How the Gut Microbiome Health Can Impact Your Sleep Quality
The quality of sleep you receive from day-to-day plays an important role in your overall health.
Lack of quality sleep can lead to difficulty focusing, poor decision making, mood-swings, chronic fatigue, and, in some cases, disease development.
Poor or fragmented sleep can be caused by several different factors; many are external, like stress and environment strain, while others are internal.
One of the most important systems that promotes sleep quality is the gut microbiome. The microbes of the intestine actually have a unique connection to our REM cycle and encourage a restful, rejuvenating nightly sleep.
What is the Gut-Sleep Connection?
Your gut microbiome is composed of a collection of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and yeast that make up the digestive ecosystem.
These microbes have many purposes and are required to regulate several fundamental body processes. This includes how your gut microflora promotes sleep and sleep-related processes.
The gut-sleep connection is a two-way relationship that has much to do with the gut-brain axis. This axis is the bidirectional communication relay between the brain and intestinal systems modulated by the gut microbiome. It has a massive influence on your overall health and almost all physiological functions within the body, including the gut-sleep connection.
The constant communication between the gut and brain affects sleep both directly and indirectly, including control of circadian rhythms, production of hormones that control sleep and wakefulness, and maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Why Poor Sleep Upsets the Gut Microbiome?
The composition of your gut microbiome can vary drastically due to lack of quality sleep.
When the body does not receive an adequate amount of deep, restorative sleep, poor gut health can arise. Deficient REM sleep has been connected to a reduction in microbiome diversity, repressed immune function, and higher rates of chronic inflammation in the intestines.
But as a two-way system, a weak gut can also cause reductions in REM sleep. An unhealthy gut and unfortified microbiome can contribute to irregular sleep-wake patterns and a reduction in the production of hormones that promote restful sleep.
How the Gut-Sleep Relationship Influences Your Sleep Quality?
The gut microbiome acts as your ‘second brain.’
The gut microbiome is known to have a large influence over the brain and central nervous system, which is why it’s become known as the ‘second brain.’ There are millions of nerve endings within the microbiome that are used to constantly communicate with the brain. This is how your gut assists with regulating essential body processes, including hormone production, appetite, metabolism, and emotional response.
As the ‘second brain,’ your microbiome’s health influences the health of your brain and how it functions. The state of your brain health, or mental health, can be a key factor in your overall sleep quality. A weak gut-brain connection has been linked to poor health of the gut microbiota and a rise in mental stress and sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Sleep hormones are produced in the gut
One of the most influential functions the gut microbiome has in regulating your mental health and sleep quality is the production of sleep-related hormones and neurotransmitters. Bacteria living in the gut produce and release neurotransmitters essential in promoting REM sleep, including dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, cortisol, and GABA.
A reduction in these sleep-related hormones negatively impacts the amount of deep sleep at night, as well as mental health status and overall gut health. Adverse outcomes of hormone deficiency include increased rates of depression, anxiety, and higher levels of inflammation and permeability of the gut, known as ‘leaky gut.’ This condition has been linked to the development of several chronic diseases.
The microbiome regulates your circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm is also known as a unique 24-hour biological ‘clock’ that regulates sleep-wake cycles and varies from person-to-person. It also plays an important role in several other physiological functions, including eating patterns.
The gut microbiome actually has its own daily rhythm, which research has proven to be very influential over your internal clock.
This microbial rhythm is affected not only by diet, but also by the timing of when you eat and the nutrient density of the foods you consume. A healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber promotes the production of essential metabolites that circulate the body to assist in modulating circadian rhythms. High-fat diets lacking essential nutrients, reduce metabolite production and reduce rhythm control, leading to irregular sleep patterns.
Beneficial gut bacteria protect against stress-related sleep problems
Stress is a primary cause of poor sleep.
High levels of stress in the form of anxiety, poor diet, inflammation, illness, or overuse of medication and antibiotics can disrupt the microbiome. In turn, the gut-sleep connection is disturbed and can make falling asleep and achieving REM sleep difficult.
Research has identified a three-way intersection between gut health, stress, and sleep, and fortifying beneficial bacteria of the gut. This connection can assist in handling daily stressors and promote the production of essential sleep-related metabolites at night, including the stress-control hormone, cortisol.
Ways to Improve the Gut-Sleep Connection
If you are having difficulty with fragmented sleep or nights plagued by insomnia, you can modify your night and day routines to improve your sleep cycle.
During the day, focus on lifestyle changes that positively impact your waking cycle and health of your gut. These can include:
- Keep a consistent waking schedule on weekdays and weekends
- Increase exposure to bright, natural light during the day
- Reduce irregular and long naps during the day
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid heavy meals, high amounts of sugar, and caffeine during nighttime meals
- Add a daily BIOHM supplement to fortify the gut bacteria
Also, altering your night and bedtime routines to prepare for a better night’s sleep. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Avoid screens and blue light in the evening
- Implement a nighttime routine that promotes relaxation and de-stressing
- Consistently go to sleep at the same time all days of the week
Utilizing strategies that promote both better gut and brain health can assist in correcting your gut-sleep connection and stabilizing your internal clock to encourage a better, more rejuvenating night’s rest.
About the Author:Allison Lansman, RDN, LD is a freelance writer and owner of The Freelance RD Nutrition Writing Services. She is passionate about creating exciting, research-based nutrition blog posts with her professional background as a dietitian. Allie prioritizes creating articles all readers can understand and incorporate into their daily lives.