Can't Sleep on the Ketogenic Diet? Here's Why

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet or 'going keto' is a buzzword that pops up every now and then as diet trends tend to circle back every couple of years. To put it simply, the keto diet is all about consuming high amounts of fat and low amounts of carbs—with a diet roughly consisting of 70 per cent fat, 25 per cent protein and 5 per cent carbs. Interestingly, this style of eating dates back to the 1920s and wasn't used as it is today, but rather used as a tool to treat children who suffered from seizures. Nowadays, followers of the keto diet are more interested in the benefits that include weight loss, improved heart health and even radiant skin and hair. There is one common complaint of keto eaters though, and that's an interrupted sleep cycle and difficulty falling asleep.

Why is it harder to sleep?

After a few days of adhering to a strict ketogenic diet, the body enters a state of ketosis which means that the body doesn't make glucose from carbohydrates anymore because there is none left in the body. The body is then forced to convert fat into energy, which is how a more rapid weight loss is possible for some people. While many utilise the ketogenic diet as a way to improve their overall health, the term 'keto flu' has been coined to describe a very common list of symptoms that have been reported by those following the low-carb diet. These symptoms, including brain fog, dehydration and irritability are one theory behind why sleeping can be so difficult when switching over to a state of ketosis. While there's no hard and fast answer to the ketogenic diet and sleep disruption, studies have also linked an increase in energy to a reduction in starchy carbs and an increase in healthy fats like avocado and nuts and seeds. While higher than normal energy levels are a great way to power through your day, those on keto have been shown to have a lower level of melatonin when making the dietary switch, which is essential for falling asleep easily at night.

The good news

If you're currently in the thick of keto-related insomnia or are feeling the full force of the 'keto flu', there are a few things you can try to get your body back to its optimal form. Firstly, it's important to keep your electrolytes in check as they help to balance the water in your body and are flushed from your body quicker than usual when on a keto diet. Up your water intake and look for foods like magnesium-heavy salmon or consider a mineral supplement as well. While your body gets used to the new changes, avoiding strenuous workouts for the first week can help with feelings of fatigue and any physical side effects you might have. Finally, working through a list of general sleep tips like avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and reducing screens or meditating before bed all contribute to your overall sleep hygiene. It's not all doom and gloom, though—it's actually been widely noted that once you get through the initial stages of your ketogenic diet, sleep can actually improve to a point where you're able to operate optimally on less sleep and feel less tired throughout the day. Hooray!

Still tossing and turning? This weird thing could be stopping you from falling asleep.

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