When you are keto dieting, and start your transition into ketosis; your body’s natural way of going from using carbohydrates, to using ketones for energy instead, you may end up having insomnia that can be derived from the keto process. You may begin to wonder why your sleep has changed, and once your body has finally transformed into this state, whether you’ll get a good night’s rest again or not.
The answer to your questions is yes. While you are actually in ketosis, your body changes, and so does everything in it. There are numerous reports of people stating that they slept better and had better amounts of deep sleep after they’re transitioned. Because of this, there have been numerous studies to see if the claims were true, and sure enough, there was evidence that it was by both medical physicians and scientists researching the matter.
This article will list quite a few things that might help ease your mind, and inform you about how keto and sleep work hand in hand for many different purposes in not only your life, but also in the ketosis process itself. Let’s start with things such as:
- Why Sleep is Necessary For Endurance and Physical Performance
- What is a True Good Night’s Sleep?
- The Ways Keto Changes Sleep Behavior
- Getting Past Insomnia Sparked by Keto
As humans, our lives consist of an average of about one third being just sleep alone. If you live to be approximately 75, you’re sleeping for literally 25 years on average, if the average is approximately 8 hours, which is one third of the day. Therefore, our sleep is one of our body’s natural defenses and despite being somewhat mysterious, there have been numerous studies that show why it’s so important. Our bodies use sleep as a healing process, to enhance our brains and mental function, sort out memories and psychological aspects of our lives (both conscious and subconscious), and more. Sleep has been linked to a properly working digestive system as well. And you’re not the only person who has questions about how keto life can change the way you sleep. So that’s why it is important to have all of the facts.
Why Sleep is Necessary for Endurance and Physical Performance
When it comes to sleeping, an average adult should sleep anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep. The minimum an adult should get is seven, even though many people normally get less than that (from five to six hours). Getting six hours of sleep is the absolute minimum that an adult should get per night, because of the health risks that can accrue. Everyone’s different, just like their metabolisms, genetics, and more, so some people don’t necessarily need seven to nine hours, and some people might need more than nine hours on average. Sleep is a very tricky subject because of this.
But what happens when we get less than six hours of sleep per night? We not only have lower brain function (it has been proven that the brain does not function properly on average with 6 hours or less). It has been a common debate on just how much sleep a person needs, because of the fact that people are all different.
Continuing to get less than six hours of sleep per night however, has been linked to the risks of the following being higher:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Your increased chances of having a stroke
- The chance of developing diabetes (type I and type II)
- Conditional heart problems (cardiovascular disease, heart attack, cardiac arrest)
- Increased risks of accidents
- It can actually damage brain cells
- High blood pressure
- Libido and Sex Drive
Studies have shown that those who don’t get as much asleep as they should do not snack enough, and they usually crave more carb heavy foods, and more sweets. They also eat more calories per day than those who get their recommended amount of sleep.
One study was done in which the subjects were given a certain amount of calories to eat per day. The study group (called the “sleep” group), ended up getting their necessary amount of sleep they needed, while the other half (the control group), got less than their necessary six hours of sleep. The participants of the study who ended up getting less than their allotted time necessity of sleep ended up being hungry more often than the sleep group, as well as the following:
- The sleep group stored more fat they ingested instead of burning those fat calories.
- More than 50% of the sleep group saw less fat loss
- 60% of the entire sleep group however had more results showing some muscle loss, and did not gain the lean body mass they should have (naturally, they stored more fat cells).
When you’re doing keto, every one of the sleep group’s issues impact the reasons for doing the diet as it is. You can’t lose weight well without good sleep and diet, just as you can’t build lean muscle well when you’re not sleeping right. On top of this, as mentioned earlier, there are other factors (like the accidents, productivity, performance and endurance, and more) that are stemmed from this.
When it comes to impaired performance and brain function, lack of sleep itself shows that people are less motivated, have higher amounts of mood swings, are generally sluggish and just mope throughout their daily lives, and they have low amounts of energy. There are hundreds of thousands of vehicle accidents every year, and some of these have been potentially fatal. The numbers have increased over the years. When it comes to daily activity and job performance, those who got less sleep, or were sleep deprived because of not sleeping on a regular schedule (switching sleep schedules frequently because of work, or because of other reasons) lacked the proper amount of cognitive function to actually do everything they would normally be able to if they would have gotten the right amount of sleep. Some factory workers reported that they were able to do their jobs just fine (those sort of repetitive jobs that can be monotonous at factories), but they don’t remember most of their day.
According to the CDC, only one third of Americans actually get the amount of sleep they need regularly, and most of them are less than seven hours per day. So that means that the other two thirds of the population don’t realize that we’re actually hurting ourselves in the long run.
What is a True Good Night’s Sleep?
There is an entire process that makes up our sleep cycle. We have two different types of sleep, but aside from this, we have numerous processes and stages of each cycle when we get a proper amount of sleep.
Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) Sleep – This is what we consider deep sleep. We have approximately four stages of NREM sleep, and the entire sleep cycle lasts anywhere from seventy to one hundred twenty minutes.
Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) – REM sleep is when most of our dreams can happen the most. Our brain acts as a large filing cabinets, and while it is storing memories, sometimes it displays in our dreams differently (this explains why we sometimes have weird dreams that have nothing to do with what we are actually doing. Our cognitive brains are entertaining themselves while our subconscious minds store the memories in proper order – if we are getting enough sleep). When we don’t get enough sleep, this also is what causes memory loss, or memories to be confused with time, etc.
When you get a proper night’s sleep, you actually go through more than one sleep cycle. Most of the time you are sleeping actually is in deep sleep, while the short bursts where dreams occur are from the REM sleep.
There are four stages in a typical sleep cycle. The first three stages of our sleep are actually deep sleep.
- The First Stage – This is the where we are falling asleep. We have some slow and repetitive eye movement, and it’s usually when we are easily disrupted because of noises, and other elements. Our body’s muscles generally relax during this transitional stage as our brains start to get the process ready for our true sleep. This is when we are considered to be “lightly sleeping”, and we are often susceptible to having small twitches of our muscles. Some people have that floating or falling experience when we drift in and out of this stage.
- Second Stage – This stage of NREM sleep is basically when our bodies are actually transitioning into deep sleep. We are not vocally responsive usually during this stage. We aren’t awakened as easily, and the brain waves continue to slow down and sometimes our brains have what is called “sleep spindles”. Our brains experience those and K complexes to protect itself from being woke up from this stage of sleep. This is also when our bodies tend to slow down, and our internal temperature decreases the most.
- Third Stage – This particular stage is when we are in full deep sleep. It is nearly impossible to wake someone up from this stage of sleep. This is the time we are sleeping when most people are snoring, have episodes of walking in their sleep, talking in their sleep, and sometimes a person can experience night terrors (where they act out physically and loudly from nightmares). When someone is in deep sleep, they are actually dreaming, but they are sleeping so deeply that they wouldn’t remember things.
If we’re not getting good deep sleep, along with REM sleep afterwards, our body does not repair itself properly.
- REM Sleep – This is the most common form of sleep when we remember our dreams. It’s easier to be woke up from REM sleep (whether it’s from outside sources, or by our own doing). If we don’t get enough REM sleep, we normally feel sluggish and drowsy. In this stage, our eyes have increased side to side movement, and our brain is usually more active. This is when our brains are actually processing our memories the most.
Deep Sleep and Why You Need It
When you are in the third stage of deep sleep as mentioned some above, you need all three stages of the deep sleep cycle in order to get your REM sleep that you need. When it is constantly interrupted by things such as insomnia, or if you are a “light sleeper” and get constantly woke up from the first stage, you won’t properly get the rest your body and brains needs.
The Ways Keto Changes Sleep Behavior
When you’re eating a keto diet, you may see numerous complaints of people at the beginning of the process that they aren’t getting the right amount of sleep, or that they are experiencing restless sleep more often, however studies have shown and have been proven that the more your body develops and transforms into ketosis, you will actually get better sleep.
The reason? It is simply because your body can sometimes naturally fast-track through the first stages of sleep so you can enter Stage 3 and REM sleep faster. This helps you get better rest, and better body and brain function during your time awake.
Scientific Proof of “Keto Sleep” Being Beneficial
The NSF has actually a detailed description of what a good night’s sleep is:
- Being able to get to sleep fast (between 15 and 30 minutes).
- Not being interrupted more than once in your sleep cycle.
- If you are woke up, you need to be able to fall asleep quickly (within 20 min.).
- Not getting less than 85% sleep while you’re in your bed (spending most of the day out of your bed will actually help with this).
Before you transitioned to keto, you have to think to yourself, did you experience nights of quality sleep? Or did you have problems falling asleep, or staying there once you were?
Most people actually have sleep disorders that can cause this. Many of these psychological disorders can lead to our lack of the proper amount of sleep, restlessness, keeping us awake at night, interrupting our sleep, or other symptoms such as talking in our sleep and sleepwalking more.
By eating foods that are common in a keto diet more so your body uses those ketones the way it should, it has been proven that the symptoms of common sleep disorders are actually triggered less, so you have more energy. Why is this? Well, your sleep pattern changes drastically and usually for the better.
The REM Sleep Test
Keto diets have been proven to help children in one study be able to get the sleep they needed when they were on a three month keto diet. Those who had epilepsy had less seizures, and when they did have them while sleeping, they were not as severe.
It showed that the total sleep time of the children in the study actually decreased some, they had the necessary amount of stage 3 and their time in REM sleep was actually higher than it normally was before.
This keto diet was then followed for a year on eleven out of the eighteen children. They had less drowsiness during the day, and had even MORE REM time during their sleep cycles.
Keto has been proven to help patients suffering from narcolepsy who followed an extended keto diet have lowered symptoms so they could concentrate better.
Getting Past Insomnia Sparked by Keto
When it comes to having “ketosomnia”, there are normally logical and scientific reasons why you aren’t getting the proper amount of sleep that you need. A lot of times, however, one must be able to rule out other life factors that can be affecting their sleep schedule. If someone is experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, abusing alcohol or drugs (which isn’t recommended at all on the keto diet), having changes in their bodily hormones or lifestyle conditions (or medical conditions), have some sort of illness which can affect sleep, taking prescription drugs, suffer from what is known as sleep apnea, and have melatonin deficiencies due to high screen use (most screens emit blue light that actually decreases our body’s natural creation of melatonin), and even caffeine use or some other sort of stimulant intake, then their sleep schedules may be interrupted. Once these are ruled out, they can possibly blame their “keto diet”.
The most common causes are:
- Not getting enough electrolytes. This only normally happened during the basic transformation of ketosis. Once your body has adapted, you’ll more than likely get better sleep. You can of course try to increase your electrolyte levels to get past what keto dieters call the “keto flu”.
- Your body is in the process of ketosis in general – Your body doesn’t normally metabolize the macronutrients while you’re keto dieting. Usually our bodies use glucose instead of fats to create energy. During this, you may experience a change.
- Sometimes you have too much energy because of your high levels of ketones, and you’re just not used to it (even after you’ve achieved ketosis). You may be a light sleeper for your first few weeks, but this will get better. Just wait it out.
- If you are fasting, your cortisol is actually too high and you’re having more actual stress than you may realize. This can affect your sleep drastically.
- As your body converts to keto, you will burn through more glycogen, the result is that the excess is broke down into water, and you may wake up to urinate more often during the night. This will pass over time as well though.
Another Common Problem: Energy Boosters
Often times, you may be ingesting too many MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). These normally go into your liver immediately and are transformed into ketones. So you are burning these for energy, which is awesome. However, if you’re getting too much of these, it can cause you to have more energy bursts, help clear your mental capacity. These often result from taking MCT supplements too late in the day, after workouts or during idle times, or when you’re not fasting. If you take these supplements accordingly, then they will help you, but be sure it’s not too late in the day.
Our Final Thoughts
With everything this article has covered, measure your sleep and create things such as a sleep journal. If you’re on a keto diet, you’re already keeping a journal more than likely, so you can track the journey to ketosis. There is nothing wrong with having a sleep journal as well. This can help in many positive aspects.
Most people who keep a sleep journal and dream journal have improved cognitive function throughout their days, and many gain the ability to “lucid dream” (this means have cognitive control over your dreams). This is a strange phenomenon, but many people who have this ability have been proven to have a better night’s sleep, because they are able to make themselves stay asleep longer. If a person is lucid dreaming and starts to have a nightmare that would normally wake them up, they can simply “change the dream” and thus helping it not to be so scary, or sometimes just to get better so they can continue to sleep all night.
Be sure to follow all of the guidelines with sleep. While it’s understandable that not everyone three hundred and sixty-five days a year can ensure they get enough, sleep, try to minimize the amount of days that you can to get the minimum amount of sleep an average person needs. And more than anything, be patient. Remember that your body is transforming through a keto diet. It’s not easy, and every ailment is only temporary. Your body adapts and eventually fixes itself in many ways as a result of ketosis, so be sure to just wait for it, and push through the changes and you’ll be alright.