The Connection Between Sleep and Gut Health
By now, you've probably seen the topic of gut health covered across social media, magazines, and even our very own Journal. We know that there are a few specific signs to pay attention to that signal to us that it's time to take action such as bloating, abdominal pain and a loss in concentration, but because sleep is our favourite thing to do and we're passionate about everyone sleeping like a baby every night, we wanted to delve a little bit deeper into how your gut health can impact your nightly snooze, and what you can do about it.
Inside your gut right now, you have literally trillions of tiny microbes that make up your microbiome—a nervous system commonly referred to as your "second brain". Amongst bacteria, fungi and viruses also take up residence inside your gut and help to regulate hormone production, your appetite and digestion, to name a few. The nervous system found in your microbiome is in constant communication with your brain and is the reason for its nickname. Scientists have been studying the human gut for decades and have found that the microbiome found in the intestines is surprisingly able to influence how we deal with stress and how we feel each day. Even more so, your gut health has been shown to directly link to your sleeping habits, meaning the more healthy your gut function the better your rest will be.
It's a two-way street
While we're specifically talking about sleep in terms of your gut health here, it's worth noting that there are countless other factors that can play a role in keeping you awake at night, from jetlag to too much caffeine that day. You might think that a couple of restless nights won't impact your health at all, but you'd actually be incorrect. Just a small loss or change in sleep can have quite a significant impact on the composition of your internal microbiome, with a study conducted over two nights showing that the tested patients had a decrease in the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut after being deprived of sleep. It turns out that a healthy sleep routine is not only important to keep you feeling alert and energised, but hidden processes in your body actually rely on rest as well.
Sleep, depression and the gut
Gut specialist and geneticist Tim Spector has been researching the microbes in the gut of people who experience depression and also those who suffer from poor sleep. The findings? Both groups of people have abnormal microbes in their gut, which means that sleep, depression and the gut are all linked in some way. The good news is that studies have also shown that by helping a person to overcome sleep issues and achieve a functioning sleep routine has shown to alleviate symptoms of depression which in turn can ease unpleasant side effects of a gut in distress.
How to support your gut and sleep
1. Exercise everyday
Regular exercise has been proven as a way to positively change the amount and quality of your gut's microbiome. It's also a great way to alleviate stress and tire your body out so that you're ready to rest.
2. Reduce sugar intake
By consuming excessive amounts of sugar you're more susceptible to increasing the number of bad bacteria in your gut and therefore throwing the balance off. Look out for added sugars in your food, and aim to increase your fibre intake where possible.
3. Keep calm
Of course, this is easier said than done, but by knowing how much worrying and ruminating is actually affecting your physical health might be the push you need to begin to allow yourself to focus on the positives in life.
Waking up feeling blah? Your sleep position might be to blame.