Keto and Sleep: What Can You Expect?

The evidence keeps pouring in and we at Konscious Keto are paying attention. News of the numerous health benefits while following a keto diet protocol, is hot off the press. Mood and energy boosting properties are just a few of the first symptoms you'll experience on keto.

But sometimes all of that feel-good energy can come with a price—especially when it comes to keto and sleep.

Some people have found that switching to keto can have an unfortunate impact on their sleep, but why is this?

Your keto diet may be going along swimmingly, but all that hard work could eventually be jeopardized if you’re not sleeping well. The short and long-term effects of sleep deprivation can eventually catch up with you, taking its toll on both your physical and mental health.

Too little sleep may be the main reason why you’re struggling to lose weight.

Here’s why the keto diet may be affecting your sleep, and how you can remedy the problem to reach your goals and feel your absolute best.

More About Keto and Sleep

Regular, good-quality sleep is crucial for health and longevity. Proper daily rest is one of the most important things we can do for our minds and bodies, but most of us are just not getting enough.

Various surveys have confirmed this, including a comprehensive one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that one in three American adults (age 18 to 60) are not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep.

The CDC also notes that insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

Sleep deprivation can also cause mood changes, memory problems, slower response times, weakened immunity and early aging.

Many experts agree that most adults need about 7-9 hours each night.

So, what exactly is good sleep? It’s not just about duration but also quality.

Good sleep is rated on how long it takes you to fall asleep (sleep-onset latency). If it’s taking you longer than 30 minutes, you may need to tweak your pre-bedtime routine.

Meanwhile, the quality of your sleep is determined by your rate of slow-wave sleep (this is deep, restorative sleep) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which your brain is actively working much in the same way it is when you’re wide awake.

Both stages of sleep are necessary, but if you get too much or too little of either, it could cause you to feel groggy, irritable, or even hungrier the next day.

Of course, sleep can be affected by a number of things—including stress, anxiety, caffeine and/or alcohol consumption, hormonal changes, certain illnesses and medications, even too much time in front of screens—but many people don’t realize that a change in diet, even for the better, may disrupt their shut-eye as well.

And this includes the keto diet.

Unfortunately, the fewer hours you get at night, the harder it’s going to be to stay consistent with your diet and reap all the benefits from it.

And if one of your main goals is weight loss, you’ll want to keep reading.

Quite a bit of research has linked poor sleep to weight gain, obesity, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sleep loss can lead to severe metabolic problems and impact hormones related to the control of your appetite, which can make weight loss especially difficult.

If you’ve just started a keto diet, or have committed to it for the long-haul, you’ll want to understand how it may be impacting your sleep.

It’s possible a few quick fixes could get you back to sleeping soundly.

Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Well in Ketosis

Ketosis involves a pretty major shift in your body, especially if you’ve long depended on glucose as your main fuel.

At first, this can cause some unwanted side effects, including the keto flu, as well as other more insidious disruptions like dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. These can all impact your slumber.

If you’re accompanying your keto diet with intermittent fasting, it can disturb your sleep even further.

Let’s dig into some of the reasons behind this.

Keto Flu

Your first introduction into the keto diet may not be the most pleasant one if you get hit by the keto flu.

During this short-lived sickness, you may experience symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, irritability, muscle soreness, and sugar cravings. All of these things can certainly disrupt your sleep.

This can be a tough hurdle, but it’s important to remember that it won’t last long. Better yet, experiencing these symptoms is a clear sign that your body is successfully transitioning into ketosis.

The keto flu can kick in within the first few days of starting a keto diet. But just as quickly it can subside, though some may continue to feel symptoms for up to a few weeks.

As your body starts to settle into ketosis, your head should start to clear, your pains should begin to diminish, and hopefully, your sleep improves. If not, it could be because your body is still trying to adapt to a fat-dense diet.

Energized by Fat  

Shifting your macronutrient counts and reducing your carbohydrates may also affect your sleep.

When you make a major macronutrient change, your body is pushed to work a little differently to metabolize more fats and protein.

One study found that very low-carb diets promote increases in slow-wave sleep and a decrease in REM sleep, both of which can contribute to some restlessness in bed.

On top of that, you may also be feeling the extra buzz from your new high-fat diet. All those healthy fats you’ve been enjoying—all that coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, and grass-fed butter—are certainly kicking up your energy level.

While an overall increase in energy is typically a much-wanted benefit, it can also wreak havoc once your head hits the pillow.

You may find yourself too pumped to fall asleep, and when you finally do, you may end up waking up earlier than intended.

Either way, you’re still cutting into those precious sleep hours, and this chronic sleep deprivation will eventually catch up with you.

That said, your body will eventually adapt to these macronutrient changes, so this should only be a temporary disturbance.

Fasting Keeps You Awake

If you’re practicing intermittent fasting (IF) in conjunction with a keto diet, it could also be hindering your sleep.

This is because IF can be rather stressful on the body, especially for women, who may experience an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) when fasting.

When cortisol levels spike, so does your anxiety. And that’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to drift off to dreamland.

If you suspect, IF is messing with your slumber, you may want to try crescendo fasting, a gentler version of fasting that can still give you the results you’re looking for.

Releasing Water Weight

If you’ve just started your keto diet, you may have found that you’re making way more trips to the bathroom than usual—maybe even in the middle of the night. Of course, this is not ideal for a good night’s sleep.

This is because, as you head into ketosis, your glycogen stores become depleted. Since each gram of glycogen is bound to at least 3 grams of water, as that glycogen is emptied, so is the water that comes with it.

Simply put, you’ll be peeing—a lot, especially if you’ve got a lot of glycogen to burn.

But once you’ve gone through those reserves and released that excess water, this should no longer be a problem.

Still, you want to continue staying hydrated. It’s essential to success on a keto diet, and so is balancing that water with electrolytes.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are minerals, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

They work with water to control essential functions in the body, including regulating heartbeat, balancing blood pressure, and growing and repairing muscle tissues.

But as you start losing that water weight, you’ll also be losing these essential electrolytes.

One in particular, magnesium—a mineral that helps you relax—is especially crucial for good sleep.

If you’re low on magnesium, you may feel more restless, causing you to lay wide awake when you should be getting some solid zzz’s. You’re also at greater risk for muscle cramps, which could creep up on you in the middle of the night in the form of a dreaded charley horse.

This is easy enough to avoid, though. Make sure you’re adding natural sea salts and pink salts to your keto snacks and meals and eating magnesium-rich foods like fish, nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), leafy greens, and cacao.

You may also want to enjoy a relaxing pre-bed bath with some Epsom salts, which contain a good amount of magnesium.

How to Beat Insomnia When on Keto

The good news is that all of these circumstances mentioned above are typically short-lived.

However, it may take some people longer to get to this level. If you’re still struggling with insomnia or poor sleep, there are some easy tweaks you can make to your daily routine to help you get your proper beauty rest.

All of these will allow your body to unwind to prepare for a good night’s sleep naturally.

Eat Earlier in the Day

A simple shift in your eating schedule could save you from tossing and turning at night.

Commit to not eating anything at least four hours before heading to bed. So, if midnight is your time to hit the hay, stop eating around 8 pm. If you are intermittent fasting, this is an excellent way to help keep you on a consistent timeline.

This allows your body enough time to burn through your last meal without leaving you starving in the middle of the night.

If you do find that you’re still waking up with hunger pangs, try a spoonful of coconut oil about an hour before bedtime to see if that helps get you through the night.

Stave off any other cravings with a cup of chamomile tea or a simple glass of water with a dash of pink salt.

Eat Carbs Later in the Day  

As you’re planning out your last meal of the day, consider having the bulk of your daily carbs at this time.

Eating carbohydrates increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that not only curbs cravings and helps you feel satiated, but also regulates your sleep.

If you’re still struggling with insomnia, you may also want to experiment with adding a few more carbs (up to 10 grams per day) to help lower some of the stress on your body and also pump up those serotonin levels.

Once your sleep is back in order, you can decrease those carbs back down to your desired level.

Control Your Screen Time

Our bodies have not quite adapted to handling all that blue light constantly emanating from cell phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and every other screen that surrounds us.

For healthy sleep, it’s important to work with your body’s natural circadian rhythms, which prefer to be as consistent as the sun’s daily rise and set ritual.

Our bodies are programmed to start feeling sleepy upon sunset. Darkness naturally decreases cortisol and increases melatonin levels, helping us doze off quickly.

But all that extra blue light is throwing off these hormones and your natural rhythms.

To help with this, shut off all screens at least one hour before bedtime. If you need to use an electronic device before bedtime, you can also get blue-light blocking glasses or try an app like f.lux, which automatically changes the color of your computer’s display, depending on the time of day.

Exercise Earlier in the Day

Adding exercise to your keto routine is crucial, especially if you’re looking to lose weight.

However, working out too late in the day could leave you feeling overly energized at night.

Since exercise gets the blood moving and awakens every part of your body, you need to allow for plenty of time to cool down and relax before you settle into bed. 

If you like to exercise before dinner, try to do so before 7 pm. Schedule it in just like you would your last meal and your intermittent fasting times.

But whatever you do, don’t forgo exercise altogether. All that energy you’ve been bottling up with those healthy fats needs to go somewhere. Try to get in at least three 20-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions per week.

Regularly working out will not only have you sleeping better but will also help you stay in ketosis and achieve any weight-loss goals.

Drink Less Caffeine

We have no qualms about enjoying a little caffeine while on a keto diet. That said, you should be aware of how this stimulant may be affecting your sleep.

Caffeine can stay in your bloodstream for up to six hours (maybe even longer for some of us). This means you’ll want to cut off your caffeine intake at least six hours before bedtime.

You may also want to move up your cacao consumption earlier in the day. While cacao contains only slight amounts of caffeine, it could still be affecting your sleep.

In general, we recommend lowering your caffeine level and switching to Keto Activate. This Konscious Keto supplement features beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) ketones, which help bring you into ketosis and give you a nice energy boost, without the crash or jitters that come with caffeine.

And if you’re yearning for a hot beverage later in the evening, try a relaxing herbal tea like chamomile to help you unwind.

Getting Good Sleep on a Keto Diet

Yes, good sleep is possible on a keto diet, even if it doesn’t feel that way, to begin with.

Once your body has become keto-adapted, your sleep issues should dissipate. You may even start to notice that you’re sleeping better than ever.

Just remember to stay in-tune with your body and allow it enough time to rest properly.

Scheduling out your eating, exercise, screen, and sleep times will help you achieve optimal success on a keto plan so you can start feeling good all day—and all night—long.

Sources

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Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep#4

CDC Newsroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

Fernández-Elías, V. E., Ortega, J. F., Nelson, R. K., & Mora-Rodriguez, R. (2015). The relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology,115(9), 1919-1926. doi:10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z

Mcginty, D. T. (2009). Serotonin and Sleep: Molecular, Functional, and Clinical Aspects. Sleep,32(5), 699-700. doi:10.1093/sleep/32.5.699

Pannain, S., Beccuti, G., & Cauter, E. V. (2012). The Connection Between Sleep Loss, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep Loss and Obesity,133-168. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-3492-4_10

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