Sleep and Low Carb eating

When people come to see me in clinic, regardless of whether it is for weight loss, stress, or any other issue, if they have trouble with their sleep, I will try to help with that first. 

There are several reasons for this.  

  1. If you are not sleeping well, you will not make good dietary decisions.
  2. Insufficient sleep means that your blood sugar will be dysregulated, affecting mood and energy.
  3. Poor sleep adds to the burden of fatigue during the day, which often leads to increased tendency to snack on high carb foods.
  4. Lack of sleep increases our negative emotional response to stress.

There are many more reasons, but it is easy to see from these, that good quality sleep is of fundamental importance to our ongoing good health.  

Effects of diet upon sleep:

There are obvious dietary effects upon sleep, such as drinking coffee later in the day, which can disrupt our adenosine levels, which stops us from getting drowsy when it is time to sleep.  Other less well understood concerns include eating too much late at night, or eating foods which stimulate the liver, often causing over heating during the night.  Night sweats or hot flushes are already a big disruptor for women with hormonal dysregulation, so it is important to reduce other issues which may add to this burden, such as alcohol, spicy foods, or foods heavy in inflammatory oils. 

One common effect of diet upon sleep is the “carb-coma”.  Anyone who has ever eaten a big bowl of pasta for lunch, then found themselves falling asleep all afternoon will have experienced this, and unfortunately the usual repair to this problem is to dose up with more caffeine and sugar, which just leads to increased rebound blood sugar spike and plummet, leaving you more likely to be exhausted again later.  

What does this mean for those eating low carb diets?  

Eating protein will raise levels of tyrosine (an amino acid), which can trigger the stimulation of adrenaline, which can be stimulating, potentially leading to difficulty with sleep.  This in combination with reduction in carbs can be initially one reason for a change in sleep habits when first starting the low carb eating program.  For this reason, including healthy small levels of complex carbohydrates, such as those included in the Ultra Lite low carb program can be effective to include, especially in the evening meal, to help assist with quality sleep.  

Over time, the decrease in processed foods, simple sugars and carbohydrates will help with blood sugar regulation, allowing for better quality sleep, as well as increased energy through the day.  Increasing exercise is also an effective method of improving quality of sleep, so remembering to find time to exercise most days will support both health weight loss, as well as improve quality of sleep.

One other helpful aspect of the low carb diet is that increased intake of protein has been associated with longer duration of sleep, as well as better quality of sleep and sleep patterns.  

Sleep is important to our ability to retain good health.  Eating a healthy real food low carb diet can help to improve this, from helping with weight loss, which can reduce risk of sleep apnoea, to increasing energy, and supporting genuine deep restorative sleep.  If you are having trouble sleeping, persevere with the low carb eating plan, as your body will adjust within a week or so.  If you continue to find your sleep is disrupted, please speak with me for herbal medicine support, or a magnesium supplement, which may help support you to achieve good long term sleeping habits.  


June 2022.

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