Is Your Gut Health Impacting Your Sleep?
Posted: 27 September 2022
It’s safe to say that most of us have heard about the importance of gut health. From immunity to mental health, the gut has proven to play a vital role in regulating so many aspects of health!
The Gut-Sleep Connection
Is your gut health impacting your sleep?
It’s safe to say that most of us have heard about the importance of gut health. From immunity to mental health, the gut has proven to play a vital role in regulating so many aspects of health! So it should come as no surprise that researchers have discovered a strong link between gut health and the quality of Z’s we catch each night. So let’s dive in.
Good gut bugs matter
The human gut houses over 500 species of bacteria, collectively known as the ‘microbiome’. A healthy microbiome will digest food, keep the immune system in check, protect the body against harmful bacteria, generate mood-regulating neurotransmitters and even produce some vitamins such as B12, B1 and vitamin K! Pretty nifty stuff!
So as you can imagine, it’s pretty damn crucial that we maintain a healthy microbiome. When an imbalance between good and bad bacteria occurs, known as ‘dysbiobis’, we can except bodily functions to go astray and symptoms to arise. This my friends, is where poor sleep can occur. You could say that in some cases, poor sleep may be a symptom of dysbiosis.
It starts with serotonin
Or really, a lack there-of. Serotonin is our ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter and we know around 90% of serotonin is produced by good gut bacteria (fascinating!). It’s also a must-have for sleep, particularly as it shares a relationship with melatonin, our sleepy-time hormone.
So if you’ve already predicted, studies have shown that without a diverse abundance of good gut bugs, you may not produce a substantial amount of serotonin. This can impact your usual sleep routine and alter when you’re ready to fall asleep, or make you more prone to a restless night’s sleep.
On the contrary, a study in young healthy individuals, those who housed a greater abundance of good bacteria in their gut reported superior sleep quality.
The microbiome and your internal body clock
In addition to the serotonin-microbiome influence, there is also our circadian rhythm. This rhythm is our body’s internal body clock and is central to a regular sleep schedule. Following the light and dark cycle of the sun, it’s these rhythms that help us fall asleep and wake up at regular times.
Yet, according to recent studies, our microbiome can influence the function of the circadian rhythm – is there anything our microbiome can’t do?! It seems the microorganisms present in our microbiome actually exhibit circadian rhythms, too! Meaning our gut health can contribute to when we wake up, when we eat and when we sleep.
However, according to a 2019 research review, it’s a two-way street. A change in our regular routine, such as shift-work and changing when we’re eating, can disturb our gut bacteria, leading to sleep issues (among other things). So when we aren’t sleeping well or have a poor daily routine, our gut is directly affected, subsequently compounding the problem of sleep.
How do I know if my gut is affecting my sleep?
Without doing a complete microbiome test (yes, this totally is a thing), we cannot say for sure if it’s your gut or one of the other many factors that contribute to poor sleep. However, below are a few symptoms that may link the two together:
You experience regular digestive disturbance such as bloating or indigestion
Various food intolerances and a ‘sensitive stomach’
You’re not having daily, formed bowel motions
You don’t respond overly well to over-the-counter sleep supplements
You may sleep soundly, but wake-up feeling like you haven’t
You don’t consume a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains on a daily basis
High exposure to antibiotics
Regular consumption of digestive irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars and highly-processed foods
All in all, we know gut health is integral for overall health, particularly sleep. So if your sleep is sub-par, this is your sign to start investing time and attention to your gut health! It will thank you and hopefully return the favour with some restorative Z’s.
About the Author
Laura Ballin is a Clinical Naturopath (BHSc) passionate about empowering individuals to reconnect with their body and return home to their true-self. After battling with an eating disorder and various digestive concerns, Laura has a special interest in the gut, mental health, women’s hormonal health and skin conditions. Laura is available for consultations in South-East Queensland and online.