What Causes Insomnia On The Keto Diet? Get Better Nutrition

by Josh | Last Updated:  September 11, 2020
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I tend to want to post about topics that I have managed and made it past so that I can deliver pointed helpful information to you the readers. Recently, I have been battling an amazingly rough patch with being able to get quality sleep due to issues with insomnia. The insomnia is primarily focused around slowness in falling asleep and then also waking to a wide-awake state for an hour or two at least.

Can you have insomnia on keto? Some level of insomnia on a ketogenic diet can occur due to an electrolyte imbalance and less serotonin. This combination can stop your mind from winding down at the end of the day and moving into the rest phase. Additionally, blue light from screens along with caffeine invading our lives increasing the difficulty for restful sleep.

We will now delve into the normal causes and what you can do for each to help your body prepare to sleep. Some of these decisions will be difficult as they will be focused on restrictions to time and may get in the way of your normal day to day. I promise the sleep will be well worth it and it will help your results to get back on track.

What Is The Definition Of Insomnia

It is good to have a base of knowledge before attempting to fix any issues you feel may be impacting you. I started by researching insomnia itself as it is almost impossible to battle an issue if you don’t fundamentally understand how it is or can impact you. The National Institute of Health had the following to say about insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where individuals find it difficult to fall asleep, waking up frequently during the night or waking up too early due to a number of factors. It’s typically followed by daytime sleepiness, low energy, irritability, and depressed mood.

NIH Website

I am definitely having issues falling asleep and with waking frequently while attempting to sleep. Thankfully I have a Motiv ring I got on Amazon, pictured to the right, which helps me know for certain what my sleep looks like. As most of you are probably aware you don’t always remember each night even if you wake up.

I would also like to state my wife and daughter will validate the irritability aspect in the daily life as this has gone on longer and longer. I think due to keto I don’t feel daytime sleepiness or low energy and I don’t feel that I am depressed but that is often hard to self diagnose.

Getting deep restful sleep is very important to overall health - can you have insomnia on keto
Getting deep restful sleep is very important to overall health

How Do Electrolytes Play A Part?

Since you carry less water on a ketogenic diet you will have less overall free electrolytes for your body to utilize. Normally you would carry enough extra within the cells that the body could use when needed. As you become ketogenic you flush out this water volume and the associated electrolytes.

Unfortunately this lack in free electrolytes means that when you are short and the body is searching for them it can’t find any to use to balance the body. Many of the foods we eat due to mass farming don’t contain the levels of electrolytes (potassium, sodium and magnesium) that are required to sustain us properly.

In regards to the power 3 above, magnesium is the one which helps drive the restful sleep portions. Much of our food has less and we process less than necessary, this leads people to supplements. Magnesium has many different forms available and people tend to get the incorrect type for the need.

Magnesium And Its Roll In Sleep And Insomnia

Magnesium deficiency is unfortunately very common among adults. Estimates suggest nearly half of adult men and women in the United States aren’t getting enough magnesium from their diet and supplements. One of magnesium’s most important roles is as an enabler of enzyme function. Magnesium is involved in more than 300 different enzyme-related reactions in the body’s cells.

Insomnia is actually a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. Prior to my research I wasn’t aware that there was any correlation between these two things. When you have low magnesium you will often experience restless sleep, waking frequently during the night.

Eating better and maintaining a healthy magnesium level typically leads to a deeper, more sound sleep. Magnesium also plays a big role in supporting deep, restorative sleep as it helps to maintain healthy levels of GABA which helps promote sleep. 

Why On Keto Do You Make Less Serotonin?

There are some online “scientific based” explanations for a loss of sleep when in ketosis. It centers around the lower intake of carbohydrates. On the SAD (Standard American Diet) carbohydrates are the primary source for energy in your body. This then will consistently supply the body with glucose and provide the brain the amino acid L-tryptophan into the brain.

L-Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps in the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone which can also aid in relaxation, sleep, and overall wellness.

This is typically accomplished with insulin in the system helping to spur on creation of serotonin from Tryptophan. Then as daylight begins to fade, the process to convert your serotonin into melatonin begins which is fundamental to assist the process of falling asleep.

Due to a lack of L-Tryptophan you produce less serotonin and melatonin. This path which includes little to no carbs in the diet makes it important for someone on keto to watch for signs early.

It is suggested to pair a 5-HTP and/or a Tryptophan supplement if you start to see signs of sleep issues, I currently am taking both to get back to strong restful sleep.

This is the reason why in many Facebook forums you will see people swear by increasing carbohydrates in the hours before bed. This carbohydrate and insulin process can drive serotonin creation and hence melatonin production.

What Is Blue Light And Why Does It Impact Sleep?

Blue light is the light put out from devices like television, computers, phones and similar devices. This light is shown to cause issues for people as it doesn’t allow the natural lighting from taking hold and starting the sleep function process.

The blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.

The Sleep Foundation

This can be an easy fix in many cases as there are for example, blue light blocking glasses on Amazon, or you can sometimes just change the settings on the device itself.

The last option is on phones to search the app store for blue light blocking applications which can typically be set to turn on at specific hours to help allow use while not sending out as much blue light to your eyes.

Caffeine And Its Roll In Sleep Problems

Lets face it, we are all to some level, caffeine addicts. It has been called the most popular drug in the world and is found naturally in over 60 plants from the coffee bean, tea leaf, and cacao pods.

People all over consume massive quantities of caffeine on a daily basis in energy drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and soft drinks. Once in the body, caffeine levels will persist for several hours.

It has a half life of approximately 6 hours, meaning that for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated 6 hours has to pass by.

Consuming caffeine later in the day, however, can interfere with sleep. If you’re like most people, your sleep won’t be affected if you don’t consume caffeine at least six hours before going to bed. Your sensitivity may vary, though, depending on your metabolism and the amount of caffeine you regularly consume.

WebMD

I will admit I am overly addicted to caffeine and it has made this a harder process to work through. I am now currently working on lowering my caffeine intake week over week.

This is a hard problem though as I get wicked headaches and mood swings when I lower my levels and drink less.

Final Thoughts on Can You Have Insomnia on Keto

This has been a long journey and one which isn’t fully solved yet for myself. I do hope that this information can assist someone else who may be going through this process themselves, or maybe doesn’t even know there is an issue. Getting less sleep hurts in fat mobilization and weight loss also.

Please make sure that you are getting proper rest as it is equally important to diet and exercise in proper health and to get healthy. I have, for too long, put this to the back burner instead choosing to focus on maximizing my awake time and due to this I am fighting a long battle on multiple fronts.

Please share this if you know of people who have been combating sleep issues or that may have sleep issues so that maybe they can gain some insight from what I wrote.

If you have gone through this and have other things which have been beneficial please add them to the comments below and I would love to discuss them with you and if proven add them to this information to continue helping others!

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I grew up in a home where most our days were spent inside, and sports were not a family priority. I did play soccer and baseball as a kid, but the older I got, the more I lost interest. To regain my health, I decided to adhere to the three tenets of health and longevity. I hope you will join me, by making it your purpose to live as long and well as possible.