Keto insomnia is very real, and although it usually passes by itself, for some people, the only cure to keto sleep problems is to eat more carbs.
Keto insomnia is very real, and sometimes there isn’t much you can do about it. For some people, being in nutritional ketosis means a “wired” brain. It feels good when you’re awake, but when you’re trying to fall asleep, it’s a problem.
I’ve been eating a low carb diet for about five years now. I love it. It stabilizes my blood sugar. I can go 5-6 hours between meals, no longer a slave to frequent snacking. Weight management is effortless, and I eat well – 2000 to 2200 calories per day.
I usually eat 70-80 grams of carbs per day. But I like to experiment, and for a while, I ate very low carb – 20-30 grams per day. That’s when the trouble started.
On a very low carb diet, I felt AMAZING. I had endless energy. My brain was super sharp and I had no brain fog. It was easy to concentrate. Physically and mentally, I feel my best when I eat very low carb, which is probably explained by being in ketosis.
However, when I lowered my carb consumption so drastically, my sleep quality became extremely poor.
The same wakefulness that was so wonderful during my waking hours, was extremely distressing during the night. I had no trouble falling asleep around 11pm, but I would wake up around 2am, wide awake, brain active and churning and thinking and wired, and I would be up 2-3 hours before finally going back to sleep.
I tried many types of sleep interventions – a darkened room, a sleep ritual, no screens before bed, a cool bedroom. I added potassium and magnesium supplements and took melatonin for a few weeks. Nothing helped. The keto insomnia was there to stay, regardless of what I did.
For many, trouble sleeping on a very low carb diet is just part of adapting to the diet. It lasts a few weeks, then gets better. That wasn’t the case for me. I stayed in ketosis for about a year, and suffered from keto insomnia the entire year.
Eventually I decided to increase my carb consumption. I gradually increased it from less than 20 grams per day to 70-80 grams per day. My sleep started improving when I reached a level of 50-60 grams, but I still had bad nights. Only when I increased my carb level to 70-80 grams per day, I started consistently sleeping through the night.
My theory is that only at this level of 70-80 grams per day I am consistently not in ketosis, and so keto insomnia is no longer an issue.
Interestingly, during the day I do not feel more refreshed, even though I sleep much better. On the contrary: I felt more awake, more energetic, on 4 hours of sleep while I was in deep ketosis, than I feel now on 7 hours of sleep.
Still, I found keto sleep issues so frustrating, that I prefer to eat a moderately low carb diet, at least for the time being.
Not everyone responds to being in ketosis with sleep issues, and even for those who do, the issues are often temporary. But if you’re like me and can see a clear connection between being in ketosis and a hyper, wired bain at night, you could try to experiment and see if going out of ketosis resolves keto insomnia for you.
I realize this is not necessarily what you wanted to hear – I know you really want to stay in ketosis AND sleep well. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news! But you need to realize that for a minority of people, myself included, this is not possible. It’s either learning to live with keto insomnia, or gradually pulling ourselves out of ketosis by increasing carbs, even if just by a little.