Friday, 27 April 2012

Insomnia & Ketosis revisited

Sleepiness after a meal or postprandial somnolence as its called, is interesting. I have always lamented at how if I could just get that deep sleepiness feeling right when im suppose to go to bed, things would be ssooooo fucking awesome!

Everyone knows that "carby" meals make you sleepy, but it doesnt work with 100% consistency. Sometimes carby meals dont have any affect on me at all. What I have noticed is that usually for a meal to make me sleepy, it needs to be 1) large & carby , and 2) the first meal of the day, breaking an extended fast.

Theres been a number of studies showing that exercise in the morning helps one sleep at night. And theres an interesting thing on that wikipedia article about the large neutral amino acid transporter. Wikipedia says that one of the possible explanations for postprandial somnolence is insulin stimulating BCAA uptake into skeletal muscle, but NOT tryptophan, thereby leaving tryptophan as the more abundant amino acid in the blood, giving it exclusive access to the transporter. ( apparently under basal conditions all the amino acids 'compete' for transport into the brain )

The result of more insulin is more tryptophan into the brain -> more seretonin -> more melatonin in the brain.

During my "socially defiant" days when im doing a more high-carb diet, I notice that I sleep much more deeper and longer than compared to when im on ketosis and lowcarbing. Also, now and then, I watch some of durianriders videos for a good laugh, and one thing he boasts often about is how he gets 12hrs of sleep at night followed by some gibberish mumble that "carbs = brain seretonin". Another thing that durianrider is fanatic about is dates. I couldnt help but notice wikipedia has this little gem on its tryptophan page "It is particularly plentiful in dried dates"


This could all be rubbish as im speculating here, but when lowcarbing, the only time you spike insulin is with protein heavy meals. But heres the crux, during such a meal, you also spike plasma amino acids. So when lowcarbing, you always spike insulin and plasma BCAA together, thereby never giving tryptophan a selective advantage at getting into the brain via the large neutral amino acid transporter.

Besides, how exactly does tryptophan get into the brain anyway?

What if the large neutral amino acid transporter is the only way it can get in?

Does that mean on a lowcarb diet, tryptophan is ALWAYS fighting with the other amino acids for entry, because your always spiking insulin and plasma amino acids simultaneously? Is it even worse if your never exercising and never making your muscles more insulin sensitive?

Here is exactly where the exercise anecdote comes in, exercise makes your muscle insulin sensitive, and insulin only drives tryptophan's competitors into muscle, not tryptophan itself! This explains why exercise in the morning is affective for sleep, because if you exercise in the morning, its generally before any food intake. So if you exercise in the morning, you get insulin sensitive muscles ready for the next meal to suck up all those serum BCAA, leaving tryptophan alone in the blood to enter the brain uninhibited.

Ofcourse, exercise need not be necessary, the other spin-off to this argument is that while lowcarbing, it might be good now and then to spike insulin without spiking plasma amino acids. And what better way to do this than a bag of dried dates? ( since dried dates are a good source of tryptophan ). Another good thing about dates is that they do not contain any starch, its mostly more complex carbs like sucrose/fructose, so the assault on your blood sugar will be more timid.

So heres my conclusion, if your lowcarbing and having difficulty sleeping, try having a bag of dried dates now and then, have them ON THIER OWN, not with any other food. Dried dates are not hyper-palatable, I can usually only get through about 130grams ( 88g carbs ) of them before my body tell me "hey fat dude, thats enough!" and I push the bag away. And im usually a big eater aswell.


  1. Hi kindke,
    I will give you my n=1 on this issue.

    1) Insomnia and ketosis only correlates with weight loss for me. If I am being a big fatso and eating so much dietary fat that I gain weight, I have no problems sleeping. I have been sleeping fabulously the past few weeks specifically because I have been eating enough to gain weight. My ketosis is positive and I have been eating 30-40 carbs daily.

    If I eat 100 carbs but only 1400 cals I can't sleep.

    The issue seems to be primarily weight loss related and it is probably a function of elevated stress response to respond to nutritional deficiency.

    SSupporting this is the fact I can't sleep when progesterone is very high and progesterone in my body converts to cortisol. I also fail to sleep under intense psychogenic stress.

    2) If I eat a ton of protein, I will get sleepy. I will also have signs of higher insulin like blood sugar swings and weight gain.

    3) If the dates are working for you, good ... but please be aware of your history to jump off and on low carb. This may be the first step to a long term mistake. There are many better ways to handle this issue like eating most of your calories before sleep (like I do)... taking a temporary break from weight loss and intentionally allowing yourself to eat tons and tons of fatty food... or my favorite supplementing 5-htp at night which handily takes care of the lack of serotonin and melatonin from stress/starvation.

  2. :D

    i think my lowcarb oscillating is mostly driven by sleep deprivation. I work a pretty tough shift pattern, its 7am to 7pm for 2 days then 7pm to 7am for 2 nights, followed by 3.5 days off. The job itself is not especially stressful but its incredibly fatiguing as I work in a data-centre and I easily walk over 5+ miles every shift through the computer rooms.

    It doesnt help that I wasnt given any medical advice when I started my job on how to manage such a disruptive work pattern.

    I tried 5HTP quite alot but ive never had much success with it which is really strange as melatonin works but it seems to make me gain weight.

    Then again, perhaps it is about calories, as I recall very high calorie lowcarb meals will make me sleepy despite not containing significant carbs. Eating high protein will not make me gain weight at all but it certainly stops weight loss.

    Sleep is like one of those things, if your getting it well you just carry on with life and dont give a shit, but when your getting bad sleep it completely fucks you over and NOTHING else matters.

  3. That job situation sounds there any reason they make you constantly shift between days and nights or is it done specifically to breakdown employees and drive them to insanity? At least cops only have to switch every few weeks. I would find new employment asap there is noway to sleep normally like that and I bet if you did get a new job you would find your weight and health would improve really fast. Even a night job would be a step up here because at least you could adapt to sleeping in the day.

    I agree entirely regarding your feelings of sleep. I hope you can find a solution soon . Sorry if my previous post sounded too arrogant forward or bossy I didnt mean it in that way.