We all know how amazing keto is for getting rid of those love handles but is it causing other health problems? Some people on the ketogenic diet are finding it difficult to get to sleep at night or are waking up way too early in the morning. I have noticed myself that keto makes me an early bird. These changes in our sleep behaviour may lead us to ask, does keto cause insomnia?
The simple answer is yes, for some people it does. In most cases its caused by too many Bullet Coffees or not enough vitamins like Potassium, Vitamin B1 and Calcium. It could also be related to the keto way of eating and how your body is reacting to the change.
How long does ketosis insomnia last?
I’ve found it can last 1-2 weeks while your body adapts. Look at my tips below to reduce the effects quickly and start having a good night sleep again.
Main causes of insomnia on Keto
1. Too much Caffeine or having coffee too late in the day
With coffee shops seemingly on every street, while walking around the city you may be tempted to have 4 or 5 coffees a day, God knows I am. But coffee has caffeine, which is a stimulant and as a result could be contributing to your sleeplessness. Caffeine keeps the body active by increasing adrenaline production and interfering with sleep-inducing chemicals within the brain. Caffeine also acts fast, from the moment you take your first sip you can start to feel its effect within 10 minutes. The problem is that caffeine tends to stay in the body for a long time; it takes up to six hours for your body to remove one half of caffeine consumed.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, the recommended daily consumption of caffeine is 250 milligrams, which equates to 2-3 cups of coffee. So if you are struggling to sleep, perhaps try just one coffee a day and if possible, have it in the morning.
Apart from stimulation, excessive coffee can cause frequent urination. If you have a coffee before bed, it may contribute to extra visits to the bathroom, which can contribute to poor sleep quality. So, you should not only cut the level of coffee consumption but also avoid it few hours before going to bed.
If you were like me and are consuming large amounts of coffee or Coke No sugar, you will find that cutting down on coffee consumption has an immediate effect on your sleep, but because caffeine is an addictive substance, you might go through a withdrawal phase.
2. Vitamin deficiency: Potassium, Vitamin B1, Low calcium
If you are on a ketogenic diet, you may need some additional vitamins than if you were on a high-carb diet. To calm down the nervous system and to balance electrolytes, the body needs sufficient amounts of potassium. The electrolytes help the body to control blood pressure and to coordinate the nerves and muscles. The mineral is also helpful in fighting keto flu. If you are not supplementing your diet with potassium-rich food, you could end up with a potassium deficiency. Unbalanced electrolytes may trigger restlessnesses.
Apart from potassium, calcium is also important in helping the body to relax. It declines as you transition to a ketogenic diet. Low calcium levels in the diet may cause leg cramps or difficulty in falling asleep. One of the foods that can boost the calcium level in the body is bone broth.
Vitamin B1 is one of the vitamins your body needs to adapt to the ketogenic mechanism. Without Vitamin B1, your body will experience a state of restlessness. You may experience nervous tension or restless leg syndrome, which may cause you to take long hours before sleeping. You may consider supplements if your diet is low in any of these vitamins.
3. Digestion Problems
Feeling boating at night or just unsettled in general, what you’re eating could be the issue. In most cases, vegetables, when consumed in large quantities can cause heaviness or a bloated stomach. While it is important to adopt healthy eating habits, it is also important to avoid eating a lot of these foods immediately before going to bed. They can stay in your stomach and ferment creating gas and an upset belly. Whenever I feel uncomfortable or experience repeated restlessness, I usually adjust my diet. I did write an article about how some foods can cause gas that I will link to here.
I have found that veggies such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are usually the culprit. What I normally do is drop some of these vegetables from my diet or reduce the amount I consume and see if that has any effect.
4. Evening workout keeping you up
Right after a strenuous evening exercise, most people expect to have good nights sleep because they are exhausted, however, sometimes the opposite can occur. You might be struggling to sleep because a vigorous exercise can activate stress response mechanisms such as the release of adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones.
As you workout your body heats up and so does your core temperature, this excites the endocrine and nervous systems. So, the longer and more strenuous the exercise is, the longer these systems get excited. The downside is that it may take time to calm them down.
Let’s look at cortisol. Generally, the hormone is released as a stress-fighting mechanism. So, exercises usually elevate cortisol levels. A high level of cortisol may not be bad because it may boost the training stimulus. However, chronically elevated cortisol may become a problem as you recover from the exercise. Similarly, adrenaline boosts muscle strength, heart rate, alertness, and sugar metabolism during your training sessions. The big downside to all that is it can also make it hard for you to doze off.
5. Eating a late meal
Did you know that your eating habits can affect how you sleep? I know from my own experience night-time eating can be difficult to avoid, especially when I feel stressed. I know when I’m watching my favourite show (12 Monkeys) till late in the night snacking on some comfort food might happen.
Unfortunately, this behaviour can interrupt your sleep pattern. Eating just before going to bed can cause sleep problems like a rise in cortisol levels when the blood sugar crashes in the middle of the night. This will put your body in stress mode and in response, the body produces cortisol in excess amounts. Cortisol is an inhibitor of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is responsible for the production of melatonin, a chemical responsible for inducing sleep.
If the body doesn’t produce enough melatonin, you will take a longer time to fall asleep. Melatonin and cortisol have an inverse relationship. High level or cortisol means lower melatonin will be produced.
4 Natural Sleeping Aids
If you have tried avoiding the above mentioned ‘Main causes of insomnia’ and you are still struggling to get to sleep. Perhaps try a few of these natural remedies to help with sleep.
1. Magnesium and calcium
As I have said already magnesium in the body plays an important role in inducing deep sleep. When combined with calcium, the results are even better. Some of the foods that are rich in magnesium include:
- Leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, asparagus and brussels sprouts
- Some fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel
- Some nuts and seeds like Brazil nuts, Almonds, Pecans and Walnuts
- Dark Chocolate
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils are also beneficial to our bodies in many ways, sleep included. I don’t usually like having prescription medications because sometimes they have side effects or they make me very groggy the next day. I have found out that essential oils don’t have any adverse side effect. Moreover, essential oils induce an aromatic effect. Essential oils such as lavender oil, bergamot oil, frankincense, sandalwood, and mandarin can induce sleep.3. Passion FlowerPassion flowers have an anti-anxiety effect and can calm your body by breaking the vicious circle of negative thought. Anxiety is one of the conditions that can lower your sleep quality. Passionflower is therefore a great natural sleeping aid.
3. Valerian Root
Valerian root has sedative and relaxation effects. This natural healing root increases the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body. The acid is useful for calming the nerve cells by breaking the anxiety-causing signals and any trickle effect that may be caused by anxiety. The process helps to calm the body.
4. St. John’s Wort
Stress and depression are strongly associated with lack of sleep. So addressing some of these causes of stress may be a solution to a better nights sleep. St. John’s Wort may be a useful source of natural antidepressants. Some chemicals found in St. John’s Wort such as hyperforin and Adhyperforin are powerful antidepressants.
From personal experience, and what I have noticed among many people on a ketogenic diet is that the rapid weight loss causes unusually high energy and a sense of euphoria. These changes in energy and diet may have an impact on our sleeping habits, and we know just how crucial sleep is to an overall state of wellbeing. Hopefully, the tips I have provided will get you sleeping right, and with the other benefits of keto, you will soon feel like the best version of yourself ever!