How Does Keto Affect Sleep?
How Does Keto Affect Sleep?
More than a third of adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep. There are many factors involved, including stress and sedentary lifestyles.
But diet is a major factor as well. Poor Western diets based around carbs, sugar, and processed food are terrible for sleep.
People adopt the keto diet for many reasons. One benefit is improved sleep.
In the short term, adjusting to keto can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. But in the long term, most people report improved sleep and daytime wakefulness.
Short term effects on sleep
When you start keto for the first time, your body doesn’t know what’s going on. It just knows that something weird is happening!
Chances are your body won’t like this at first. While it will adjust eventually, most people experience a cluster of symptoms called the keto flu during the first few weeks of their diet.
This includes painful experiences like:
As you can imagine, none of this is good for your sleep. The keto flu will often induce insomnia and difficulty sleeping.
Additionally, some people start to experience extremely vivid dreams or nightmares. This also happens to people when they fast, which is biologically similar to what keto does.
While the keto flu is uncomfortable, it doesn’t spread to other people, and usually goes away after a couple weeks. Then there is light at the other end of the tunnel- the long term effects on sleep are generally positive.
Long term effects on sleep
Over the long term (months to years), people report that keto actually helps them get better, deeper sleep. They also indicate that they need less sleep overall.
There are many reasons why this may be happening. One might be improved digestion on keto. For many people, a simpler diet of mostly meat and vegetables can be easier on the gut, meaning less energy needed for repairing and maintaining digestion at night.
Carbs can cause inflammation, so many people who eat lots of carbs actually experience chronic inflammation. This inflammation interrupts everything from your gut to your brain, making it harder to sleep. But if you take the carbs away, inflammation goes down and sleep becomes easier.
And in general, keto may just be a healthier diet than what people were eating before, creating all sorts of health improvements, like better sleep. This applies especially to people who eat a low-nutrition, highly processed diet.
How to get better sleep on keto
The hard part is getting past the uncomfortable early stages of keto adaptation. If you can do that, your body adjusts naturally and you will likely find yourself sleeping better.
During the keto flu, you can get better sleep the way you would on any other diet: exercise, hydration, timing, and managing stress.
Regular exercise has a tremendous effect on sleep. It makes your body need to repair itself, making you sleepy.
Hydration is crucial for all bodily processes. Sleep is no exception. While drinking too much water may make you get up at night to go to the bathroom, too little water can lead to headaches and irritability.
Timing is important for sleep. There is a lot of truth in the old adage about “Early to bed, early to rise.”
Timing your sleep with sunrise and sunset can help your body take advantage of natural rhythms. But it’s also the case that your body has its own natural rhythm, called a chronotype. Some people are simply made to sleep at different times than others.
And if you can, avoid long-distance travel during the first few weeks of keto. Jet lag is very real, and comes from your body’s internal timing mechanism getting disrupted.
- Managing Stress
Stress is often pointed to as the main culprit for modern sleep problems. While it is by no means the only problem, it is a major factor. Being overworked or anxious can make it difficult to sleep.
There are many ways to combat stress, from meditating to reducing electronics usage. But keto can also introduce a new kind of stress: cravings.
Cravings for carbs or dessert can keep you up at night, and most people will have them. But you don’t have to skip dessert completely- there are plenty of great tasting, keto friendly dessert options out there.
Because life’s too short to eat sh!#ty tasting bars!