With each new year in America comes the wave of resolutions that have many adults promising to create healthier lifestyles for themselves. Oftentimes, they commit to a wide range of diets that are meant to improve their health and help them lose weight. These diets can range from the incredibly unhealthy “cleanse” diets to the more measured reductions in sugar intake.
One diet, in particular, has become popular in the last few years, with bookstores loading their shelves with cookbooks and healthy-lifestyle celebrities adopting the strict food regimen: the keto diet. Many participants report weight loss and high levels of energy during the day. But what does the keto diet do to your sleep?
What Is the Keto Diet?
A ketogenic diet (or “keto” diet) requires that you severely limit consumption of carbohydrates and instead has you focus on eating fat and protein. By doing this, you are putting your body in a state of ketosis, where it begins to burn fat for fuel.
Because it causes fat loss and boosts the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the keto diet has been shown to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, meaning that this diet can be incredibly beneficial for diabetic patients.
What Do You Eat on a Ketogenic Diet?
1. Foods to Look For
- Meat: Red meat like beef, chicken, turkey, and pork
- Eggs: Omega-3 whole eggs are the best choice
- Butter and Cream: Grass-fed products are ideal
- Cheese: Unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese, or mozzarella
- Fatty Fish: Tuna, trout, mackerel, and salmon
- Healthy Oils: Coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
- Low-carb Veggies: Greens, onions, and tomatoes
- Nuts and Seeds: Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, etc.,
2. Foods to Avoid
- Fruit: All fruit, except berries (like blackberries) in small amounts
- Beans or legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas
- Low-fat or diet products: Highly processed “low-fat” foods are high in carbohydrates
- Sugary foods: Juices, soda, cake, candy, etc.,
- Grains and starches: Any wheat-based products like rice, pasta, or cereal
- Alcohol: Many alcoholic drinks are high in carbohydrates and should be avoided
- Sugar-free diet foods: These products have high amounts of sugar alcohols and are highly processed, so they should be avoided.
How Does a Keto Diet Affect Your Sleep?
As with any major change to your diet, you may find changes to your sleep cycle. Often these disruptions are due to the recalibration that your system must make when a certain type of food (or lack of sugar, etc.) is removed from your daily intake. How does the keto diet affect your sleep?
In the short term, you can expect to find your sleep cycle significantly disrupted by the changes to your diet. Many keto dieters report symptoms of insomnia in the first month of their diet. Why is this?
- No carbs? No sleep. The drastic reduction in carbohydrates in your diet leads to a reduction in serotonin and melatonin in the body – this is because the body is accustomed to using carbohydrates for fuel. Without all the added carbs, you expect to have some sleepless nights in your future.
After the initial period of insomnia, many participants reported that they were able to have more
- Weight loss leads to a reduction in weight-related sleep disorders. Many obese patients who experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) due to their weight may find that the weight loss associated with the keto diet will help them sleep better at night. A recent study has also shown that this diet is beneficial in reducing daytime sleepiness in patients with higher weight.
- Low-carb, high-fat diets may increase REM sleep. While more research needs to be done on this potential benefit, recent studies have shown that this type of diet may increase REM sleep and be a beneficial therapy for children and adults who have epilepsy or other seizure disorders.
- With better sleep, do you sleep less? Some participants in the keto diet have discovered that because they get better, more restful sleep, they need to sleep less. Scientific studies are lacking the explanations for this effect, so more research is needed.
Some Important Things to Remember
Here are some things to remember if you’re thinking about using this diet to improve your sleep:
1. A Change in Diet is Going to Change Your Sleep
Like any major change we experience in our bodies, a change to your diet is going to change your sleep patterns. Even something a simple as traveling to another time zone may cause a disruption to your sleep, so if you start this diet and you find that the sleeplessness persists beyond a reasonable timeline, you might consider speaking with your doctor about other reasons for your insomnia or sleep disruptions.
2. Losing Weight Will Improve Your Sleep
As we mentioned above, losing weight will help improve your sleep and reduce your risk of weight-related obstructive sleep apnea. So, whether you choose to commit to a ketogenic diet or you find a well-managed workout routine and other diet plan works best for you, you can be sure that the weight loss will contribute to a much healthier sleep cycle.
3. Do Your Research Before You Take the Plunge
Before you commit to any major dietary change, be sure to speak with a health professional about your plans. You don’t want to cause unnecessary damage to your body when you want to have a healthier life.
So, Does a Keto Diet Help Sleep? The Jury Is Still Out
Many participants in the keto diet craze report that once they clear the initial sleeplessness of transitioning to a fully keto diet, they experience deeper, more restful sleep. However, studies that examine the potential benefits of this diet on sleep patterns are slow to emerge. Regardless of your decision to commit to this diet or not, working toward a healthier lifestyle is always a worthwhile pursuit.
Experiencing sleep problems lately? Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia can help you get back to bed without worries. You can schedule an appointment with us online or call us at (703) 689-2480 for a free consultation.