Whether they want to lose weight, gain muscle, improve their health or boost their energy, many people follow a diet to achieve their goals. But is there a diet specifically designed for better sleep?
The ketogenic (keto) and paleolithic (paleo) diets have been in vogue for a number of years now, and dietitians in the U.S. predict they will remain popular in 2021. These diets encourage higher intake of protein and fatty acids, and lower intake of carbohydrates. Before demystifying the impact of these diets on our sleep, let’s take a closer look at their specifics.
What’s the keto diet?
We call it the keto (short for “ketogenic”) diet because it is designed to put the body in a state of ketosis, i.e. where it lacks access to carbohydrates and turns to using body fat as a source of energy. To achieve this, keto enthusiasts consume mostly fatty acids, as well as protein in smaller quantities, restricting their carbohydrates to a minimum.
The diet of a keto follower most often looks like this:
75% fatty acids, 20% protein, 5% carbohydrates
Foods to include in a keto diet:
Foods to avoid in a keto diet:
Nearly all fruit
Potential benefits of the keto diet
While many people opt for the keto diet to lose weight, this dies was first used around 1920 to treat epilepsy. A low-carbohydrate keto diet prompts the body to produce ketone bodies. A high protein intake, combined with the production of ketones, affects satiety and appetite reduction, which can result in weight loss.
In a recent meta-analysis, a decrease in blood triglycerides, an increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and improved control of blood glucose levels were observed in diabetic patients. However, LDL (bad cholesterol) also increased. Another meta-analysis found a decrease in LDL in people who followed a keto diet rich in unsaturated fats. Although it may be more difficult to follow a keto diet that includes little saturated fat, a focus on eating sources of fat such as fish, nuts, olives, and avocados can only be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Paleo derives from “paleolithic,” which was the earliest period of human prehistory. According to the paleo diet, we eat what our ancestors ate. The idea is to go back to basics and eat whole, unprocessed foods.
Although the paleo diet does not recommend percentages for macronutrients, the majority of people who follow this diet tend to consume less carbohydrates, most of which come from fruit and vegetables.
Foods to include in a paleo diet:
Vegetables (including root vegetables and tubers)
Vegetable oils from fruits or nuts
Foods to avoid in a paleo diet:
Potential benefits of the paleo diet
Just like the keto diet, the paleo diet is very popular for losing weight. Studies have also shown that this diet can improve glycemic levels and insulin sensitivity, making it an excellent choice for diabetics.
By removing processed foods and salt, we can expect a positive impact on cardiovascular health. A number of studies report a positive impact on waist circumference, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Because nutrition and sleep are both complex systems, it is very difficult to conduct studies that can identify the best foods to promote quality sleep. However, most studies show that overeating or eating shortly before bedtime is detrimental to sleep quality. Two habits to change for a better night’s sleep!
Carbohydrates and sleep
For a good night’s sleep, it appears that the quality of the carbohydrates is more important than the quantity. Diets that include healthy sources of fiber-rich carbohydrates seem to help improve sleep.
While carbohydrates are practically non-existent in the keto diet, they are found in the paleo diet. These carbohydrates are high in fibre (tubers and fruit), as all sources of refined sugar and processed products have been removed.
The delay between consuming carbohydrates and going to bed also influences quality of sleep. The longer you wait, the better your sleep will be.
Fatty acids and sleep
Fatty acids make up about 75% of the total diet of a keto follower.
Researchers disagree on the effects of fatty acid intake on sleep. Some studies show a positive impact, while others show that high-fat diets lead to sleep disorders. 
Animal fats are almost exclusively saturated fats. They make up the bulk of the keto diet. Although not many studies exist on the topic, researchers who have looked into the question have shown that consuming saturated fats has an adverse effect on quality of sleep. It is thought to cause people to wake up more often during the night and spend less time asleep. 
Protein and sleep
Consuming protein increases the amount of tyrosine in the body, which triggers the production of stress hormones. These hormones can prevent you from sleeping or staying asleep.
Similar to the question of consuming fatty acids, researchers disagree on the effects of protein-rich diets on sleep. While some studies have shown that people who follow these diets sleep longer, have more regular sleep cycles  and a better quality of sleep, other studies have shown that people sleep for shorter periods.
Listening to your body
Each person is different and reacts differently to macronutrients. As a result, there is no one diet that is best for everyone, whether you want to sleep better or improve your health.
If you choose to make changes to your diet, keep in mind that your body will need some time to adapt, and this adjustment may also affect your sleep.
It is important to note that the benefits of dieting vary from one person to the next. Also, cutting out food groups can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. When changing lifestyle habits, it is advisable to consult a recognized professional such as a nutritionist. You should also inform your doctor and pharmacist, because cutting out all carbohydrates can have serious consequences if you are diabetic.
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