

The flu-like feeling is due to your body going through a process of switching from glucose to ketone for energy.

Unfortunately, during this induction phase, you can feel sleepy on keto during the day, and the brain fog, digestive imbalance, and nausea can make it difficult to sleep at night.

However, this is short-lived, and with the help of some supplements, you can reduce these symptoms significantly.

2. Extra Energy From Fat

One of the most common issues when it comes to keto and sleep is a sudden boost in energy from increased fat in your diet.

See, your digestive system will switch to burning fat reserves for energy (which is a great thing), but it will also have a lot of energy available from dietary fats. 

What can happen is that if you’re eating fatty food in the evenings, that you suddenly feel a rush.

photo of good fats

This is a bit like a sugar rush, and to see this in action, try giving your kids some candy late in the evening.

3. New Keto Macros

Keto nutrient ratio-graph

When you turn your macros upside down, then your digestive system has to adapt a lot.

The very high amounts of carbohydrates that we consume today make it relatively easy for the body to produce glucose.

This is also the main reason for blood sugar spikes and huge obesity problems. So, when you switch from such a high reliance on glucose, your body has to work harder,

One study in particular identified that this drastic change does affect sleep.

Again, this is temporary. You won’t be walking around like an extra in the Walking Dead forever.

4. Electrolyte Imbalance

Another common issue with the keto diet and sleep is a lack of electrolytes (see here).

In the first days and weeks, your body will get rid of all stored glycogen (more on this in the next section).

And every part glycogen binds to 3 parts water. This means you can easily lose 5 pounds of fluids and the electrolytes associated with them. 

Man drinking on the stairs

And losing too much magnesium can increase stress and anxiety levels as well as lead to muscle cramps and restless legs (read our article here).

5. Decreased Glycogen

Feet of a man

We’ve already mentioned the loss of electrolytes that are tied to glycogen, but there is another reason that ketosis insomnia is tied to this stored energy.

As your body breaks down the glycogen, it releases the associated water.

Dependent on your health and weight that can be 5 to 8 pounds of water that are filtered out by your kidneys and flushed out through urine.

This process won’t stop when you’re asleep, and that means you can regularly wake up at night to pee.

6. Stress From Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a common trick used on the ketogenic diet.

Once your body fully adapts it can become incredibly efficient at fat processing.  This can result in stalled weight loss which can be a bit frustrating.

One way to kick start fat burning again is to introduce fasting periods. And when you do this, your body will see it as a threat of starvation and increase stress-related hormones.

Man being stressed at the ocean side

For some people, this has no impact on their siestas, but it wouldn’t be uncommon.

Low levels of serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters that help with sleep, as well as higher than normal energy levels, may be partly to blame.

Stephanie Booth

12  Easy Keto Insomnia Cures

Now that you understand what the main causes are let’s get to the interesting part and give you some simple solutions.  I’ve collected these over the years from other dieters as well as from my nutritionist Susan.

I have yet to meet someone who wasn’t able to fix things with these tips.

1. Fix Your Electrolytes

drinks with electrolytes

This is by far one of the easiest ways to fix the problem. If you haven’t already explored using supplements, especially in the early stages, then do so immediately.

There’s no point being a martyr for the cause; it’s just going to drag down your morale.

Most people will shy away from adding salts to their diet, but there is a minimum amount you need each day.

With excellent supplements that include just the right amount of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, you can solve most sleep problems very quickly.

2. Don’t Eat So Late

Ketosis sleep interruptions are most common when you eat large volumes of fat late in the evening.

This used to happen to me as I’d sit down at 8pm to count my macros.

I would panic if I saw fat was too low and would start snacking some avocados. The result would always be a sleepless night.

Woman eating a cake in front of the refrigerator

So basically, avoid eating after 8pm, ideally even earlier than that, unless you do a lot of exercise in the evenings.

3. Dim The Lights And Limit Screen Time Before Bedtime

A photo of a dimming lamp

This is a general tip and one that I still have to remind myself of.

Most of us tend to watch TV shows on tablets, check emails and log into social media just before lights out.

This doesn’t send the right signals to your brain, and as a result, you can end up struggling to get into a fully relaxed state where your brain is ready to shut off.

4. Limit Exercise Or Any Physical Activities In The Evening

I know this can be a struggle for many people, but ideally, you should exercise (learn more) first thing in the morning or early evening.

While you might feel physically tired from a run or trip to the gym, this also has a stimulating effect on your brain.

Keto diet sleep issues can be significantly increased with late night exercising, so if this is a routine you’re in, then change things around in your daily plan.

Man exercising at night

5. Meditate Before Sleeping.

A lady meditating

I’ll be honest and say that I never believed in meditation.

It just seemed like something Buddhist monks would do to get into a spiritual frame of mind.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Ever since I installed the “Headspace” app on my phone, I found that my ability to fall asleep has vastly improved. Simply pop in your headphones and follow the instructions.

Within a few days of practicing you will notice this makes a big difference.

6. Warm Your Hands And Feet But Keep Your Room Cool.

You’ve probably heard that hot room temperatures will cause problems for your sleep.

If you ever head to a hot climate on vacation, you’ve probably experienced it first hand.

But a cool room can often lead to your hands and feet becoming a bit cold. 

Photo of a feet with socks and a hand warmer

The resulting tingling feeling can quickly wake you up, and it can take quite a while to warm them up enough again.

So, to help you deal with ketosis sleep problems, try to eliminate cold hands and feet.

Make sure they are warm before you get into bed, and reduce the chance of them being uncovered.

Socks might not seem right in bed, but it’s one of the simpler solutions.

7. Eat Your Carbs Later In The Day.

Carb foods on the table

Saving your carbs for later in the day is a great tip I got from my nutritionist Susan.

Personally, I always used up most of my net carbs on breakfast, but by changing my ketogenic meal plan (read this article), I did notice a big difference.

See, metabolizing carbs results in increased insulin levels which also increases serotonin production.

And serotonin helps to make you feel sleepy.  So, check your food diary and see if you can shift things around a bit to move the carbs out to a later time.

8. Slowly Ease Into Decreasing Your Carb Intake.

While you might want to get the induction phase out of the way as quickly as possible, immediately switching to 20 grams of carbs a day is one of the main problems when it comes to keto and sleep disruptions.

If this is your first attempt and you had a particularly high-carb and sugar diet before, then easing it in a bit is a great idea.

You can do this by working out your current carb intake and then reducing it by 50g a day.

More carb foods on the table

9. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake.

Photo of a coffee

One of my own main causes of keto diet sleep, or lack of it, when I first started, came down to caffeine. I love coffee, and couldn’t imagine a day without it.

But I was taking in quite a bit extra through some pre-workout supplements, and the extra brain stimulation the ketogenic lifestyle gave me, just pushed things over the edge.

So, between reducing afternoon coffee and switching to a caffeine-free supplement, you can make a huge difference.

10. Take Magnesium Before Sleeping.

We already mentioned electrolytes in step 1, but I would also recommend getting a magnesium booster.

You can get these in simple pill form, and they are very easy for the body to digest.

Aim to take one of these every evening, maybe an hour or two before you go to bed. It will help avoid things like muscle cramping and restless legs and just help you get into a more relaxed state.

Magnesium foods

11. Take Collagen Supplements Before Bed.

Spoon filled with supplements

Glycine is an amino acid (read this article) that has been linked to improving sleep quality. So, you would imagine that boosting glycine levels will help with your keto sleep difficulties.

The good news is that collagen (learn more about collagen here) is required for the body to create more glycine and there are some great supplements that will boost your collagen levels.

Aim to take them along with the magnesium from tip 10 about 2 hours before bedtime.

12. Have A Consistent Sleep Schedule.

This is one of the most common mistakes people make. Changing your bedtime from day to day will confuse your brain and hormone regulation.

Aim to be in bed by 11pm with lights out no later than 11:30pm. As well as this, you want to make sure you wake at the same time each day.

Essentially, you want to avoid going to bed at 2am on a Saturday and staying in bed until noon.

Lady listing schedules

There are some great apps available that monitor your sleep patterns and help you plan your routine a bit better.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Keto Diet Make You Sleepy?
Yes, the early stages of the keto diet can make you feel sleepy.
This is a time where your body switches from glucose to ketone, and the low blood sugar levels can make you feel very sleepy and fatigued throughout the day. 

Do You Sleep Better On Keto? 
Yes, you do sleep better on keto, once your body has fully switched from glucose to ketone production.
While there are many reasons for keto sleep disruptions, once you find the right balance of foods, nutrition and exercise you will have a marked improvement in your rest times.

Can Keto Cause Insomnia?
Yes, keto can cause insomnia, especially in the early stages of the lifestyle change.
Keto diet and sleep disruption are one of the more common complaints during the induction phase. With hormonal imbalances and a drastic change in macronutrients, your body has a lot to process. But this is a temporary issue.

Does Keto Insomnia Go Away?
Yes, keto insomnia will go away, usually within a few days to a couple of weeks.
By applying some of the above actions, you can make sure that you reduce this time to a minimum. And by taking some supplements, it can practically be eliminated.

How Long Does Keto Insomnia Last?
Keto insomnia usually lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks.
This very much depends on your lifestyle and overall daily routine including food intake. With the easy to adapt tips on this page, you can make sure that you eliminate this side effect substantially.

Is Insomnia A Sign Of Ketosis?
No, insomnia is not a sign of ketosis.
It is more a sign of keto induction. Once you get past the induction phase, ketosis sleep will be a lot more refreshing. I found that after about a week I was far more ready to get going in the morning than ever before in my life.

Our Final Conclusion

The topic of keto diet and sleep is always highlighted as one of the biggest concerns. And let’s face it, who likes to walk around all day with bags under the eyes wishing for just one good night of rest.

Every ketoer I know has had this problem to some degree, but fortunately, it can be limited a lot. Once you get over that initial induction period, you will actually find that Keto sleep is better than anything you experienced before.

A lady sleeping with keto diet foods on her bed

And it all really does make sense. A healthier body and brain will be far more efficient at providing a healthy night of rest.

If you’ve got some more tips to add to this list, then send us a message. We’d be happy to add more info. The more tips we can add, the more people we can help.