The keto diet has been all the rage in the health and wellness world for the last few years, and its adopters generally try out the diet in search of better health and weight management. The diet is said to have a lengthy list of benefits including weight loss, improved heart health, clearer skin, clearing up brain fog and more, but one unexpected benefit that some people notice is better sleep.
In this week’s blog post, we’re looking at the science behind why you can, at first, sleep worse and then enjoy a better sleep while on the keto diet. At the moment, there is still limited research in the area, and the majority of the information available comes from a few studies and anecdotal evidence. Everyone is affected differently by their eating habits, and the food we eat is just one factor in our sleep, but these are some guidelines as to what you might expect.
Before we dive in, let’s take a quick look at what the keto diet entails. Simply put, the keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet. The diet aims to get your body into a metabolic state of ketosis, in which the body is burning fat for fuel rather than carbs. Followers of the diet aim to get approximately 70-80% of the calories from fats, 20-25% of the calories from protein, and 5-10% of their fats from carbs. The diet is believed to be a much more efficient way of burning fat than a standard or high-card diet, and it also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which supply energy to the brain.
A keto diet is said to have a long list of benefits including weight loss and prevention of a variety of disease including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Polycystic ovary syndrome, and more.
Short term, your sleep may be negatively affected
The keto diet involves severely restricting your intake of carbohydrates, and carbs are generally our main source of energy. The glucose found in carbs assists in the entry of the amino acid L-tryptophan into the brain, which then assists with the production of serotonin. Serotonin is converted into melatonin, i.e. the sleep hormone. So, carbs are used in the production of melatonin, which our bodies require to sleep. Cutting out carbs can then, not surprisingly, mess with the production of hormones required to help you fall asleep.
“It’s not uncommon to hear people report sleep problems when they start a ketogenic diet,” notes Michael J. Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders. “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. These macronutrients have different effects in the body and can affect sleep in distinct ways.”
The good news is this period typically only lasts for three to five days, during what’s known as the transition period. Once your body adjusts to ketosis, this period should end and that’s when you may start enjoying the benefits of a better night’s sleep.
Keep in mind that sleep disruptions aren’t specific to switching to a keto diet. Macronutrients play a big role in sleep, so any drastic change to your intake ratio is likely to have an effect on your sleep, at least in the short term.
Long term, your sleep can benefit
As we mentioned, research is still limited re. the benefits of a keto diet on our sleep, so the current claims about its benefits on sleep are based on limited information. However, there are a few different ways a keto diet is believed to help with sleep.
One of the biggest potential reasons for a better sleep on a keto diet is simply weight loss, which of course, isn’t specific to a keto diet but to any health eating program. Being overweight or obsess can cause a lot of sleep issues, and many people lose weight on a keto diet, which can result in a better night’s sleep.
A study done by the University of South Carolina followed six morbidly obese teens over a four-month period. The teens followed a keto diet, and their sleep was found to improve at the end of the period.
Another possible reason for improved sleep on a keto diet is that the diet supports the production of adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical in the brain that helps us to feel tired and relaxed as the day goes on and is an important component of a proper sleep.
“Adenosine builds up in the body throughout the day and contributes to our feeling increasingly less alert and wakeful as the day goes on, eventually helping to promote deeper slow-wave sleep at night,” explains Breus. “Studies show a ketogenic diet promotes adenosine activity in the body, helping to relax the nervous system, as well as reducing pain and inflammation — all of which can help improve sleep.”
So, is the keto diet for you? Only you can know for sure. While it is all the rage at the moment and has had very beneficial effects for many people, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the latest fad diet or eating trend. Every person is unique and has unique food and nutritional requirements, so we always recommend considering diets as an option, rather than the holy grail of health and wellness. If you do choose to try out the diet, it can be helpful to do so with the help of a health practitioner, particularly if you are dealing with specific health concerns.
And if you’re looking to improve your sleep, changing your diet is just one of many factors to consider. Try applying these simple tips to start improving your sleep tonight.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every day helps to regulate your sleep schedule.
- Sleep in darkness. Having too much light in your room can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Try using black out curtains or a sleep mask if you find your room too bright.
- Keep your room cool. Your body temperature needs to drop in order for you to fall asleep, so sleep issues could be resolved by simply turning down your thermostat. Experts say the ideal sleep temperature is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chill out. Going to bed with a lot on your mind will make it difficult to fall asleep. If you think stress or anxiety is keeping you up at tonight, try implementing some stress management tools into your day, such as yoga, deep breathing, or speaking with a therapist.
And while the keto diet may not be the sleep cure for everyone, we believe everyone’s sleep can benefit from a good set of sheets! Our collection of luxurious organic cotton and European linen bedding and responsibly sourced down pillows and comforters will have you feeling like you’re sleeping on a cloud.