The gut microbiome has been identified to play a significant role in regards to our immunity and metabolism. Complex disorders previously associated to lifestyle have now been claimed as microbiota-related. The ever increasing number of human and animal studies have revealed that changes in gut microbiota have been linked to obesity. Studies have led to a consensus that gut microbiota mediates an energy intake, and play a critical role in the development of the ‘metabolic phenotype’. The metabolic phenotypes are the interactions between dietary, lifestyle, environmental, gut microbial and genetic factors.
So how does your sleep affect your gut health?
Recent studies have shown that recurrent sleep restrictions can alter the composition of your microbiome. Diet-driven changes in microbiome composition can lead to a reduction in cognitive flexibility. Which when combined with conditions such as Gut Dysbiosis, may contribute to cognitive dysfunction associated with chronically poor sleep.
In an ideal gut environment, the lining of the gut (also known as the epithelium), is designed to restrict the impact of pathobionts, and to promote good bacteria. By reducing sleep, or by having inconsistent sleeping patterns, it puts the gut in a less than ideal environment. Evidence of poor sleep as a physiological stressor links into metabolic diseases that are also associated with disruption to the gut microbiota. Physiological and emotional stressors have the capacity to negatively influence gut permeability, and contribute to poor health. These stressors can heavily affect regular sleep-wake cycles (also known as circadian rhythm). There is also considerable evidence showing that the gut microbiome regulates host sleep and mental state through the microbiome-gut-brain axis.
Why should I care about how much sleep I get?
Lack of sleep can lead to several health issues such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Sleep is needed in order to digest food, and to replenish hormones created when you sleep. When sleep is not obtained these health conditions can arise. Many hormones are released during induced sleep from the endocrine system. Growth hormones and the secretion of melatonin all aid your body and replenish hormonal levels. Regular and consistent sleep also allows for thyroid hormones and cortisol to restore.
Hormones that are not created during your sleep can heavily affect all areas of your health. Your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism, if metabolism is disrupted it can lead to an overactive or underactive thyroid ultimately causing weight gain. Whilst cortisol acts as the main stress hormone, the lack of cortisol made by your body can lead to high blood pressure.
Diabetes can stem from poor sleep as the endocrine system needs enough time to create insulin. Lack of sufficient sleep means that this hormone does not have time to develop, which can ultimately lead to insulin resistance.
How can I better my gut health?
Stress can be a leading cause other persistent issues besides poor sleep. Having Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Leaky Gut can be triggered from high levels of cortisol. In order to better your overall gut health, it is best to take into account the amount of stress load you are taking on board. On average it should take you 20 minutes to fall asleep, increased stress can inhibit your ability to sleep.
Taking supplements such as melatonin can help trigger the melatonin naturally produced by your brain and help to kick start the process of falling asleep. Assisting your sleep-wake cycle, taking melatonin as a supplement can help those with insomnia, or those who naturally produce low levels of melatonin. Before taking melatonin, it is best to contact your healthcare professional.