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Why a low carb diet could be causing you sleep problems

  • A low-carb, ketogenic diet can be an effective way to manage weight but may also be a key reason why your sleep patterns have become disrupted, a condition known as ‘keto insomnia’. The links between poor sleep and a diet low in carbohydrates are well established so could your diet actually be harming your weight management goals? 

    In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why a low-carb diet could be causing you sleep problems and offer some tips to help you get a better night's sleep without having to compromise your diet. 

    What is a keto diet? 

    The keto diet focuses on a low carb/high fat intake of food such as eggs, meats, dairy and non-starchy vegetables. Most people adopt the keto diet as a way to lose weight or improve their overall health, reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases. The effects of a keto diet puts your body into a state known as ketosis, a metabolic reaction that occurs when your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. 

    Why do I have trouble sleeping on a keto diet? 

    The relationship between sleep and a low carb diet lies in the body’s production of serotonin and melatonin, the hormones that help to regulate sleep-wake cycles. A carbohydrate-rich diet can boost the production of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps increase serotonin production in the brain which, in turn, is necessary for the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When the body experiences a sharp drop in carb intake, the levels of tryptophan and serotonin start to decrease, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns. 

    Additionally, keto diets are typically high in protein which can stimulate the production of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine, promoting alertness and making it harder to fall asleep. 


    Do all carbohydrates affect sleep? 

    The quality of carbohydrates may play a more significant role than the quantity. Added sugars, starch and non-whole/refined grains tend to have a stronger link to poor sleep quality than complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. 


    Tips for a good night’s sleep while on a low carb diet 

    If you have trouble sleeping on a keto diet, here are some tips that may help: 

    • Increase complex carbohydrates intake 

    Consider including more healthy carbohydrates from whole foods like fruits, vegetable and whole grains in your diet, especially in the evening.  

    • Stay hydrated 

    Dehydration is more common on a low-carb diet, which can contribute to sleep disturbances. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium. 

    • Adjust your protein intake 

    Consuming too much protein close to bedtime can trigger alertness. Try to balance your protein intake throughout the day and avoid large portions in the evening. 

    • Maintain a consistent sleep routine 

    Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed at the same time every evening and avoid screen time and stimulants such as caffeine or heavy exercise close to bedtime. 

    • Avoid alcohol consumption in the evening 

    Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it can significantly disrupt your sleep cycle, making you more likely to wake up during the night and feel lest rested in the morning. 

    Are you struggling to sleep on a low carb diet? 

    The team at LiveWell Dorset know all too well the role a healthy diet and regular sleep patterns play when it comes to our physical and emotional wellbeing. If you’re struggling to sleep, register with us today and one of our LiveWell advisors will be in touch to discuss how you can get a good night’s sleep and still enjoy a low carb diet. We’ve helped thousands of people across Dorset and we’d love to help you too!  

    Further reading 



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