Ugh, keto insomnia is by far the most stressful side-effect that I have experienced since I started the ketogenic diet.
Hint: it wasn’t only keto’s fault, there were other factors included, which you are probably guilty of if you are reading right now instead of sleeping.
Having a hard time falling asleep?
And if you really fall asleep, you have very light sleep and you wake up several times during the night?
We can survive a couple of days of problematic sleep, but after that, it just becomes unbearable.
You roll around the bed like a crazy person and start analyzing your whole life, while somewhere in the background you can hear classical German yodelling.
When you wake up in the morning, you feel like you have partied the whole weekend and after that, you got hit by a firetruck, twice.
And this loop continues and gets worse day after day.
At least this was how I felt.
My first conclusion was that this is probably keto’s fault right?
Well, not so much as I thought.
How diet and sleep influence each other?
Before we dive deep into how and why keto affects your sleep, let’s go over the basics.
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. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that one for every three adults gets enough sleep regularly. That means more than third of Americans are sleep deprived on a regular basis.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society have recommended for optimal health and well-being, adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. 
Sleeping less than 7 hours is associated with increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress. 
What does the science say about sleep and diet relationship?
- The study made by Case Western Reserve University found that reduced sleep has a strong impact hormonal regulation of appetite and increase the risk factor for weight gain. 
- The study made by the University of Chicago found that short sleep duration in young healthy men is associated with increased hunger and appetite. 
- Another study made by the University of Chicago found that if you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to snack more and eat more calories thanks to that. 
- The third study made by the University of Chicago found that sleep-deprived target group was hungry more often, they were likely to store more fat and lose more weight from muscle. 
The science is pretty clear about the importance of sleep when it comes to maintaining or losing weight. The amount of sleep contributes to weight maintenance and insufficient sleep may compromise the efficiency of different diets. 
So to clarify, if you don’t get enough sleep, then you raise the likelihood to develop chronic conditions, gain weight and make all your dietary efforts pointless.
Do you need carbs in order to sleep?
Okay, let’s clarify that part before we can continue.
Let me clear one thing, although this may play a big part of your sleepless nights, it’s very likely that your sleep hygiene has other weak points in addition to the diet.
The most likely reason for insomnia during keto diet is that people are starting to experience insomnia just after they have started the diet during the transition phase into ketosis.
- Many delicious keto foods (e.g. nuts and red meat) that you eat during a low-carb diet, contain lots of amino acid called tryptophan. You may know that it induces sleep, it won’t do much without the presence of carbs.
- Now your brain converts tryptophan into serotonin (a neurotransmitter) which acts as a brain soother. It helps to ease anxiety and restlessness so you can sleep. When your serotonin levels get too low, you may experience sleep disturbances.
- When your body releases insulin, it promotes a conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Serotonin, in turn, will be converted to melatonin (the sleep hormone).
During the keto diet, you eat fewer foods that lead to big releases of insulin and as a result, your melatonin levels will go way down, making it harder to sleep.
In the long-term it will improve your fasting blood sugar levels, stabilizes your energy and helps you lose weight.
In the short term, your body has trouble converting tryptophan to serotonin and your sleep suffers.
A study by the University of Sydney found, that over short-term time, a very low carbohydrate diet will significantly reduce REM (dreaming sleep) sleep compared to control a mixed diet.
And the sleep changes may be also linked to the metabolism of the fat content of the diet. 
So in short, the most realistic reason for your sleepless nights is that you are in the transition phase and your body hasn’t gotten used to your new diet.
Not everyone will respond to entering and being in ketosis with sleep issues, and even for those who do, the issues are usually temporary.
Insomnia may be a common side-effect of the keto diet, but it shouldn’t stop you from following the diet.
Causes of poor sleep
There may be different causes for your poor sleep.
It may be because you have suddenly removed all carbs from your menu and your body is having a hard time adapting to it.
Or your sleep disturbance may coincidentally happen in conjunction with your shift to keto diet eating style (which does not necessarily mean that it’s the root cause of your insomnia).
Being under more stress than usual can havoc your hormones and disrupt sleep.
As there’s no real way to say the one specific reason why one experiences sleepless nights (which happen to take place during the keto diet) I will cover the most common reasons why you probably are not getting enough quality sleep.
Cause 1. Keto-adaptation period
As I described at the beginning of the article, one very likely factor that contributes to your sleepless nights is the fact that you started the ketogenic diet.
This happens because your body has trouble adapting to the lack of carbs and it takes just some time before it can handle the absence of carbs.
In simple terms, in the beginning, stages of ketosis, your body is unable to properly produce a hormone called melatonin which is needed to create and maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
The good news is that it’s a normal phenomenon during the starting phase of the keto diet and it will fade away fairly quickly.
Just a heads up, the more you cheat during your keto diet and jump in and out of ketosis, the more you are most likely to experience this side-effect of the keto diet.
Cause 2. Electrolyte imbalance
I am pointing my finger at you, magnesium. The one thing that all of us will experience when we first start the ketogenic journey is the old friend called the keto-flu.
This happens because during the process your body gets also rid a lot of electrolytes which are vital for your body. When you are low in magnesium, an important mineral, and electrolyte, you will way more stressed and anxious as usual.
Plus, you are also more prone to muscle cramps. The main electrolytes affected by the keto diet are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. When you start the keto journey, be replenishing your electrolytes.
Cause 3. Bad sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is the term which describes your bedtime rituals and nightly habits. Regularly pulling all-nighters, going to sleep during random times every day, using smart devices in the bed are just some examples of poor sleep hygiene.
Why this matters?
Well, in my experience, the older you get the more you start to feel the importance of it. Good sleep hygiene ensures that you will consistently enjoy high quality and a more restful sleep for enough time each night.
Cause 4. Stimulants
It’s very likely that if you have consumed stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, cola, energy drinks, too late at night, before your sleep time you find it difficult to fall asleep.
Stimulants will affect your nervous system and preventing you from going to sleep.
For example, excessive caffeine is one of the most common causes of insomnia. It stimulates the body’s nervous system and affects other systems in the body including circulatory, digestive and excretory systems.
This magical stimulant increases dopamine that activates pleasure centers and suppresses melatonin which disrupts your normal sleep-wake cycle. 
Cause 4. Blue light from electronics
This is the bad boy that I was accusing you to be guilty of in the beginning. Blue light from electronic devices probably affects the most your daily rhythm and sleep.
Everyone has their own circadian rhythm (in simple terms it’s a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals). In everyday life, our circadian rhythm is depending on a blue wavelength from the sun.
Our bodies then know when they need to be alert and when it’s time to pack your bags and go to sleep. The problem is that our devices shine blue light late at night at us, when we are in the bad example, and gives our bodies hint that it’s time to be awake. Blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin.
Cause 5. Depression, anxiety, and stress
This sad trio is the most common cause of chronic insomnia. People suffering from depression can find themselves in difficulty to sleep. In fact, one of the common signs of depression is insomnia or an inability to fall or stay asleep.
One of the reasons being that people suffering from depression have the tendency to ruminate which makes it difficult to calm down and turn off their thought patterns and sleep peacefully. Most adults have had trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some this becomes a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis.
In both cases, the quiet and inactivity of the night often bring up stressful thoughts and fears that don’t let you sleep. This, in turn, will create more anxiety and stress. In this case, treating these underlying problems that cause depression, anxiety or stress is essential to resolving insomnia. 
Cause 6. Medical conditions
A sleep disturbance may be a symptom of a health issue or an adverse effect of therapy for treatment. The stress of chronic illnesses can also cause insomnia and daytime drowsiness. Some common conditions often associated with sleep problems include: 
- Cardiovascular disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Kidney disease
- Mental health problems
- Neurological disorders
- Respiratory problems
- Thyroid disease
- Parkinson’s disease
You can read more about chronic physical conditions from here.
Cause 7. Age
I know that many of you probably don’t want to hear this, but this is a deal breaker. I had a hard time accepting this. Insomnia becomes more common with age and unfortunately, I am living proof of that. when I was 21, it didn’t matter what do I drink or eat at what time.
I could swallow 2 cans of Monster and 10 minutes later sleep like a puppy. Today, if I get too excited about something I know that my good night sleep train has left the station. 
- As you get older, you may experience changes in sleep patterns. For example, you become less restful to noise and other environmental factors around you and you are more likely to wake up. You will also get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
- With age, you may also become less physically or socially active which can interfere with a good nights sleep. And the less active you are, the more likely you want to take a daily nap which can interfere with sleep at night.
- Big sleep disturbers can also be chronic pains from conditions such as back problems or arthritis. Also, issues that increase the need to urinate during the night, sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome (which becomes more common with age).
How long does keto insomnia last?
Insomnia can be characterized based on its duration.
Acute insomnia is brief and often happens because of different life circumstances.
For example, if you are experiencing stressful times, the night before an exam or after receiving stressful or bad news. It also works if you are overly excited about something. 
This is fairly common and most people experience this type of sleep disruption at one time in one’s life.
The good news is that usually, it tends to resolve fairly quickly without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months.
Chronic insomnia disorders can have many causes from environmental changes, and work to unhealthy sleeping habits and clinical disorders. 
Chronic insomnia may benefit from different types of treatment to help you to restore (or create) your healthy sleeping hygiene.
But how long does the keto insomnia last?
There’s no one answer to this question.
If you really are experiencing keto insomnia and your sleep hygiene is on top, then probably it will fade during a couple of weeks, once your body is adapted to ketosis.
It’s very likely that your insomnia is caused by a combination of your diet and unhealthy sleep habits, which can extend insomnia.
Because when I didn’t get enough sleep in 4 days in a row, it started to create stress by itself and at one moment I was in a self-destructing loop, creating stress because I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep because I was highly stressed (in addition to dietary impacts and bad sleeping habits).
The reason for your insomnia may not be keto or sleep hygiene related at all. There can be several medical reasons for your sleep problems, in that case, insomnia can last a long time. Obviously, if you are experiencing insomnia during a longer period, then definitely contact your doctor.
My experience shows, that if you started keto diet and started experiencing insomnia you can turn that around fairly quickly – up to a week or so. Your sleep hygiene needs to be in place and combined with melatonin.
How to cure keto insomnia?
There are several ways to cure your insomnia, depending on the reasons why you are experiencing it in the first place. This can be different for everyone and you should try to understand why you are having sleep problems.
After a couple of weeks of sleepless night, grumpiness, falling in and out of ketosis several times (thanks to bad mood and cheating) and lots of research, I finally found my recipe to solve the keto insomnia.
As in the headline, I stated that I cured my insomnia in 7 days. What do I mean by that? It took 7 days for me from can’t stay sleep at 3 am to getting sleepy at 11 pm.
It took 7 days for my body to get used to the new rhythm. I was surprised that it happened so quickly. Your results may vary depending on your lifestyle and health.
Here is my healthy sleep recipe.
Step 1. Sleep environment
One of the biggest ways to maximize your sleep is to rethink how you associate with your bedroom. Ideally, your bedroom should be used ONLY for sleep and sex.
This means that no eating or watching TV in the bedroom at random times. This may sound like a silly thing, but we will start associating the bed with sleep once we remove all the additional activities in that room.
Your sleep environment can be a key interruption in your sleep cycle and you may not even realize it. It’s important that is dark enough, quiet and the temperature needs to be right.
- Keep your room as dark as possible. Remove all artificial lights and cover up your windows with proper window blinders. Don’t leave your lamp on and remove all light sources.Protip: Always keep your phone silent during the night and flip your phone over, screen-side down during the bedtime. Then your sleep won’t be disturbed by notification lights.
- Noise is the second common sleep thief. Whether it comes from within the room itself or down the hall, it can rouse us from sleep. Try to close all doors and turn off potential sound makers if possible.Protip: If your sleep environment has noises beyond your control (neighbours or your so) try sleeping with a sound machine which produces white noise or use earplugs.
- And finally the room temperature. As you go to sleep your body temperature begins to drop as it prepares itself for slumber. A room temperature around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot that helps with the aid process.This cooldown in temperature will signal to your brain that okay guys it’s time to get ready for zzz and you can kickstart melatonin production. 
Step 2. Going to bed at the same time every night
This was the biggest challenge for me. This is a pretty common idea and everyone knows this but most of us don’t prioritize it enough.
We ask our kids to go to bed during the same time every night right? Why we have so hard time following this advice by ourselves?
This is called bedtime procrastination  and its exactly what it sounds like. You need to train yourself to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day no matter if its Monday or Saturday.
Otherwise, you find yourself experiencing an uncomfortable rebound effect on Monday.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientists found that Harvard undergraduates with erratic schedules had lower GPA and were more likely to hit the snooze button and struggled to get proper sleep at night. 
If you are having sleeping issues, then this is one step you cannot ignore.
Your body will adjust with your sleeping rhythm and after a couple of days, you will start getting sleepy once that time of the night comes.
Step 3. No blue light 1 hour before bed
This had the biggest effect on my sleep. I actually started yawning at 11 pm, once I disabled the blue light from my computer and smartphone.
All your electronic devices (your MacBook and iPhone) which produce blue light are contributing to your sleep problems when used during the bedtime.
The exposure to blue-wavelength light in particular from these devices affect sleep by affecting circadian rhythm, suppressing melatonin and causing neurophysiologic arousal. 
In simple terms, circadian rhythm is our internal clock that cycles between when our bodies should be wake when it’s time to go to sleep. And in nature, it’s regulated by blue wavelengths from the sun. 
Now with the rapid rise of smart devices, we are surrounded by the blue light every moment of the day, and it’s difficult for our bodies to understand when it’s time to go to sleep.
The good news is that there are several ways to tackle this issue.
Solution 1. Disable blue light
The good news is that you don’t need to stop using your devices. You can enable functionality which will disable the blue light from the screen and that will do the trick.
- This awesome feature is built into all Apple devices already. Just go to > System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift and there you can schedule the time when the “night mode” should start. I suggest enabling this 3 hours prior to sleep time.
- Don’t forget to enable the same functionality on your iPhone as well. It also has this functionality builtin. Go to > Settings > Display & Brightness.
- If you are using Windows then no worries. Check out a program called Flux. Just install it and this will do the trick. Flux is available for Windows and Mac.
Solution 2. Use blue light blocking glasses
If technology is not your thing, then another way is to use blue light blocking glasses. Yep, they exist and they are very effective.
The good thing about these glasses is that it doesn’t matter what device you are using (from smartphones to TV’s), all blue light is blocked. Just put the glasses on a couple of hours before bedtime and you are set to go.
Step 4. Melatonin
This is my secret weapon.
Whatever the root cause is for your insomnia, most of the time the consequence is that your body is not producing enough melatonin.
Be the reason for that keto related stress or blue light or something else.
I started taking melatonin supplements in stressful times when I couldn’t get enough sleep and during the research phase when I tried to found proper sleep routine for myself.
I just take melatonin around 1 hour before going to bed and I will sleep like a baby.
Now, let me clarify that I am using melatonin only during the insomnia period. Once my body got used to my sleeping schedule I didn’t need any supplements after that.
Step 5. Get into ketosis faster
This is a somewhat controversial topic. You are most likely experiencing insomnia because your body is adapting to the lack of carbs and you are slowly entering ketosis.
I see this as the keto-flu process. The faster you enter ketosis, the faster you will start burning fat end feeling better. The slower the process the more time it takes to enter ketosis and the more time you can “enjoy” the keto flu and different side-effects it brings, including insomnia.
Some group of people suggest slowing down the carb removal process and entering ketosis slower by dropping carbs way slower than usually suggested. I think this is way more painful road and just not worth it.
My approach to entering ketosis faster was simple:
- I cut down all the carbs (as much as I could). I literally cut out all the carbs. The only source of carbs was from green veggies.
- I added light exercises (brisk walk). This helped to deplete the energy stores faster and speed up the ketosis process.
- I added exogenous ketones supplements to my menu. I think in case of insomnia, exogenous ketones can be the lifesaver where they will kick into ketosis faster, thus minimizing the side-effects.
I don’t think that adding supplements is for everyone. You definitely don’t need them to enter ketosis and lose weight, but in case of sleepless nights, grumpiness and bad mood you maybe want to consider giving them a shot.
PS! If you want to give exogenous ketones a shot, then use a special code “APERFECT15” and save 15% on your order.
Step 6. Supplement with electrolytes
If you are following the ketogenic diet, then it’s very likely that you will experience electrolytes imbalance sooner or later during your diet. It’s one often the most critical yet overlooked components of your ketogenic journey.
In simple terms, when you cut out carbs, at one point your kidneys shift from retaining water and sodium to excreting them which also removes many electrolytes. These electrolytes are important for your body’s biological processes, muscles and even sleep.
The sudden shortage of these electrolytes can cause muscle cramps, brain fog, headaches, low energy, and of course sleep issues. This awful phase is called the keto-flu.
Dealing with electrolyte imbalance is straightforward and simple. You just need to supplement electrolytes. Just add some quality electrolytes to your diet and you can forget the keto-flu.
PS! Use a special code “APERFECT15” and save 15% on your order.
Keto insomnia can truly suck the lifeblood out of you.
It’s probably the most stressful side-effect because it will get worse with every bad night of sleep.
There can be many causes for your bad sleep: from cutting out carbs from your diet to stress and bad sleep hygiene.
The good news is that in most cases, it’s fairly simple to fix this issue.
To cure keto insomnia, you just need to incorporate a proper sleep hygiene into your life and you will be like a new person in no time.
During the process, it may be beneficial to support your body with melatonin which will help you to sleep during the new habit building process.
A good night of sleep is the source for your everyday life quality.
If you want to be more productive, look beautiful and enjoy life, then you need to take care of your sleep health.
Alex is the founder of Bodyketosis, an author, low-carb enthusiast, and a recovering chubby guy who reclaimed his health using the ketogenic lifestyle. The need for the keto life began after his aunt and cousin were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and he was next in line. Through personal experience and extensive scientific research, Alex offers insightful tips for everything keto.