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Anyone getting less sleep on a paleo diet?

by (80)
Updated about 17 hours ago
Created March 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

I'm not sleeping as soundly as I used to before starting the paleo diet. I wake up as early as 4:30 in the morning, though I usually can go back to sleep. Anyone else notice sleep disturbances?

8a525a942a37c3faf3d7ee524e64e57d
0 · June 21, 2014 at 10:57 PM

Very interesting post! I have always had 'segmented sleep', as did my father. We use it to quietly read in bed. However, my mother, who used sleeping pills, thought it was unnatural and tried to feed me sleeping pills from childhood onwards, to 'help' me get a full night's sleep! Thank God I could be disobedient at times...

C2500964e298bdb23a1ee945f5c49ca0
0 · May 10, 2014 at 11:55 PM

Hi.

I'm also having sleeping issues. But it's not bimodal. It's really going from 8 to 4 hours of sleep and waiking up as good as if I had had like 10 hours of sleep. This can't be normal or healthy.

This is my first problem since I went paleo 4 months ago. I haven't experienced any symptons at all at the begining and I did it cold turkey.

But now this sleeping disorder is freaking me out.

29518a2572c5fe3a851170a9b1c315f3
1169 · March 31, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Do you exercise? for me 3 times a week with hard exercise helps my sleeping quality.

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439 · March 31, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Do you eat low-carb? The same happened to me on low carb autoimmune Paleo. As with Bruno, consistent Peat eating helped me. Only high starch (not fruit) helped some, but not as much as adding fruits and more diary.

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1026 · March 31, 2012 at 11:56 AM

My sleep didn't improve either, until I used Ray Peat's principles. Since eating loads of fruit, taking a bit more calcium and eating lots of gelatin I wake up not more than once, immediately fall asleep again and always get up between 7 and 8 am (used to be after 9). Magnesium doesn't do that much for me.

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4258 · January 27, 2012 at 2:56 PM

I love that paleo lifestyle justifies my desire to nap. Or getting up in the middle of the night to write.

87b7d250ea30415ed4c1afd809f4053f
968 · January 27, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Well there you go, learn something new everyday, very interesting

8cbb06eb84dad8d2db56fcc4d8bdc0ba
333 · November 25, 2011 at 6:46 AM

I am the same way, I have developed severe sleep problems, hard time falling asleep, waking up at night since Paleo, I supplement with Natural Calm Magnesium as well!

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1033 · April 15, 2011 at 12:26 PM

great post Louisa

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295 · August 05, 2010 at 12:20 AM

Add me to the better sleep list, it's almost TOO regular. Usually fall asleep between 10-10.30, wake up between 6-6.30. Plus I don't need an alarm clock. Regular exercise seemed to help a lot as well.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13
10497 · August 04, 2010 at 11:53 PM

I think this is a very clever troll.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13
10497 · August 04, 2010 at 11:50 PM

@Louisa -- I am not convinced that the bi-modal sleeping pattern is actually natural, healthy or desirable. Take a look at Seth Robert's take on the matter here: http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2010/07/24/whats-natural-sleep-more/

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56596 · August 04, 2010 at 11:42 PM

geez, the total opposite of my experience...

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · August 04, 2010 at 11:19 PM

I'm on paleo for health not sleep... Paleo is not panacea, nor Is it instantaneous... Best of luck, 99.6% of people are gluten sensitive to some degree , hope you are in the 0.04% for your sake

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321
1973 · August 04, 2010 at 11:05 PM

One thing to consider is that gluten proteins you've added back into your diet have opioid like effects (exorphins). Insomnia is a symptom of opioid withdrawl.

F8fa4b0809d3b74fcf0361c0d53b60c1
911 · August 04, 2010 at 10:41 PM

I admit that I am surprised you could come and post on PaleoHacks after finding that the diet didn't work out for you. This is also a valuable chance for us to learn why it didn't work, if you'll share more details with us. What were you eating, and how much?

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1219 · March 23, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Very interesting!!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 23, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Yeah, my sleep is also very er "normal." I hit the pillow and sleep. No bimodel stuff for me, but I also haven't managed to get my city apartment pitch black.

9e621c9cf0a36b4034a3d6e7cfc4e1f4
221 · March 23, 2010 at 5:33 AM

I wouldn't say it's worse -- but it certainly hasn't gotten any BETTER. I usually have trouble falling asleep, and then wake 5-6 times a night. Frustrating how so many people seem to find the paleo diet vastly improves their sleep. I'm interested to see what others have to say on this.

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17 Answers

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2
29
7063 · March 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM

This pattern of sleep is called 'bimodal' or segmented sleep - this way of sleeping has been documented as the 'normal' sleep pattern of pre-industrialized societies, i.e. before electric lighting was invented. Typically, the body reverts to it after a week or so of going to bed when it gets dark and sleeping in pitch black all night (except for the three nights around the full moon).

Although it has not been documented, a paleo/primal diet may also help move the body back into a segmented sleeping pattern and you may find that this is what your body is trying to do, although, 4.30 a.m. sounds as if it is not quite there yet.

Bimodal sleep is composed of two periods of sleep during the night, with a wakeful (or half wakeful) hour or two in the middle. In medieval England, the first (or dead) sleep and the second (or morning) sleep was well-known and the wakefulness in between (named dorveille ??? meaning ???twixt sleep and wake ??? in French) was highly valued for its meditative and semi-dreamstate qualities. This was the time of quiet conversation, love-making or dream interpretation and soothsaying; a period of deep contemplation that we, with our electric lighting and 24-hour lives have all but lost.

Until the modern era, up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness midway through the night interrupted the rest of most Western Europeans, not just napping shepherds and slumbering woodsmen. Families rose from their beds to urinate, smoke tobacco, and even visit close neighbors. Remaining abed, many persons also made love, prayed, and, most important, reflected on the dreams that typically preceded waking from their ???first sleep.??? Not only were these visions unusually vivid, but their images would have intruded far less on conscious thought had sleepers not stirred until dawn...... ......In addition to suggesting that consolidated sleep, such as we today experience, is unnatural, segmented slumber afforded the unconscious an expanded avenue to the waking world that has remained closed for most of the Industrial Age.

`Sleep We Have Lost??? by A. Roger Ekirch

So, to answer your question, you maybe feeling that you are not sleeping so well, but you should not feel any worse the wear for it, your body is probably trying to get back into its natural rhythm of two 'sleeps' per night, but - if you are still using electric lighting in the evening - cannot quite manage it. I would suggest using candlelight after dark, if it is at all possible, F.lux on your computer or just go to bed and wake earlier....(there is another paleohacks post about this subject) in fact, you will find that this maybe a chance to use a couple of hours during the night for meditation or something similar ;)

Here is another fascinating account of hunter/gatherer sleeping habits; studies on segmented sleep are cited in the last section (with this quotation from psychiatrist Thomas A. Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Md. who conducted the studies in 1993: "A natural human sleep pattern may reassert itself in an unwelcome world and get labeled as a disorder").

8a525a942a37c3faf3d7ee524e64e57d
0 · June 21, 2014 at 10:57 PM

Very interesting post! I have always had 'segmented sleep', as did my father. We use it to quietly read in bed. However, my mother, who used sleeping pills, thought it was unnatural and tried to feed me sleeping pills from childhood onwards, to 'help' me get a full night's sleep! Thank God I could be disobedient at times...

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c
4258 · January 27, 2012 at 2:56 PM

I love that paleo lifestyle justifies my desire to nap. Or getting up in the middle of the night to write.

87b7d250ea30415ed4c1afd809f4053f
968 · January 27, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Well there you go, learn something new everyday, very interesting

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791
1033 · April 15, 2011 at 12:26 PM

great post Louisa

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13
10497 · August 04, 2010 at 11:50 PM

@Louisa -- I am not convinced that the bi-modal sleeping pattern is actually natural, healthy or desirable. Take a look at Seth Robert's take on the matter here: http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2010/07/24/whats-natural-sleep-more/

15d23403fb836f2b506f4f3ad2c03356
1219 · March 23, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Very interesting!!

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2
307 · March 23, 2010 at 4:33 PM

I understand what you mean. I read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival and it lead me to going to bed within an hour of sundown.

After several weeks, I began to wake during the night, but always fell back to sleep rather easily after some time passed. Now I routinely wake up at sunrise.

I believe the answer by Louisa to be true. I get a net sleep of around 9 to 10 hours, awake in the night maybe an hour or two, but feel great during the day. I begin to get tired after sundown if I cut the electricity after dark.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13
2
10497 · March 23, 2010 at 6:40 AM

Interesting. My sleep has massively improved on Paleo. It was, I think, cutting out the wheat/gluten that did it for me. Pre-paleo I used to have racing thoughts and could not fall asleep until 4am -- now I can actually lay down fall asleep around 10pm and wake up at 7am.

35deb6722604c868c610088a6d8ce09e
295 · August 05, 2010 at 12:20 AM

Add me to the better sleep list, it's almost TOO regular. Usually fall asleep between 10-10.30, wake up between 6-6.30. Plus I don't need an alarm clock. Regular exercise seemed to help a lot as well.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 23, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Yeah, my sleep is also very er "normal." I hit the pillow and sleep. No bimodel stuff for me, but I also haven't managed to get my city apartment pitch black.

B4c4c244c6c4ec96e706cf29509dc31a
1
10 · January 27, 2012 at 2:22 PM

I used to be a very sound sleeper and now I wake up a lot during the night....its a very restless sleep. However, I wake up easier (without an alarm) and don't feel tired at all. I fall asleep around 10-10:30 and usually sleep soundly for 2-3 hours. I then toss and turn a lot until I wake up around 6:30. Again, I actually feel much more awake though.

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10294 · March 23, 2010 at 6:19 PM

I have always slept very good, before and after going paleo. But a few months ago my sleep pattern changed (subjectively it felt worse) and I generally felt a bit less (that's a bit less that superb though).

After thinking for a while I thought it could be to the cod-liver oil I recently started taking, and maybe a bit too much, especially because I probably already had a good Vit A intake (butter). I stopped taking the CLO, and my sleep returned.

As always, with these little selfexperiments, it is dangerous to be fooled by randomness, or be fooled by other factors that are unknown...

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0 · June 23, 2014 at 5:59 AM

Not exactly but you can say it has really helped in improving my sleep. I don’t feel tired now. Paleo Diet has helped me in reducing inflammation within the body as a result of eliminating grains, sugar processed food etc. Also adopting fresh fruits healthy fats, meats with moderate nuts. Naturally occurring food by adopting paleo diet has helped me in preventing sleep apnea.

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60 · May 12, 2014 at 6:32 AM

This may be due to high intensity workout or exercise you may be doing. High intensity workout is a form of stress. During stress adrenal stress hormones and neurotransmitters get off their Circadian rythyms. This causes Cortisol to rises when it should actually fall which messes up the sleep cycle.

Try some of the tips this may help you:

Avoiding sugar in the evenings helps in some conditions.

Caffeine and alcohol if avoided also helps a lot

Do not eat atleast 2 hours before going to bed

4b5720aa3c30630e0d634b41de41bc26
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0 · March 31, 2012 at 11:39 AM

User this is an old post but I'm wondering if anyone is still having sleep problems. I am 2 months in to my paleo eating and waking early (3-4, occasionally even 1-2) has been happening almost every night. Sometimes I can't go back to sleep for several hours and once in a while not at all! Unfortunately, I suffer through the day for it. I feel tired! Anyone else with this trouble?

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22913 · August 04, 2010 at 11:16 PM

My sleep is poor and hasn't improved, but 100 other things have, so I'm happy... I'd love to find the source of my bad sleep

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16 · August 04, 2010 at 9:31 PM

Insomnia is the main reason why I decided to quit the Paleo/Primal Diet after 3 months. There were many other reasons, but after a 2 week run of insomnia recently, I decided to add starches, grains, and legumes back to my diet. I've been sleeping like a baby ever since and feeling more energetic. By the way, I'm 5 feet 6 inches and 125 pounds. I am not out of shape nor am I unhealthy, but I was starting to get that way on the Paleo Diet. Restrictive diets/fad diets never live up to their hype. Oops, sorry guys, Paleo/Primal isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle, right?

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13
10497 · August 04, 2010 at 11:53 PM

I think this is a very clever troll.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · August 04, 2010 at 11:42 PM

geez, the total opposite of my experience...

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1
22913 · August 04, 2010 at 11:19 PM

I'm on paleo for health not sleep... Paleo is not panacea, nor Is it instantaneous... Best of luck, 99.6% of people are gluten sensitive to some degree , hope you are in the 0.04% for your sake

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321
1973 · August 04, 2010 at 11:05 PM

One thing to consider is that gluten proteins you've added back into your diet have opioid like effects (exorphins). Insomnia is a symptom of opioid withdrawl.

F8fa4b0809d3b74fcf0361c0d53b60c1
911 · August 04, 2010 at 10:41 PM

I admit that I am surprised you could come and post on PaleoHacks after finding that the diet didn't work out for you. This is also a valuable chance for us to learn why it didn't work, if you'll share more details with us. What were you eating, and how much?

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649 · April 13, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I needed less sleep after switching to paleo. Perhaps you do, too-- if you only need 6 hours, laying down for 8 will make it seem like you're not sleeping well.

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1219 · March 23, 2010 at 5:07 PM

This has been my experience too. I sleep deeply for a few hours and wake up in the mid-morning always. Thenceforth, I have light sleep replete with non-REM dreams (they feel more like day dreams and are not like living an experience, which is how REM dreams feel for me). Very interested in the bimodal sleep idea presented above...

I am fine with my reduced sleep since I feel more rested than I did before, even though I estimate I am getting only 3-4 hours of deep sleep and 2-3 hours of light sleep per night, with an average of about 6 total hours of sleep per night. I sleep in pitch blackness and give myself about 8-9 hours to rest, though, as stated, I cant seem to use it all.

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9948 · March 23, 2010 at 3:16 PM

I have recently found that I sleep very soundly all night if I have a hot sit down bath about 9pm, and then crawl into bed. No more bimodal sleep for me.

The other thing that has helped trememdously is supplementation with a small amount of plant sterols to control an enlarged prostate gland. This product http://www.vitacost.com/Source-Naturals-Beta-Sitosterol-Mega-Strength

Just a half a caplet twice a week prevents wake up to urinate for me.

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2517 · March 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM

I've found that from losing much weight (I'm right around the 30 lb. mark) since starting Paleo and exercising, my snoring has dropped off to being non-existant. So not only do I sleep better, so does my wife. :)

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78407 · March 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

Not eating wheat makes my acid reflux better, thereby aiding sleep. I sleep well if I keep all light out of my eyes by using a sleep mask.

I wake up with two puppies pounding on the bed just now, so have no idea how long I would last without that wakeup call!

I find my sleep rhythm is different in winter and summer- summer I sleep less and in winter weather (especially heavy rain) I sleep more.

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510 · March 23, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Since years paleo my sleep depends totally on sunlight. Means in winter more and summer less time in bed. Also sleep deepness is less in summer. Which means often tired around 10pm, wake ups at 2am and absolutely wide awaken by 4am. Heavy disturbances with full moon. As long one awakes refreshed I would not worry about. It´s just primeval.

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4089 · March 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM

My sleep has also improved since I went Paleo. I have no trouble getting to sleep now, and I am bouncing awake instead of dragging myself out of bed.

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