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How 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.

if you're not getting enough shut-eye, it might be time to take a closer look at your gut health. Here are a few ways that a lack of sleep can negatively influence your gut health.

1. It can lead to gastrointestinal problems like IBS.Screen Shot 2022-07-13 at 10.21.34 PM
IBS is a condition that can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements. While the exact causes of IBS are unknown, experts believe that it may be related to stress and anxiety. And what's one of the most common sources of stress and anxiety? You guessed it: lack of sleep. When you don't get enough rest, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode, releasing hormones that can exacerbate gastrointestinal problems.

2. It can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.Screen Shot 2022-07-13 at 10.22.24 PM
Sleep deprivation can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. This can lead to a whole host of problems, including indigestion, diarrhea, and even weight gain. So if you're having trouble sleeping, be sure to see a doctor. They can help you get back on track and feeling your best.

3. It can cause inflammation in the gut.Screen Shot 2022-07-13 at 10.27.24 PM
 
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, many of which are essential for digestion and nutrient absorption. However, when we don't get enough sleep, these beneficial bacteria can become imbalanced, leading to inflammation. In addition, sleep deprivation disrupts the production of hormones that help to regulate hunger and satiety, which can also lead to inflammation.

4. It can make you more susceptible to infections.Screen Shot 2022-07-13 at 10.25.49 PM
If you've ever felt like you're coming down with something after a sleepless night, you're not crazy. Turns out, there's some science to back up that feeling. Lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to infections. When you don't get enough shut-eye, your body produces fewer cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that help fight infection and inflammation, so fewer cytokines means you're more likely to get sick. In addition, sleep deprivation can impair your immune system's ability to function properly. Try to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. 

5. It can impair your gut's ability to heal itself.Screen Shot 2022-07-13 at 10.23.10 PM
Studies have shown that sleep loss can impair the gut's ability to heal itself, and it can also increase inflammation. In fact, one study found that people who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease. So if you're having trouble sleeping, be sure to talk to your doctor about ways to get your gut (and the rest of you) back on track.

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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