Can't Sleep on Paleo

by (10) Updated February 18, 2014 at 7:18 PM Created June 30, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Hey guys I've looked at many other posts about sleeping, and I've tried a lot of suggestions ( magnesium, tea, gaba) with little success however I feel that my sleep gets worse if I have a day with very low carbs, So I was wondering is carbs help someone sleep? and when should I eat them if so, I am trying to lose weight so I've typically been eating no carbs and it is than I found my problems started. Another thing is when I do fall asleep I wake up extremely early having to pee something that has never happened to me before. Should I eat carbs in morning, Post workout, b4 bed? whats the suggestions


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13 Replies

15964 · June 30, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I am on the carb side of the fence here. I added back nighttime carbs and my sleep is much better for it. I think this strategy works for a few reasons:

Carbs suppress the release of certain blood sugar raising hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These things can cause you to have bad sleep.

Carbs at dinner/night will keep your blood sugar from crashing during sleep, which can raise those stress hormones at some inconvenient hour. Those are the hormones that help wake you in the morning- which hopefully comes 8 hours after you go to bed.

I know it's popular to say carbs aren't essential. I honestly can't understand where this comes from. There are so many "paleo" carbs like potatoes and squash that it seems silly to label them as unhealthy. Natural carbs like potato are one of the highest in potassium. Potassium helps turn glucose into glycogen in the absence of insulin. To compare a potato with bread or some other kind of manufactured carbohydrate containing food is ridiculous.

You can still keep lowish carb and save them all for your dinner - which is what I do. So far so good.

3319 · June 30, 2011 at 3:12 PM

The most powerful sleeping agent is the sun so you have to do a better job of waking up early and starting your clock early. Your biorhythms may require a period of many days before they become synchronized with the sun. But the point is, you will eventually be able to regulate your sleep cycle because we are wired to rise and fall with the sunrise and sunset. Our cells actually use Vitamin D from the sun to help synthesize serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in feeling awake and content. In the absence of Vitamin D/sunshine, we convert serotonin into melatonin.

BTW, if you eat late at night or drink late at night you will pee early. So try not to eat after 7PM.

Force yourself to go outside for a walk in the morning even if you have to start your day earlier to squeeze in this time. The sun will kickstart your clock even though you may feel groggy or tired on the surface. I've tried this and it works great.

Wake early

Walk 15 minutes in morning sun (does not have to be direct sunlight)

Drink Green Tea

Eat a protein-based breakfast. I eat nuts and berries in the morning...or a smoothie.

77348 · June 30, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Mike, many of us have had this experience. Yes, add in plenty more carbs and you should be ok in a couple of days.

20222 · June 30, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Carbs will help you sleep as they stimulate a release of seratonin. Best time is evening, with dinner - a la the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet. PWO is a good time as well, especially if it's an afternoon workout. The trouble I have is that carbs in the morning leads to craving them all day. Generally, a sweet potato with dinner doesn't cause me problems.

0 · February 18, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Are you training before bed? Are you giving yourself down time before bed? What are you eating before bed? whats your liquid consumption throughout the day? how often do you workout (multiple days a week, consecutively)? When beginning my athlete, paleo, crossfit, low carb lifestyle I struggled with the same problem. I was able to modify a few things in my life to improve my sleep. are you taking supplements? there are so many different factors that could contribute to sleeplessness. It may not necessarily be the carbohydrates in your diet. Ive actually lowered my carb intake an have been able to sleep much better, everyone is different thats the beauty. Also, look into stressors in your life that are going increase your cotisol levels. @Mike 12

0 · February 18, 2014 at 6:32 PM

How much fat do you take daily?

0 · February 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM

I have that crazy alert but physically sleepy issue. I can be wiped out, but brain working and I like having energy to get things done!

We need sleep to recover. I notice without, I can do things but I'm clumsy, have lapses in memory, judgement, and perception. Relaxing the brain before bed is necessary if avoiding food tactics to rest.

Don't eat protein before bed....too much for stomach to handle in sluggish state. Avoid eating an hour to two before bed, but I have done 2-3 hrs. Only to wake in the night soooo hungry! That's not good! Carbs aren't banned in paleo....but don't fill up before bed. Have an Apple, or some zootles with sauce, wait an hour and go to bed.

If you hate carbs...go keto. There are plenty of carbs in fruit and veggies. Nutrient combinations may be next step for paleos with problems.

Laurie RN

0 · October 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM

I have reviewed some of the above posts. I have been cutting carbs except for veggies. I had concerns about cutting out veggies & didn't want to become irregular regarding elimination. I am very athletic, love to work out. Three years ago I gained 25 lbs during school (LPN) program. All day in class and 4 hours of home work each night/high stress with big family, also a foster parent at the time. It really brought my exercise habit to a halt. Finished up school and began the next year working at a nursing home where I worked 9 hour days (on my feet) no breaks all day. Ate when I got home. gained another 20 or so over a year. Soooo, I decided enough of this crap. Started taking a lunch break and healthy snacks. Figured the law allowed a lunch break and I would just take one. Healthy choice meals for lunch, things like that. Started working out more consistently. I actually have taught off and on aerobic kickboxing and other classes over the years. Well one year later I am down 25 lbs. Stuck there for months. Intensified my workouts- Still stuck. Eating healthy daily and treats about once a week. So I decided to change things up by cutting carbs except veggies. I am down maybe 2 lbs over a week. I do notice I crave carbs less, still regular with elimination But... I have not been able to sleep at all. I take Melatonin, (normally as needed) - nothing. Tylenol PM and melatonin=nothing. Took Magnesium the last 2 nights. Nothing. Saw above adding some carbs may help. Going to try to have a sweet potatoe tonight before bed. Suggestions? let me know. I am physically exhausted though mentally alert, ...Dianna

11049 · June 30, 2011 at 8:38 PM

I am LC or VLC and have been for years, do not have trouble sleeping. What I find interesting is that some people do seem to get to sleep better with some carbs later in the day, now I wonder if this was selected for in our evolution or is it a result of our modern culture eating primarily SAD.

I have family in northern Canada that basically follow a paleo lifestyle and have so for generations, with little modern food (by choice). they live as close to the way our ancestors (Native Americans) did, hunting, fishing, etc and overall eat very little in the way of carbs. No one there has any sleep issues.

I think modern society has taken us so far away from natural food and sleep that we may not be able to get back to that state. There are a multitude of factors that affect our sleep patterns, so is reaching for carbs late in the day a solution or is it just a band-aid that covers up the underlying cause.

3317 · June 30, 2011 at 8:00 PM

I've been moderately low carb paleo for over a month and I've completely eliminated my alarm clock because even with less sleep, I've been waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed without it. I'm NOT sleeping very well -- going to bed later, waking up earlier -- but the lower carb intake seems to make this more tolerable for some reason. (bear with me, this is going somewhere relevant.)

So yesterday I ate more carbs than I have in ages. I ate a bunch of dates, had several artichokes over the course of the day, and then drank a large cider in the late afternoon. Compared to how I've been eating, my carb intake was through the roof (I blame PMS). I went to bed at my usual time and conked out for almost 10 hours straight! I didn't even stir at my usual wake up time! Since I've been fairly strict and tracking everything (for the paleochix experiment) the only reason I can think of that caused me to sleep so much is the elevated carb intake. Which leads me to believe that yes, at least for myself, carbs are tied with sleep. It's complicated though, I feel like I sleep more because I need more sleep. I woke up feeling exactly like I did pre-paleo, when I woke up groggy every morning.

130 · June 30, 2011 at 3:41 PM

I agree with the last post; no need to add any extra. I experience this when I just consume too much food...as if I just have more energy to burn off.

493 · June 30, 2011 at 3:29 PM


I've tried everything else. Melatonin works.

160 · June 30, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Avoid the damn carbs. Sorry for the emphasis, but I'm tired of ppl saying to go for it (Carbs). We don't need them. The human body can function for over a month in a fasted state (with water of course), so why do we need carbs? It's like telling a coke head or heroin junkie that a little bit will take away the pain. Go without for a week or two, you may even get headaches, but after that, you should be okay.

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