Do you have trouble sleeping? Have you heard about the sleep benefits of the keto diet? We'll discuss sleep health, the ketogenic diet for improved sleep, keto insomnia, and more in this article. Let's get started!
Millions of people in the United States struggle to get a good night's sleep every night. In fact, one in every three persons suffers from short-term insomnia, with 10% of the population suffering from chronic insomnia, which is defined as three nights of disrupted sleep each week for at least three months.
If you've ever suffered from insomnia, you know how debilitating it can be.
Sleep deprivation raises your risk of melancholy and mood swings. It makes you tired, makes you forget things, and makes you lose focus. It shortens reaction times, increasing the likelihood of errors and accidents. It depletes your motivation and vitality. It encourages the storage of fat and weight growth. It can also contribute to Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. 1
In addition, insomnia hastens cellular aging and degeneration because it is during deep sleep that we repair and replace damaged cells.
Genetics and the Environment in Insomnia
As someone who suffers from insomnia, I understand how detrimental it can be to one's health, happiness, and quality of life.
When you're sleep deprived, everything is more difficult – whether it's having the patience to help your child with their schoolwork, the clarity of brain to do a good job, or the energy and stamina to exercise – insomnia can take away a lot of your zest, productivity, and calm.
I've tried just about everything to get a good night's sleep, as have other desperate insomniacs. Getting to bed at the same time every night and using all of the recommended “sleep hygiene” procedures. A hot magnesium bath, blue light-blocking glasses at night, an eye mask, comfortable socks, black-out curtains, and the room set to the optimum temperature – with just about every natural supplement imaginable
And, as if on cue, I'd wake up after four or five hours of sleep, unable to return to sleep.
Insomnia, like other illnesses, is a result of both heredity and environment. In fact, twin studies suggest that insomnia is 50 percent genetic, and that it affects more women than men. Insomnia is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental influences.
Furthermore, the majority of genetic influence is on the type of insomnia in which patients have trouble staying asleep rather than getting asleep. While we can't change our genetic predispositions, we can work with them to improve our chances of success.
And, like with other health-related issues, the most effective method to do so is through food…
What You Eat and When You Eat Matters When It Comes to Insomnia
What you eat and when you eat can have a huge impact on your sleep cycle when it comes to the “environmental” element of the insomnia jigsaw.
Our circadian rhythms, microbiota, hormones, and other biochemicals that affect the sleep-wake cycle are all influenced by the composition and timing of our meals.
When it comes to dining times, studies suggest that eating late in the evening can impair healthy sleep patterns. Women, once again, appear to be particularly prone to these food-related sleep interruptions. 5,6
While additional research is needed, our forefathers most likely followed the habit of eating only during daylight hours… and the one that is most biologically fit for achieving a healthy sleeping routine.
Let's look at some of the food elements that affect sleep now…
Sleep Disturbance Caused by Histamines and Overactive Mast Cells: Little-Known Causes
Because of their high quantities of histamines, even “healthy” foods like sauerkraut, kefir, tomatoes, and cured meats can cause sleep disturbances in certain people.
Mast cells, a type of immune cell that can activate in the early morning hours and increase wakefulness, are influenced by histamines. 7 Antihistamines (like Benadryl) are advertised as sleep aids because they reduce mast cell activity and so help you stay asleep.
Antihistamines, on the other hand, are not a long-term answer for encouraging sleep. Memory loss and dementia, among other ailments, have been related to their habitual usage.
Lower-histamine foods and mast-cell stabilizing supplements (such as quercetin, vitamin C, bromelain, and nettles) can assist, but new study suggests that the keto diet may be able to address the problem at its source.
Ketones have a powerful effect on calming hyperactive mast cells, which lead to allergic reactions and sleeplessness, according to a study published in Nutrition and Metabolism. 10
Furthermore, when your mast cells are dysregulated and overactive, sleep deprivation makes them even more active. This exacerbates the condition and sets in motion a vicious cycle. 11 If you've ever been on a “insomnia bender,” you're all too familiar with this depleting cycle!
Hacking Adenosine for a More Restful, Deeper Sleep
Adenosine is another molecule that affects sleep. This molecule is found in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the “energy currency” of life.
Adenosine turns out to be crucial for more than just creating energy as part of ATP. Adenosine is particularly important for sleep regulation because it provides a unique relationship between cellular energy and neuron activity, influencing the quality of our sleep. 12
According to Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep disorders:
“Adenosine accumulates in the body throughout the day, contributing to our feeling less aware and awake as the day progresses, eventually promoting deeper slow-wave sleep at night.” A ketogenic diet has been shown to increase adenosine activity in the body, which helps to relax the nervous system while also lowering pain and inflammation, both of which can aid with sleep.”
To Get a Better Night's Sleep, Balance Blood Sugar and Cortisol
We've known for a long time that not getting enough sleep can lower insulin sensitivity and increase hunger, leading to weight gain and putting you at risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases.
It appears that the link exists in both directions. High blood sugar and insulin levels disrupt the sleep cycle and increase cortisol, a stress hormone.
Cortisol levels fall when you stay in ketosis for a long time. Because you're burning fat and ketones for fuel, you'll be able to save more of your body's sugar stores (glycogen).
You don't need as much cortisol to stimulate a rise in blood sugar, which your body uses for energy, thanks to this metabolic shift. The ketogenic diet may enable those whose insomnia is caused by cortisol levels to level out, thereby preventing the hormonal surges that keep you from falling – or staying – asleep.
Get a Better Night's Sleep and Feel More Energized During the Day
Naturally, having regulated blood sugar – as opposed to blood sugar spikes and crashes – will make you feel more energized throughout the day.
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, a very low-calorie keto diet reduced daytime sleepiness in a group of obese patients.
Another study published in Epilepsia indicated that children with epilepsy who ate a ketogenic diet slept better, had a larger percentage of REM sleep, and were less drowsy during the day, all of which improved their overall quality of life.
Warning: Keto Insomnia Could Get Worse Before It Gets Better
Surprisingly, if you want to reap the benefits of the keto diet for sleep, you may have to accept some “keto sleeplessness” as you adjust to the diet.
In fact, as the body transitions from “sugar-burner” to “fat-burner,” many people experience a deterioration of sleep patterns before improving, a condition known as keto insomnia. This appears to be due to an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone, when the body adjusts to burning fat for energy. Overall cortisol levels fall as the body adapts. 17
Six extremely obese teenagers were monitored for four months on a keto diet by researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). While they all had decreased amounts of REM sleep (dreaming sleep) and excessive slow-wave (deep) sleep at the start of the trial (indicating poor sleep), the opposite was true at the end. 18
Other hormones and chemicals that affect sleep quality and length (such as melatonin, serotonin, GABA, tryptophan, and others), as well as some compounds like caffeine and alcohol, can disrupt sleep. Stress levels, eyelight exposure, and seasonal variations can all affect the length and quality of your sleep.
A low-histamine ketogenic diet has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to night waking. When I follow a ketogenic diet, I find that I sleep better, dream more, and wake up feeling more energized.
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