Ketosis and Lack of Sleep

Ketosis Overview

If your body has no more glucose or glycogen, ketosis happens

When the body turns to burning fat it creates molecules called ketones

Ketones are created when the body breaks down fats, creating fatty acids, and burned off in the liver in a process called beta-oxidation

End result of this process is the creation of ketones, which are used as fuel by the muscles and brain

Although glucose is the main source of fuel for most people, fatty acids are used by the brain cells when carbohydrate or food intake is low

In simpler terms, since you have no more glucose or glycogen, ketosis kicks in and your body will use your stored/consumed fat as energy


Insomnia is a difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or a pattern of chronically poor sleep

The condition can be caused by mental states like anxiety or depression, substance abuse, hormonal or lifestyle changes and some medications or illnesses

Dietary factors like caffeine or other stimulants, or changes in diet, can also play a part

Insomnia can often be treated with lifestyle changes like stress reduction, exercise, and quitting caffeine, tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Carbs, Ketosis and Sleep

Carbohydrates are often known as “comfort foods” because of their soothing effects on the body

They provide the body with a steady supply of glucose to keep energy constant, but they also improve entry of the amino acid L-tryptophan into the brain

L-tryptophan contributes to the production of serotonin, which calms the body and helps you sleep

Since ketogenic diets eliminate carbohydrates, this dietary source of L-tryptophan is also eliminated

L-tryptophan supplements have been shown to help some cases of insomnia

Studies have shown that the proportion of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep to total sleep time is significantly reduced during a VLC (very low-carb diet) when compared to a high-carb diet (1,3,4)


Save some or all of your carbs until you go to bed

The carbohydrates will increase insulin, which will allow more tryptophan from the protein to get into the brain and give you a more restful sleep

May also try supplementing tryptophan or melatonin

Additionally, there may be a histamine intolerance

Low carb diets are higher in histamine containing foods, and some people react to higher intake of these foods with anxiety and sleeplessness

Histamine – a chemical found in some of the body’s cells – causes many of the symptoms of allergies.

When a person is allergic to a particular substance, such as a food or dust, the immune system mistakenly believes that this usually harmless substance is actually harmful to the body

In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system starts a chain reaction that prompts some of the body’s cells to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream

Histamine then acts on a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract, causing allergy symptoms (1,4)

Foods high in histamine:

Fermented or smoked Meats/Fish: Sardine, mackerel, herring, tuna

Pickled or canned foods: Sauerkraut, pickles

Fermented milk products: Yogurt, kefir, buttermilk

Antihistamine medications – these help to fight symptoms caused by the release of histamine during an allergic reaction (2)


1) Acute effects of the very low carbohydrate diet on sleep indices. – PubMed – NCBI. (n.d.). Retrieved from

2) Histamine Intolerance-Could it be causing your symptoms? (n.d.). Retrieved from

3) The Ketogenic Diet and Insomnia | LIVESTRONG.COM. (n.d.). Retrieved from

4) Low Carb Diet Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved from