We all know that sleep is vital. But there are so many factors which can affect how much sleep we get and how good that sleep really is. Some of those factors can be controlled, such as setting a good bedtime routine, avoiding screens in the bedroom, and keeping your sleeping environment comfortable.
But there are lots of other things that can influence our ability to get a good night’s rest. And you might be surprised to learn that your microbiome gut health is one of them.
Why is Sleep so Important?
You know that it is, but it’s worth understanding just why sleep is so critical for our health. When we sleep, the body works to repair and restore itself. When we don’t get enough sleep, every system in the body can be impacted and we can struggle to concentrate, react, and process information. Too little sleep also puts us at greater risk of certain diseases and cardiovascular problems.
How is Gut Health linked to my Sleep?
Research suggests that not only can your gut health have a big impact on your sleep, but it also works the other way too. Your gut microbiome – the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria living in your gut – has been linked to how well you sleep. The balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep and studies have shown that by altering your gut health, you can also improve your sleep.
A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your digestive health, putting you at greater risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and gastrointestinal diseases, as well as influencing your diet, increasing cravings for foods with quick release energy, such as sugary treats.
How your brain and Microbiome are linked.
Your gut and your brain are linked by the vagus nerve, a connection which allows two-way communication, sending signals both ways to influence mood, sleep, appetite, and stress levels among other factors.
There are three main ways that your gut microbiome and your brain can influence each other:
- Through the vagus nerve, which connects your gut directly to your brain.
- Through interacting with the immune system.
- By regulating the production of neurotransmitters, like serotonin.
How can gut health affect sleep?
Researchers are finding more evidence about the link between the gut microbiome and how well you sleep. One study analysed samples of participants’ gut bacteria, and then tracked their sleep over 30 days. The findings showed that participants with greater microbiome diversity enjoyed longer and better sleep. Another study has looked at the link between gut bacteria, sleep, and levels of the happy hormone serotonin, which helps to regulate our sleep cycle.
Researchers looked at mice that had been exposed to antibiotics and had their gut bacteria reduced. It was discovered that they had lower levels of serotonin and poor sleep cycles, suggesting a key link between a healthy gut and healthy sleep.
Conversely, how can lack of sleep can affect gut health?
We’ve seen that an unhappy gut can lead to poor sleep, but what about the other way around. Can a lack of sleep lead to a gut imbalance? It’s been noted that people who go to bed earlier and sleep longer have better blood sugar control after eating their first meal the next morning and are less likely to experience major dips in their blood sugar throughout the day. These blood sugar dips can lead to increased appetite and eating more processed foods, which can have negative effects on your gut health, perpetuating an unhealthy cycle.
Can I improve my gut health and my sleep?
When looking to improve your gut health and the quality of your sleep, it can feel a little like ‘chicken or the egg’ when deciding where to start. The two issues can be closely linked but that means that by tackling one, it’s likely you’ll have a good impact on the other.
Eating a good diet, rich in fibre, fresh vegetables, probiotics, and protein is a good place to start. With a good diet which fuels and replenishes your body, while nourishing the gut, your microbiome has a chance to do its work more effectively, in turn encouraging the healthy function of other systems throughout your body, including mood regulation and sleep.
To improve the gut microbiome, you need to understand the bacteria that are flourishing, or struggling and what you need to increase or reduce in order to better balance your gut and get it working optimally. The Blue Horizon Gut Microbiome Test and resulting personal report can help achieve this.