• The Sound Sleeper

What does sleep have to do with gut health?

The effect of gut health on a wide variety of biologic processes has been identified in recent years. We’ve seen a relationship between the microorganisms in our gut and stress, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other conditions.

It’s not a big surprise then that sleep — which is linked to all of those issues — also has a connection to gut health.

What's living in your gut?

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract hosts a population of microorganisms called the gut microbiota, which play a complex role in our health. When the trillions of microbes that make up the gut microbiota are out of balance, inflammation occurs. And an increased level of inflammation is directly linked to ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal pain.

A good night’s sleep allows your gut to recover from that day’s metabolic activity. Sleep deprivation — whether caused by inadequate duration, fragmented quality or altered timing — leads to inflammation. And inflammation plays a role in the most common chronic conditions — from asthma to diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

In addition, poor sleep increases stress-related hormones and messenger chemicals that can alter the gut microbiome, leading to stress, anxiety and depression as well as lowered immunity.

Scientists believe there is a reciprocal relationship between the gut’s microbiome and our internal clock known as our circadian rhythm, though much remains to be uncovered regarding that link.

How can you support your gut health?

Fortunately, the same advice applies that you’d get to improve your overall diet: avoid a diet low in fiber and high in simple carbohydrates like processed sugars. Instead, follow a healthy diet, which can still include carbohydrates, but complex ones such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes and nuts.

And make sure you get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

For more on healthy eating, check out Eating habits that may be slowing you down and Time your meals and your body will thank you.

Sources: Kaczmarek, J et al. (2017) Complex interactions of circadian rhythms, eating behaviors, and the gastrointestinal microbiota and their potential impact on health, Nutrition Reviews; Karl, JP et al. (2018) Effects of psychological, environmental and physical stressors on the gut microbiota, Frontiers in Microbiology; Liu, Z et al. (2020) Acute sleep-wake cycle shift results in community alteration of human gut microbiome, mSphere; Messaoudi MM et al. (2011) Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects, British Journal of Nutrition.

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