Keto Diet Effects on Sleep

Well researched content served with love!

Being on a Keto Diet can have a wide-ranging number of effects on our health. These include improving our mood, concentration, energy levels and metabolism. One thing it can also impact however is our sleep, which can change depending on how long we have been in Ketosis and which foods we are consuming while on the Diet.

Sleep and Diet

Our lives can be full of day-to-day stress, running late to events and meetings because of traffic, deadlines looming, managing school holidays and work commitments, family members getting sick, while also facing a constant flow of emails and messages building up that need to be responded too, maybe it's just me, but finding time to fit in the optimal 8 hours sleep a night seems almost impossible!

According to the CDC a third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Given that sleep plays such a vital role in brain function and our day-to-day functions, including metabolism, appetite regulation, and the functioning of immune, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems, it's understandable that lack of sleep can create a number of short-term and long-term effects!

Short-term Effects of Poor Sleep

  • Fatigue and sleepiness during the day
  • Increased stress reactivity
  • Increased pain sensitivity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Emotional distress and mood disorders
  • Cognitive, memory, and performance deficits. 

Long-term Effects of Poor Sleep

  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia (High blood lipids)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Colorectal cancer

One of the most important impacts of sleep deprivation on health is that it can actual increase weigh gain, as seen in a range of studies reviewed on BMJ. There has also been a range of experimental studies which show the effects of shortened sleep duration on two important hormone, leptin and ghrelin, which regulate our metabolism and energy. Leptin the hormone which is released from adipose tissue (fat) and promotes satiety to decreases our cravings, is decreased with sleep deprivation. While ghrelin, the hormone released from our stomachs to increase hunger and appetite is in fact increased. In a short-term study of 10 men, 2 days of sleep restriction was associated with an 18% reduction in the leptin and a 28% elevation in ghrelin. These changes coincided with an increase in hunger and appetite, especially for high-carb and calorie-dense foods.

Sleep & Keto

So how can the Keto Diet not only improve sleep quality but also prevent some of these effects of poor sleep such as increased cravings and hunger?

Well firstly, Studies have shown that ketosis can actually increase your leptin levels, curbing those pesky hunger cravings for high-carb foods (especially late at night).

According to sleep and health expert Olivia Arezzolo, "Academic journal Nutritional Neuroscience reports the Keto diet beneficial for sleep, and in particular, it’s ability to enhance deep sleep. As a sleep specialist, this is not surprising: omega 3 fats reduce anxiety and insomnia, as supported by evidence of over 1,200 individuals across 19 clinical trials, JAMA reports. Advances in Nutrition pinpoints poor sleep quality is associated with a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet, whereas a low carbohydrate diet, such as the Keto diet, correlates with a more restful, undisturbed and restorative sleep."

Given the importance of getting that 8 hours sleep every night, you're probably wondering just what other effects eating a fat-fueled Ketogenic Diet such as the Ultra Lite Program could have on our overall sleep quality.

Keto effects on sleep

For some, like me, the first few nights adjusting to the Ketogenic diet can mean some restlessness and trouble falling asleep. There are some suggestions why this can occur:

1. Keto Flu

When we enter ketosis and our bodies start to break down fat as its main source of fuel, there are some symptoms which can arise including: stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, irritability, brain fog, muscle cramping, sugar cravings and heart palpitations. However, unlike the regular flu, these symptoms usually last around 24-72 hours, and will hopefully subside along with your insomnia.

2. Extra Energy from Fat intake

Not necessarily a bad thing right? Wide awake at bed time, waking up earlier in the morning, up in the middle of the night feeling refreshed, all sound like positives to me! however losing an hour or two each night has been linked to obesity as well as the effects listed above, which can really hinder your long term weight loss goals!

3. Glycogen & Water release

In the first 48 hours of entering nutritional ketosis on the Ultra Lite program you will breakdown all you glycogen stores (stored glucose). Each gram of glycogen has 4 grams of water attached to it, which for most (depending in your stores) can mean a lot of urination.

Nocturia, which is the name for needing to pee while getting your much needed shut-eye can be a pretty persistent complaint for those on Keto when they first start out, however once those glycogen stores are depleted it will usually bounce back to normal, preventing the nightly interruptions to your slumber.

4. Electrolyte imbalance

All of that water loss can lead to a pretty common effect in ketosis, imbalanced electrolytes. We've previously discussed a range of ways to increase your much needed minerals such as magnesium, sodium and potassium, to prevent the side effects caused by this imbalance. The most important for sleep quality and duration being magnesium, as it will prevent those pesky restless legs and cramps which might interrupt your sleep.

You can also ensure you electrolytes remain in check by:

  • Take a Magnesium supplement with chloride, citrate, glycinate, ororate or L-threonate.
  • Have a bath in epsom salts
  • Have your 15ml of apple cider vinegar each day
  • Increase avocado, swiss chard and spinach for potassium intake
  • Have an electrolyte drink

Tips For Improving Sleep Quality on Keto

1. Light Exposure

Circadian Rhythms are an internal body mechanism that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles and activity levels. They play in role in our digestion, appetite, energy level, use of cortisol (stress hormone), melatonin absorption and usage, and sleep cycles.

One of the most important things to keep our circadian rhythms in check is the use and exposure of natural and artificial lights throughout our day and night. Upon waking we should be exposing ourselves to direct sunlight or using a light therapy alarm clock, you should try to expose yourself to as much natural light throughout the day as well.

However, when the sun goes down, we should limit bright light exposure as this will effect Melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is released when our body is preparing for sleep. Bright lights and blue lights (like those used in electronics such as mobile phones, laptops and TVs) have been found to suppress the production of melatonin, effecting your sleep-wake cycle. To help with blue light exposure try to:

  • Use lower wattage bulbs in areas you sleep
  • lower brightness setting on your electronics or download blue light blockers, which limit the light wavelengths most associated with daytime.
  • Have book lights or smaller lights for reading in bed, or use yellow/nighttime lights on the bed stand

2. Avoid Stimulants

Some foods and drinks are stimulants and some are depressants. In particular we’ll talk about which foods help you wake up in the morning, and which foods help you sleep at night.

Common stimulants:

  • Coffee & non-herbal tea
  • Bacon & pork
  • Cheese & nuts
  • Avocado
  • Raspberries
  • Chocolate

3. Work-out Earlier

Keeping your workouts on an optimal schedule is great for your sleep. We should aim for at least 30mins of exercise daily to help increase your restful sleep. And any physical activity should take place no later than three hours before bedtime. Evening workouts cause us to be overstimulated when it’s time to rest, so aim for morning workouts instead as you’ll feel more energised all day.

4. Try Mindfulness Meditation

A regular meditation practice may help to promote sleep by slowing breathing and reducing stress hormone levels. Meditation is a technique that involves consciously directing one's attention to an object of focus (such as breathing or a sound or word) in order to increase awareness, relax the body, and calm the mind. Recently were able to host our Ultra Lite Practitioner Lynn Riedel for a Live Webinar on Stress and Mindfulness techniques which are easy to use and add to your day-to-day practise
You can also try:

  • Visualisation: Involves actively imagining a relaxing scene. You can try it in bed for 20 minutes before falling asleep. Involve all your senses. If you're imagining yourself on a tropical island, think of the way the warm breeze feels against your skin. Imagine the sweet scent of the flowers, look at the water and listen to the waves. The more vivid the visualisation and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.
  • Body Scan:  Lying straight on your back with your eyes closed (preferably under the covers in bed) you bring your awareness to your toes, feeling the sensations on the bottom of your feet, and then slowly you shift your focus to your ankles, then calves, then knees, and work your way all through the body until you reach the crown of your head. You can also focus on your breath as you 'breath into' the different areas of your body as well.
  • Mindfulness: A type of meditation that essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present, listening to the sounds around you, feeling the warmth of your sheets, and the smell in the air, while allowing your thoughts to come and go and bringing your awareness back to the present.

5. Try Herbal Tea

Chamomile is an herb traditionally used to reduce muscle tension, soothe digestion, and reduce anxiety, which may help induce sleep. Sip a cup of hot chamomile tea after dinner to help induce relaxation.
You can also try steeping tea with valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, passion flower or magnolia.

Get A Sleep Schedule!

Here are some sleep hygiene tips for establishing an adult bedtime:

  • Keep a set bedtime. Getting to sleep at standard times helps our body understand our needs and budgets our energy, and it can reduce sleep issues.
  • Create a nightly pre-bed routine. Keep a stable set of actions before you go to bed and do them in the same order. Your mind and body then learns to associate these behaviours with sleep, which can signal to our body to automatically help.
  • Set an alarm, even on weekends. There are a number of smartphone apps that help us try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.  If you don’t get enough sleep one night, take an afternoon nap rather than sleeping in.
  • Create a stable morning routine. A morning routine is just as important as the nightly routine. Again, our brain creates association that signal to our body when and what it should be prepared for throughout our day.