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How a Lack of Sleep Can Negatively Influence Your Gut Health

Posted By: Leena Mahtani

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We’ve all experienced the frustration of the lack of a good night’s sleep. Here’s a common scenario: you go to bed at night after a long day of work. Then, exhausted from the long day, you curl up in your comfortable bed, ready for some sweet relief in a good night’s sleep. Only to have your mind start racing, your body unable to relax, and you find yourself tossing and turning with insomnia throughout the night. Finally, you can fall asleep for an hour or so here and there, and then your alarm greets you early the next morning to repeat the cycle all over again. It's such a frustrating feeling to be so tired yet unable to get adequate rest at night and relax in the way your body so desperately needs. 

It’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep is vital for our health. It’s when our body can heal, as well as process the information of the day. It also prepares you to be your best self in the morning when you awake. I think everyone is familiar with the experience of grogginess, irritability, and the inability to focus that affects work performance and relationships, as our mood generally suffers when we lack sleep. Sometimes insomnia is related to a stressful work environment, a baby unable to sleep through the night, or those late-night ice cream snacks or glass of wine to "relax" (the sugar could be keeping you awake). All of these things, and many more, can contribute to not sleeping at night. So t's essential to have an evening routine that allows you to relax. Not just for your mind, but your body as well. 

So how does all of this affect the body, and specifically, the digestive system? In all honesty, quite a lot. So much goes into the digestive process, and the body's ability to "rest and digest" is vital to our overall health and immunity. The less we sleep, the more stressed we are, and the more stressed we are, the less we sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and it all leads to your gut microbiome having less of the good bacterias, which in and of itself can lead to quite a few issues with our overall health and wellbeing.

According to ScienceDaily.com, a study published in PLoS ONE involved several researchers from Nova Southeastern University. They wanted to see just how much of a connection there is between what is going on in our insides and how that may impact the quality of sleep we experience. The article goes on to share that "Given the strong gut-brain bidirectional communication they likely influence each other," said Jaime Tartar, Ph.D., a professor and research director in NSU's College of Psychology who was part of the research team. "Based on previous reports, we think that poor sleep probably exerts a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity."

So how on earth can we go about fixing this? It's going to be best to try and come at the problem in a very holistic way. Here are some easy to introduce tips to add to your routine that can help both your digestive system as well as contribute to a good night's sleep:

  • Limit the amount of screen time you have in the evenings.

  • Dim the lights in your home at night, and light candles if you can.

  • Try going to sleep at the same time every night to get your body on a consistent circadian rhythm that allows it to produce melatonin that will prepare you for sleep. 

  • Don’t eat anything two or three hours before going to bed. 

  • Add a probiotic to your daily supplement routine. When your body suffers from a lack of sleep, you need the support of a probiotic to help your microbiome do the job that it is supposed to for your overall health. 

I hope these tips are helpful and that you can prioritize sleep in your life, especially when busy or feeling stressed out. Rest and sleep can feel like a luxury at times, but it’s incredibly vital for your overall health and gut microbiome! When you take care of your body, it takes care of you, so please consider going to bed just an hour earlier tonight if possible and prioritize rest in your life. Gradually as your sleep starts to improve, you may find your digestive health feeling better as well. 

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