The Sleep & Gut Connection!
You may have heard a lot about gut health recently. The science on the microbiome and gut health has really been booming!
We recently learned even more about meat and how it affects the microbiome. Everything affects the whole, and it can’t just be reduced simply down to numbers like protein grams.
We are holistic beings that are energetic, emotional, spiritual and all parts affect the others! A healthy gut is absolutely 100% essential for a strong immune system, and overall physical, and psychological well-being (and key for your hair health).
You’ve probably also heard about some of the current science on sleep. National aromatherapy expert Charlynn Avery gave us amazing information on sleep on the podcast recently!
It turns out, sleep health is the top determinant in longevity, winning out even diet and exercise. That’s right. If you want to live longer, above all else, you better make sure you’re getting your ZZZs.
It could be argued that getting sufficient sleep and sustaining a properly balanced gut are the ultimate keys to health. Anyone doing both of those things would undoubtedly agree—because the results are tangible. You feel great!
If these two spheres of wellness are that crucial, they’ve got to be connected. Right?
Correct. Sleep and gut health are both directly and indirectly correlated in some pretty amazing ways. The sleep cycle affects the gut microbiome, and vice versa, through the ancient biological sleep clock, known as the circadian rhythm.
As Dr. Michael Breus, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, succinctly stated when talking about gut health:
“There is no question in my mind that gut health is linked to sleep health… Scientists investigating the relationship between sleep and the microbiome are finding that the microbial ecosystem may affect sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a number of different ways: shifting circadian rhythms, altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness.”
The Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm in humans is the fundamental link between sleep and the gut. The term is derived from the Latin circa diem meaning “about a day”, and it refers to the natural sleeping and waking cycle, as a response to light and darkness.
The circadian rhythm is present in almost every living thing on earth, and for us, it’s regulated by the brain. It’s an evolutionary clock that signals your body and mind to sleep at night, and to remain awake during the day.
Disrupting the circadian clock has damaging effects, and it’s linked to a litany of health problems. Many of these are reported by professionals who work irregular hours. If you’re asleep during the day, and staying awake at night, you may experience the following issues:
- Inability to focus
- Irritability/mood swings
- High BMI (Body Mass Index)
- Weight loss difficulty
For some tips on how to establish and maintain everyday solutions for healthy sleep, check out the SleepWell System I created just for our community members, like you!
Note that four of the six health problems mentioned above are specifically related to metabolism. This is because the circadian rhythm is primarily responsible for managing the body’s metabolic homeostasis. Ipso facto, getting a regular good night’s rest is as important to maintaining a healthy body weight as diet and exercise.
Take a guess as to the body’s other chief metabolism regulator. If you guessed the gut, you’re absolutely right.
The microbiome regulates energy input and output, and ultimately, the metabolism. On a simple level, the bacterium accomplish this by breaking down the food we eat. Most importantly, beneficial bacteria generate enzymes that are not encoded in the human genome.
Such enzymes synthesize things like vitamins, complex carbohydrates and polyphenols. Without a balanced bacterial ecosystem, digestion is compromised, and the metabolism cannot function efficiently.
Sleep hormones and the gut
Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies states:
“At night, we go to bed with a bunch of bugs in our stomachs and wake up in the morning with a different set of bugs. The implications are pretty big because there are more bacterial cells in our guts than the number of cells in our body and these species produce different enzymes and factors that have a big impact on our overall metabolism.”
As Panda pointed out, the bacteria in our intestines and our sleep cycle are inextricably connected. These bacteria play governing roles over our metabolic processes.
The circadian cycle and the human gut affect one another primarily through hormone regulation. Imagine it like a two-way street. The gut bacteria sends signals it receives from the food we eat that take part in regulating the circadian rhythm.
In turn, the circadian rhythm controls metabolic function, by sending yet another hormonal signal back to the digestive system. In short, if you mess with one, you mess with the other.
In sleep-deprived individuals, the hunger hormone increases while the hormone which suppresses appetite decreases. Moreover, people who get inadequate sleep are less-likely to maintain impulse control and consequently make poorer nutrition choices.
If you find yourself struggling, here are 5 Tips to Enhance Your Sleep to help provide some relief.
Lack of adequate and quality sleep is unquestionably linked to poor emotional health. Studies have shown that people who are sleep-deprived report higher incidences of depression and anxiety.
You don’t need a scientist to prove this one. When you haven’t gotten enough shut-eye, irritability and emotional dysregulation can wreak havoc on your day.
Similarly, recent medical literature links poor gut health to various psychological and emotional problems, from depression to bipolar disorder. An imbalance in the gut sends the wrong metabolic hormonal signals to the brain.
Thus, compromising not only a healthy metabolism, but a healthy emotional life as well. This is why some people can actually find dietary and lifestyle changes incredibly beneficial for handling depression.
How to supercharge your gut AND sleep health
If you want to feel great and boost your metabolism, you need to make sure your gut is full of healthy bacteria and your sleep patterns are on track. Take this 90-second sleep quiz to assess your own quality of rest.
To keep the bacteria in your gut happy, avoid the following:
- Processed foods (especially processed sugar)
- Regular antibiotic and OTC medicines
- Excessive alcohol use
- Starchy foods and grains
And load up on plenty of:
- Probiotic supplements
- Fermented foods and beverages
- Algae like spirulina (This is nutrient and amino acid rich, and is a great sources of prebiotics: what probiotics eat.)
Due to the undeniable gut/sleep connection, following the above guidelines will easily benefit your sleep health. Remember that metabolic function and the link with the gut are based on the circadian rhythm, a cycle based on light and darkness. To keep this cycle functioning optimally, be sure to:
- Sleep during the night at regular hours
- Absorb sunshine everyday outside
Take care of your gut, and get enough sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for it, and you will feel amazing in ways that coffee, makeup and other little boosts can’t make up for! Sleep, the dark cycle when we rest from the light/sunny part of our life cycle, needs to be honored and respected, as it is an essential part of the whole.
In love and health,