As I get older, I find that sleep eludes me more and more. I will wake up in the middle of the night and lie there for sometimes hours before I fall back asleep right before the alarm goes off. This leads me to be tired all day and looking for ways to rev up my energy levels. I find I make poorer choices in my diet the more tired I am. The poorer my diet choices, the worse I sleep. As you can see, this leads to a vicious cycle and eventually takes its toll on my health and even my weight.
Turns out, there is a very dynamic link between sleep and our gut microbiome(1) and the trillions of bacteria that live there. When there is dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome) it can disrupt our sleep on many levels. It can affect our mood creating depression and anxiety, increases stress hormones, and affects the hormones that control our sleep cycles. All of these can affect the quality of our sleep which further creates an imbalance in our microbiome.
Studies have been carried out with people with jet lag, and have shown that even short term sleep disorders can have a major effect on our health.(2) Our gut bacteria also respond to host circadian rhythms (rhythms of rest, repair, and feeding). If the host’s rhythm is interrupted, bacterial composition and function can be disrupted. This has an effect on our health, leading to metabolic disturbances. Those who work night shifts and are frequent international flyers show evidence of dysbiosis.
I have a teenage daughter who has to get up early to go to high school. At the end of the week she is exhausted and will sleep 10-12 hours on the weekend to catch up. It is so important to make sure our children are getting a good night’s sleep to ensure present and future health. Sleep deprived teens can lead to depression, ADHD, chemical dependency, poor grades, and obesity.(3)
So what can we do to get a better night’s sleep and keep our bacteria happy and healthy?
- The most obvious is to get on a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and stay there for at least 8 hours. This won’t guarantee that you will actually sleep the whole time but it can help your body get on a regular schedule.
- Balancing your gut microbiome may help you get more quality zzz’s. Make sure you are taking a good quality nutritional supplement like EpiCor that will feed your happy bacteria to help balance your gut microbiome. The fermented ingredient is a great food supply for good bacteria.
- Eat a large quantity of healthy plant based fiber. Things to include on a regular basis is asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, beans and legumes, shirataki noodles, organic oats, organic fruit (especially berries), chia and flax seeds, nuts and seeds, avocado, and sweet potatoes.
- Avoid processed and fast foods. These types of foods are laden with harmful chemicals.
- Eat more probiotic foods like unsweetened yogur, kefir, Kombucha tea, and fermented vegetables.
- Incorporate a calming ritual before bed like a warm bath with lavender, meditation, or light yoga.
It is really fascinating to me that our gut microbiome affects so many aspects of our life, right down to how well we sleep at night. It is so important to get a good night’s sleep so we can repair and rebuild. Hope you have a great night’s sleep!