Have you started eating low carbohydrate or according to ketogenic guidelines and do you notice that you sleep more slowly or differently? Following a keto diet can have an effect on your sleep.
In this article, we will discuss how your diet influences your sleep and we will also discuss the importance of a good night’s sleep with you.
So if you’re struggling with a less good night’s sleep than before, don’t worry. There are numerous explanations why you currently sleeping less deeply or for a long time. And even better: there are also concrete and effective measures that you can take to bring your sleep back to an optimal level.
But first, let’s see why a good night’s sleep is so important.
10 Reasons why a good night’s sleep is important
If you want to perform well and you want to be sharp and healthy, then a good night’s sleep is crucial.
In his book Own The Day, Own Your Life, the American health expert describes how different intellectual and sporting toppers are at their best thanks to a strict sleep schedule.
Guess how much sleep the best tennis player ever, Roger Federer, picks up per night? 10 to 12 hours!
In fact, sleep is so sacred to Federer that when he is preparing for a tournament, he rents two houses!
A house for him and his counseling team, and a house for his family. Federer ensures that he is not disturbed during his ‘holy sleep’. (1)
LeBron James, one of the most successful basketball players ever? On average 12 hours a day! (2)
Two of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates from Microsoft and Jeff Bezos from Amazon, swear that they function much better and think when they have slept for at least 7 to 8 hours (3) .
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule that also seem to function with less sleep, but if you want to live longer and stay healthy, it is advisable to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
This minimum dose of 7 hours of sleep did not just fall out of the sky. Extensive research has been done.
Research results from 16 scientific studies that affected no fewer than 1.3 million people for 25 years showed that people who sleep less than 6 hours per night on average were 12% more likely to die early.
Strangely enough, this large-scale study also showed that people who slept on average longer than 9 hours a night also had a greater chance of early death; no less than 30%! (4) .
Top athletes such as Roger Federer and LeBron James may be an exception to this because of the intensive physical strain that their body has to endure, which means that the body really needs long-term sleep sessions.
So it is clear that it is important to ensure that you get enough sleep. Too little sleep is going to break you up in the long run, but too much sleep too.
Your sleep duration and quality have a direct impact on your health.
A bad night’s sleep can cause weight gain
Poor sleep habits can cause your appetite to be boosted, giving you a better chance of gaining weight. Research shows that people with a short night’s sleep appear to weigh significantly more than people with a good night’s sleep (5) (6) .
A study of nearly 5,000 Japanese diabetic patients found that those who slept less than 4.5 hours or more than 8.5 hours per night were more obese and also had structurally higher blood sugar levels.
The people who slept between 6.5 and 7.4 hours per night had the best blood sugar levels (7) .
A large study among more than 600,000 adults and 30,000 children showed that adults with a short night’s sleep were 89% more likely to be overweight and children 55%! (8)
The link between being overweight and inadequate sleep is attributed to the fact that hormones are less well balanced due to lack of sleep and that motivation to exercise and exercise is less due to lack of energy (9) .
A bad night’s sleep can cause appetite
The hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, is higher in people with lack of sleep, while less leptin is present.
You guessed it … leptin is the hormone that suppresses hunger feelings (12) . The logical consequence of more hunger-stimulating hormone (ghrelin) and less hunger-suppressing hormone (leptin) is of course that you will eat more.
A good night’s sleep can ensure improved concentration and productivity
Sleep is very important for different brain functions . Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have already been mentioned in the introduction to this article. These extremely successful entrepreneurs also indicate that they are at their best when they have slept for at least 7 hours.
Research has also shown that a good night’s sleep has an impact on ability to concentrate, information processing, productivity and performance (13) .
A study that demonstrated this very aptly was conducted among medical students who participated in a hospital.
When these students had to work very long shifts of more than 24 hours, it turned out that they made 36% more medical errors than students who ran a regular, shorter shift in which they could sleep (14) .
Another study found that a lack of sleep can lead to a limitation of brain functions that can be compared with the influence of alcohol consumption (15) .
Good sleep can help to optimize athletic performance
A study among basketball players showed that when they slept longer, their speed, accuracy, reaction speed and mental resilience improved significantly (19) .
So it’s not surprising that LeBron James chooses to sleep for up to 12 hours sometimes!
Poor sleepers are more likely to have a stroke or heart disease
A study that focused on the link between sleep and cardiovascular disease showed that people who did not sleep enough were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people who sleep 7 to 8 hours (20) .
Sleep influences possible development of type 2 diabetes
This means that your body reacts less well to insulin and that you can therefore have to deal with a higher blood sugar level.
A study that demonstrated this effect of lack of sleep was conducted among 11 healthy young men. They were limited in sleep for 6 consecutive days to 4 hours per night.
The lack of sleep resulted in a lower glucose tolerance (23) .
A structurally deteriorating glucose tolerance is one of the conditions for developing type 2 diabetes.
Sleep deprivation is related to depression
In fact, it is not surprising that sleep deprivation is associated with the development of depression.
Lack of sleep and chronic fatigue have an influence on mental health. You have probably asked a grumpy person if he / she “got out of bed wrong” or “slept badly”.
Sleep deprivation is disastrous for your immune system
When people sleep poorly or are tired, they are often more susceptible to diseases. Even a little less sleep already has an effect on the immune system that has to fight germs (26) .
A large study among 153 healthy men and women between 21 and 55 years of age showed that people who slept for less than 7 hours were nearly 3 times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept for 8 hours (27) .
What a difference an hour of extra sleep can mean for your health is amazing!
Sleep deprivation can have an inflammatory effect
That a lack of sleep can have an anti-inflammatory effect is evident from a study among patients with Crohn’s disease. People with a poor sleep rhythm were found to have twice as much chance of developing Crohn-related symptoms than people who had adequate sleep (28) .
Social skills suffer from lack of sleep
Lack of sleep affects your social skills. Various studies have shown that people are less able to assess emotions in others when they are tired themselves (31) . It is a possible explanation why irritations can arise between tired people.
We can therefore state that there are numerous reasons to ensure that you have a good night’s sleep. But what makes a night’s rest good?
What a good night’s sleep looks like
There is a whole scientific discipline that investigates sleep patterns and rhythms and analyzes how sleep is structured. This concerns research into sleep architecture .
According to these insights, the sleep cycle that you go through at night (although of course also during the day) consists of two types of sleep activity (32) :
- Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM)
- Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM)
A nice trivia fact : the rock band REM is indeed named after this kind of sleep.
NREM sleep is the sleep in which we find ourselves in about 75 to 80% of our sleep time.
This sleep mode consists of three phases (33) .
Phase 1 of the NREM sleep is the snooze phase . This is the first phase that you end up when you fall asleep. It is snooze where you are easy to wake up. It concerns the transition between waking and sleeping.
Phase 2 of NREM sleep involves light sleep , in which you no longer wake up from every sound.
Phase 3 of NREM sleep concerns deep sleep . This phase has several names such as delta sleep or slow wave sleep. This deep sleep is important for storing and maintaining memories (34) . The brain and body get their rest in this phase, so that you can make physical and mental efforts the next day.
Then there is REM sleep too, our brain is very active in this sleep phase. It sounds a bit creepy, but during this phase your eyes shoot back and forth behind your eyelids. Hence also English abbreviation for Rapid Eye Movement (freely translated: Fast Eye Movement).
The brain is very active during REM sleep and it is also during this phase that dreams take place. The large muscles in our limbs are currently disabled and paralyzed, so that you stay still while dreaming.
Approximately 20 to 25% of your sleep consists of REM sleep.
A good night’s sleep contains all the above phases , which are repeated in cycles during the night. If you get too little sleep, then deep sleep or slow wave sleep often suffers (35) .
The National American Sleep Foundation has defined the characteristics of a good quality night with sleep (36) :
- You fall asleep within 30 minutes.
- You do not wake up more than once.
- When you wake up you fall asleep again within 20 minutes.
- You sleep for at least 85% of the time that you have been in bed.
The Effect of Keto on Sleep: 6 Causes of Keto Insomnia
One of the side effects of a keto diet is that it can affect your sleep rhythm , so you may no longer meet the above four characteristics of good sleep.
Maybe you wake up more often, maybe it takes longer for you to fall asleep. This can occur after you have switched to a ketogenic diet.
Before we discuss these ways we will first mention 5 causes that may be the basis for the phenomenon that is also called Keto Insomnia .
Cause 1: You are dealing with the Keto Flu
One of the main causes that contributes to a disturbed sleep rhythm is the so-called Keto Flu.
The switch to a diet with very few carbohydrates is a major change for the energy balance in your body.
This transition period can be quite difficult for some people .
Symptoms of Keto Flu can occur within a few days after someone has drastically reduced their carbohydrate intake.
Where one person experiences only mild symptoms, the transition can trigger a fairly strong physical reaction in another. The following symptoms may occur (37) :
- Throwing up
- Muscle cramps
- Poor concentration
- Stomach ache
- Sleep problems
These symptoms are generally experienced by people who have just started a keto diet.
The symptoms usually last no longer than week, although it can happen that people suffer from it for longer. Not every human body is the same, so one person adapts more easily than another.
As the symptoms of Keto Flu decrease, the insomnia can also decrease. In our extensive article about the Keto Flu there are various tips on how you can fight Keto Flu .
Cause 2: Your body needs to get used to the new macronutrient ratios
Research has shown that your body needs to get used to processing more fats and proteins instead of carbohydrates. This brings about changes in your metabolism.
These changes in metabolism can affect your sleep.
A study was conducted among good overweight sleepers who started on a keto diet. This showed that REM sleep became shorter in the short term (38) .
Another study of people who used a keto diet found that they were more active in the earlier phases of sleep ( sleep phase and light sleep ) (39) .
Cause 3: Intermittent Fasting can cause stress
A large number of people who follow the ketogenic diet combine this with Intermittent Fasting. Keto and Intermittent Fasting form a great combination because with the keto diet it is easier to fast for a period without suffering from hunger.
When you fast, you protect your body for a longer period of food. This can lead to physiological stress for the body in some people .
If you have experiences with stress hormones that are not well balanced then practicing Intermittent Fasting may have an impact on these hormones, which in turn may affect your sleep rhythm.
Cause 4: The moisture-wicking effect of Keto
A ketogenic diet has a diuretic effect, whereby it expels moisture from the body.
This is because glycogen, which consists of stored carbohydrates in the body, binds water to sight. However, during the ketogenic diet your glycogen stores will shrink and you will therefore retain less fluid (40) .
Of course you can already feel the rain … this fluid has to leave your body somehow.
The water that you release from the depleted glycogen stores leaves your body through your urinary tract. It may happen that you have to get out of bed at night to have an extra pee.
These extra nocturnal puddles are generally only temporary due to the moisture-wicking effect of a keto diet. When your glycogen reserves are exhausted, no more moisture is retained.
Cause 5: An electrolyte deficiency
If you lose more fluid, this can be accompanied by a loss of electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals that are electrically charged with ions in the body. They are found in all of our body fluids, tissue, and cells.
Electrolytes mainly consist of the minerals sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphorus, and sulfate.
Maintaining a good balance in electrolytes is crucial for the composition of the blood, muscle functionality and other physical processes. They are essential because cells ensure that they can ‘communicate’ with each other through electrically charged voltage.
Magnesium can reduce stress and anxiety feelings. In addition, it prevents muscle cramps.
It can, therefore, be very beneficial and effective for your sleep to ensure that your minerals/electrolytes are maintained during a keto diet.
This is just one of the ways you can fight Keto Insomnia. We are now going to discuss 9 solutions for insomnia with a keto diet.
9 ways to solve Keto Sleeplessness
1. Make sure your electrolytes are up to date
We have already discussed this. In particular, supplementing magnesium can improve your sleep quality.
You can also consider supplementing your electrolytes with bone broth. This contains an amino acid called glycine. This amino acid can also improve the quality of your sleep, and bone broth is also rich in minerals that you can use to supplement your electrolytes (41) .
2. Avoid monitors before going to sleep
Screens of, for example, laptops, telephones, televisions, tablets … they all emit blue light. This type of light prevents your body from producing the sleep hormone melatonin.
Other light sources can also disturb your sleep rhythm. The production of sleep and stress hormones are adjusted to the natural rhythm of sunset and sunrise.
It is therefore important, when you go to sleep, to ensure that you imitate the light conditions of a sunset. Dim the lights in the evening before you go to sleep and make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
3. Make your bedroom cool, but make sure your hands and feet are warm
A dark and cool room makes you less anxious when you try to sleep.
However, it is important to ensure that your hands and feet are warmer than your torso. Researchers have determined that this causes you to fall asleep faster (42).
The American Sleep Foundation indicates that the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius (43).
4. Plan your workouts earlier in the day
An intensive sports session after a day of work naturally feels great! But an intensive sports session late in the evening can make it harder for you to fall asleep afterward.
Stress hormones can be released, your body is still in an active mode which makes it more difficult to get into a calm sleep mode.
By exercising earlier in the day you prevent this active mode in the evening hours, making it easier to fall asleep.
5. Put green plants in your bedroom
The American health expert Aubrey Marcus swears by placing green plants in the bedroom. This is because such plants have a cleansing effect on the air in the room. They provide more oxygen in the air.
6. Meditate before going to sleep
Applying meditation can bring your brain into a more comfortable and calm mode after a busy day.
There are several scientific studies that have investigated the stress-reducing effect of meditation and support the claim that meditation can cause a significant reduction in stress (44) .
It even seems that people who suffer relatively more stress also benefit most from practicing meditation (45).
7. Limit caffeine
No surprising advice of course. Caffeine is one of the stimulants, which means it makes you more energetic. Perhaps you were already aware of this and you drink decaffeinated coffee before going to sleep.
However, what is important to realize is that caffeine can stay in your blood for up to six hours (46). The cup of coffee that you drank at 6 pm can keep you out of your sleep at 10 pm!
To monitor your sleep, you can, therefore, choose not to drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks after midday.
8. Introduce a little more carbohydrates into your diet
If the above tips do not have an effect, it may be an idea to build a little more carbohydrates in your diet. Think about 10 grams extra per day.
If you add more than 10 grams, you run the risk of getting yourself out of ketosis. A ketometer can help you accurately determine this carbohydrate limit.
Your body may need glucose to regulate stress hormones.
The extra dose of glucose can also cause an extra production of serotonin. Serotonin is a substance in the brain that plays a role in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
An effective way to get better sleep during keto is to consume some low-glycemic fruit (such as strawberries, for example) before going to sleep. In this way, you stimulate serotonin production. You then benefit from this while falling asleep.
9. Slow down your carbohydrate consumption
When you start the keto diet and you limit your carbohydrate consumption, this requires a lot of adaptability from your body. Certainly, if you rigorously reduce carbohydrate consumption from one day to the next.
The contrast can then be great for your body and it can be difficult to control the energy supply. This causes stress, and as we have already stated several times in this article, stress is the enemy of a good night’s sleep.
Therefore, when you start using a ketogenic diet, it may be advisable to gradually reduce your carbohydrate consumption. In this way, you prevent your body from falling into stress mode.
In this article, we discussed the importance of a good night’s rest and how you can adjust the ketogenic diet to your sleep pattern.
If you follow a keto diet, whether or not in combination with Intermittent Fasting, then the transition from carbohydrates as fuel to fats as fuel influences your sleep rhythm.
This phenomenon is also called Keto Insomnia. We have mentioned 5 specific reasons for this.
Causes Keto Insomnia
- You may be dealing with Keto Flu. These are temporary, flu-like symptoms that have to do with following a ketogenic diet.
- Metabolic changes due to the use of fats as fuel instead of sugars. This can ensure that you are more active when falling asleep in the initial phase of the ketogenic diet.
- Are you working on Intermittent Fasting? It can cause physiological stress for your body. It is often advisable to only apply Intermittent Fasting when your body is used to keto. This way you prevent extra stress.
- The moisture-wicking effect of keto can cause you to go to the toilet more often at night. This is only a temporary phenomenon.
- Due to fluid loss, you can also lose electrolytes during the keto diet. Magnesium, in particular, is a mineral that is important to supplement.
Fortunately, Keto Insomnia is not a chronic phenomenon that will persist throughout your entire keto diet. There are different ways to “tackle” insomnia. You have been able to read no less than 9.
Solution Keto Insomnia
- Make sure your electrolytes are up to date
- Avoid screens before going to sleep
- Make your bedroom cool, but make sure your hands and feet are warm.
- Plan your workouts earlier in the day
- Put green plants in your bedroom
- Meditate before going to sleep
- Limit caffeine
- Introduce a little more carbohydrates into your diet
- Slow down your carbohydrate consumption
As you can see, you can restore your sleep rhythm with the right adjustments. In general, the possible sleeping problems that you experience during the initial phase of the keto diet are temporary.
Your body still has time to adjust to a new energy balance and you sometimes notice that in your sleep sessions.
In the longer term, you will no longer be bothered by it.
What are your experiences with insomnia during keto? Perhaps you know more useful tips? Let us know in a comment below this article!