You’ve begun the keto diet and are enjoying some results, but what gives with insomnia?
Inconsistent sleeping patterns can be an unfortunate byproduct of the keto diet, so don’t be surprised if you find that you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Keep reading to find out how to get more sleep and beat insomnia on the keto diet.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
What goes on during sleep? There are general and specific sleep stages:
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep
- Slow-wave Sleep (SWS)
These are involved in memory formation and cognitive performance.
While both stages are necessary, decreased REM sleep puts people at risk for brain malfunctions like seizures or disorders like dementia.
Lack of sleep is a serious issue. Recent research estimates show that over half (56%) of Americans suffered from sleep problems, compared to 31% of Western Europeans and 29% of Japanese people.
In addition to making you downright cranky and less effective at work or school, poor sleep is linked to :
- Overall impairments with motivation, emotion, and cognitive functioning
- Increased risk for serious medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer
- Increased mortality risk
- Depression, anxiety, and even dementia
Keto and Sleep
Many people start the keto diet because they want to lose weight. Reduced sleep will certainly be a big obstacle for weight loss, as too little of it hinders your metabolism and can result in weight gain.
Since the keto diet means eating more healthy fats and lowering your carb intake, the human body is clearly going to go through some adjustments.
New research is continually coming out that examines the relationship between the keto diet on human behavior, memory, and sleep, particularly with epilepsy patients (for which keto has been proven as an effective treatment method, though not yet a first-line therapeutic).
In one study, researchers placed a sample of eighteen children on the keto diet and measured their progress and results over the course of three months. Eleven children were then measured for 12 months on the keto diet.
The results showed that this resulted in a decrease in total sleep time, total night sleep, and daytime sleep. However, it improved sleep quality in children with therapy-resistant epilepsy.
Therefore, though none of the results showed a cognitive decline in the children, some evidence infers that the keto diet can certainly affect the quality and duration of people’s sleep.
A different study on a sample population that was morbidly obese (i.e. greater than 200% of their ideal body weight) yielded more positive results.
Six adolescents, aged 12 to 15 years, with a weight average of 325 lbs, consumed the keto diet for eight weeks. After the eight weeks, results showed that:
- The subjects lost an average of 34 pounds
- Body mass decreased
- Blood chemistries remained normal
- Weight was lost equally from all areas of the body, and it was predominately fat
- Weight loss led to an increase in REM sleep and a decrease in slow-wave sleep
The conclusions were that the keto diet helped the morbidly obese subjects to lose weight rapidly and significantly mitigate sleep abnormalities.
How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Since information on personal wellness has greatly intensified in recent years, the issue of poor sleep has become a global public health concern and the demand for effective sleep strategies for the general population has greatly increased.
Practicing good sleep hygiene habits can go a long way in alleviating insomnia that might come with the keto diet.
Sleep hygiene is a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations intended to promote healthy sleep and was originally developed to treat mild to moderate insomnia.
Sleep hygiene education doesn’t require a clinician’s involvement and can be used by the general population. Its methods are normally pretty inexpensive.
The following are scientifically proven recommendations for sleep hygiene practices:
Don’t consume coffee or other caffeinated beverages within four hours of bedtime bed. Stick with morning and afternoon caffeine.
It’s well-known that smoking is terrible for your lungs, but research shows it also disrupts sleep.
Reduce or avoid alcohol before sleep
Ever have to wake up for an inconvenient bathroom run after having alcoholic drinks? Alcohol is a big sleep disruptor.
After it is metabolized within the first few hours of sleep, subsequent sleep becomes lighter with increases in REM sleep and more awakenings.
Even if a regular drinker decides to abstain from alcohol, they might still endure shorter sleep durations, lighter sleep, and more fragmented sleep. So you might want to have your evening glass of wine earlier or skip it altogether.
Unless it’s done too close to bedtime, exercise should help your sleep. However, scientific evidence has shown that exercising within 4 hours of bedtime doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
Stress will cause you to stay awake or wake up in the middle of your sleep time. Mindfulness training (i.e. meditation and similar practices) has been proven as an effective method for alleviating stress and improving sleep.
There are also easy adjustments you can make, such as avoiding screens at least an hour before bed and reading a book or meditating instead.
Also, if you do wake up in the middle of the night, try not to look at the time, as it might stress you out more.
Reduce bedroom noise
Make a concentrated effort to find sources of noise in your home and fix them. Earplugs and sound-masking (white noise) machines are two effective strategies.
Have a regular/set bedtime
Having a consistent set bedtime will help you get better sleep since it trains your body’s internal biological clock to be tired at that time.
If you’re going to nap, set an alarm
Sleep hygiene practices include the recommendation of avoiding naps of more than 30 minutes.
If you nap for too long, you’re going to have a harder time falling asleep at night, and you likely won’t get as good quality sleep as you could otherwise. So set an alarm when you decide to take a daytime nap.
You’ll find that even 20 minutes of closing your eyes and drifting off will make a big difference.
Insomnia might be an unpleasant side effect of following the keto diet initially, but results have shown that the weight loss that comes after maintaining the keto diet will eventually improve sleep.
So stick with it! Allow your body time to adjust so you can start reaping the benefits of the keto diet.
 Vogel, G. W. (1975). A review of REM sleep deprivation. Archives of General Psychiatry, 32(6), 749-761.
 Irish L. A., Kline C. A., Gunn H. E., Buysse D. J., Hall M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: a review of empirical evidence. Sleep Med. Rev. 22 23–36. 10.1016.
 Knutson, K. L., Spiegel, K., Penev, P., & Van Cauter, E. (2007). The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep medicine reviews, 11(3), 163-178.
 Hallböök T., Ji S., Maudsley S., & Martin B. (2012). The effects of the ketogenic diet on behavior and cognition. Epilepsy Research, 100(3), 304–309.
 Willi SM, Oexmann MJ, Wright NM, Collop NA, Key LL Jr. The effects of a high-protein, low-fat, ketogenic diet on adolescents with morbid obesity: body composition, blood chemistries, and sleep abnormalities. Pediatrics. 1998 Jan;101(1 Pt 1):61-7.
 Sabanayagam, C., & Shankar, A. (2011). The association between active smoking, smokeless tobacco, second-hand smoke exposure and insufficient sleep. Sleep medicine, 12(1), 7-11.
 Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., … & Kheirandish-Gozal, L. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations. Sleep Health, 1(4), 233-243.