It is 3:00 in the Morning and my Brain is Going Wild
Why Can’t I Sleep?
It is 3:00 AM and I am wide awake after about four hours of sleep. I mean I am WIDE AWAKE. I feel totally rested and my brain is going a mile a minute. I feel really good and I want to write, but everybody else in the house is asleep; my son is sleeping, the cats are sleeping and even the fish and the bird are sleeping. But I can’t sleep!
Here I am wide awake and full of ideas. What is happening to me? I am in the fourth day of a pure water fast and I am not the slightest bit hungry. Deprived of the glucose from the pounds of watermelon I was eating only a few days ago I think I might be buzzed on KETONES. What is going on here?
To understand a little better about what is going on it might be useful to discuss water fasting, ketosis and brain functioning. Remember in the article I wrote, Raising Intelligence, I said that Einstein used to fast to gain greater mental clarity. Am I awake at 3:00 AM because of an Einstein brain buzz?
Over about two and a half million years of evolutionary history we developed the big brains that gave us a tremendous evolutionary advantage over all other animals on the face of the planet; our big brains made us a lot smarter. But there was a trade off; our big brains needed a lot of energy. In fact our big brains that only take up about 2% of our body weight take up about 20 percent of the energy we use in any given day. Putting it another way, pound for pound, my brain right now that is writing this article may be using 10 times the energy I would be using if I were running, walking or washing my car. The evolutionary tradeoff for having big brains was that if we were going to be smart we were going to have to feed those big brains with a lot of energy.
In my article on ketosis, I discussed how the body can use ketones rather than glucose for energy. In fact over our two and a half million years of evolutionary history we probably have used ketones more for energy than we have glucose. Remember, humans went 2.5 million years without grains, legumes, or sugary fruit. The diet our ancient ancestors ate was mostly lots of low carbohydrate vegetable matter and zero carbohydrate meat with some occasional nuts, berries and eggs thrown in.
Regrettably for our bodies and our waistlines our modern diet has switched from a diet that used low-glycemic foods and promoted a great deal of ketone production to a very high carbohydrate diet rich in sugar that virtually shuts down all ketone production and depends almost totally on glucose metabolism.
The average American consumes a huge 400 grams of carbohydrate per day. This carbohydrate overload is a disaster for our health and can burn out cells, including brain cells, and can lead to poor glucose metabolism, diabetes and obesity. It causes an insulin roller coaster forcing brain cells to become insulin resistant and thereby starved for needed energy. In fact it causes carbohydrate brain fog.
So why am I wide awake at 3:00 AM on the fourth day of my water fast feeling like my brain is running on steroids? Because it IS running on steroids except the steroids are really ketones. Ketones are what our brains prefer for energy and this preference has been developed during two and a half million years of evolutionary history. For our brains ketones are more efficient than glucose. And the reason that I am up after only four hours of sleep is that my body and brain has gotten all the sleep it needs due to this ketone efficiency.
One of the great advantages of water fasting, as opposed to “100% carbohydrate juice fasting”, is that it switches our insulin resistant brains and bodies over to relying on ketones for energy rather than glucose. The result is that we get more energy to our brains, our metabolisms become more efficient, and our thinking becomes clearer. It is not unhealthy that I can’t sleep. Fasting forces us to connect with the metabolism our bodies have known for nearly two and a half million years.