Impact of Poor Sleep on Gut Health and Digestion
Poor sleep and gut health are interconnected and can have significant impact on each other and overall well-being. There has been a recent surge of research evaluating sleep disturbances and their effect on overall health.
It has been established that sleep deprivation leads to an increase in microscopic inflammation in the bowel, which may, in turn, result in gastrointestinal symptoms. It affects our digestive system, increases inflammation in the gut lining, causes hormonal disturbances that increase cravings, increases intestinal permeability leading to gut-related issues, causes bowel muscle fatigue leading to constipation.
As we said above, poor sleep and gut health are interconnected, below is a breakdown of the impact of poor sleep on gut health and digestion, as well as how gut health can influence sleep.
Impact of Poor Sleep on Gut Health and Digestion
Below are some main ways in which poor sleep impacts gut health and digestion.
Imbalanced Gut Microbiota
A recent study found that sleep deprivation leads to changes in gut microbiome composition.
Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut microbiota, which are the microorganisms living in our digestive tract. Poor sleep patterns, such as chronic sleep deprivation, can disrupt this balance and lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a decrease in beneficial bacteria, potentially contributing to digestive issues.
Lack of adequate sleep can trigger low-grade inflammation in the body.
The entire tube that extends from our mouth to our anus is known as our gut, or gastrointestinal tract. The pro-inflammatory chemicals in our gut tend to rise when we are sleep deprived, which may cause inflammation along the lining of our stomach.
This can slow down our gastric emptying, which is the process by which the contents of the stomach are transferred into the small intestine and induce gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and bloating.
This inflammation can extend to the gut and disrupt its normal function. Inflammatory responses in the gut can lead to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Poor sleep has been linked to various digestive disorders, including acid reflux (GERD) and gastritis. GERD is a digestive disease in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining. This is a chronic disease that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows into the food pipe and irritates the lining.
Sleep deprivation can lead to increased stomach acid production and impaired oesophageal motility, which can exacerbate these conditions.
Sleep deprivation can slow down the movement of food through the digestive system, leading to constipation and discomfort. It can also affect the release of digestive enzymes, which are essential for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.
Poor sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite, such as ghrelin and leptin. This disruption can lead to increased cravings for unhealthy foods and overeating, potentially contributing to weight gain and obesity, which can further impact gut health.
Impact of Gut Health on Sleep
Below are some main ways in which gut health impacts sleep.
The gut produces a significant amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation and sleep. An imbalanced gut can affect serotonin production, potentially leading to sleep disturbances and mood disorders.
The gut’s microbiota has a role in influencing the body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep-wake cycles. Disruptions in gut health could potentially affect the proper functioning of the circadian rhythm, leading to sleep problems.
The gut and brain communicate through the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional pathway. An unhealthy gut, characterized by dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bacteria) and increased inflammation, can send signals to the brain that might contribute to anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Short-Chain Fatty Acids
Healthy gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have been linked to improved sleep quality. Imbalances in gut bacteria could potentially lead to reduced SCFA production and impact sleep.
Tips for Improving Sleep and Gut Health
Below are some key tips on how to improve sleep and gut health.
Establish a Sleep Routine
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, gentle stretching, or deep breathing, to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
Prioritize Nutritious Diet
Eat a balanced diet rich in fibre, whole grains, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits and vegetables to support a healthy gut.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to support digestion and overall well-being.
Exercising improves sleep. As per sleep foundation, specifically, moderate to vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decrease the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Reduce consumption of caffeine and alcohol, especially close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep patterns.
Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness to positively impact both sleep and gut health.
Engage in regular physical activity but avoid intense exercise close to bedtime.
Consult a healthcare professional about adding probiotics to your diet, as they may help promote a healthy gut.
Remember that individual responses may vary, and if you’re experiencing chronic sleep disturbances or gut issues, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and treatment.
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- Sleep Dysfunction and Gastrointestinal Diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849511/
- How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Gut Health: (by Birmingham Gastroenterology): https://bgapc.com/how-lack-of-sleep-can-affect-your-gut-health/
Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.