If you’ve ever spent the night tossing and turning, you know how you’ll feel the next day—tired, cranky, and probably not at all like your best self. While the occasional restless night probably won’t cause too much trouble, chronic sleep deprivation can drain your mental abilities and put your physical health at risk, and poor sleep can certainly affect your gut health.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Sleep is an essential function. It lets your body and mind rest and recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert. However, not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to think clearly. This make sense since, as you sleep, your body works to consolidate memories and support healthy brain function.
Routinely getting a good night’s sleep also helps the body stay healthy and fight off disease.1 Although experts recommend at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night, studies show that people who regularly get fewer than six hours of shut-eye are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even stroke.2 This is because sleep is involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. Skimping on the sleep also makes it more likely that you’ll gain weight, thanks in part to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.3
Your immune system also relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against pathogens and harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deprivation can change the way in which your immune system responds. If you aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you may have trouble fighting off common infections.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Gut Health?
The fact that poor sleep can affect your cognitive, cardiovascular, and immune health may not be surprising. But how does sleep impact your gut? Let’s take a look.
You may not realize it, but you have an internal clock that governs your body. Known as the circadian rhythm—this 24-hour timekeeper differs slightly for each person, but it serves the same purpose—determining when you wake up and when you sleep. It also regulates many processes in your body, including your metabolism. Research has shown that gut bacteria heavily influences how well the body’s clock works. Because of this, it also influences when and how much you sleep. This same research showed that the shift between the day and night doesn’t just affect your circadian rhythm, but the rhythm of the gut microbes whose activities depend on your schedule.4 Things like jet lag or working the night shift can also disrupt your microbiota, eventually changing the patterns and diversity of the microbes in the gut.
Your gut microbiome also regulates the production and distribution of many different hormones, including sleep-inducing ones like dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. One of the signs you may have an unhealthy gut is they you may have imbalanced hormone levels. An unbalanced microbiome can disrupt hormone levels, which can negatively affect sleep.
Stress can also come into play and affect your gut health and sleep quality. We touched on stress and the microbiome here, when we talked about the gut brain axis. High levels of stress usually means poor sleep. Whether you’re stressed over finances, work, school, or relationships, those racing thoughts do no good for your ability to fall asleep. In fact, research suggests that there’s a three-way intersection between stress, sleep, and gut health.5 Luckily, there also seems to be a connection between good gut bacteria and your body’s ability to fend off stress.6 That’s why we recommend a clinically studied probiotic supplement. A comprehensive probiotic will help support a diverse collection of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This won’t just foster better overall health, it might even help you get a good night’s sleep!
- Dimitrov S, Lange T, Gouttefangeas C, et al. Ga coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2019; 216(3): 517-526.
- Nagai M, Hoshide S, Kario K. Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease—a review of the recent literature. Current Cardiology Reviews. 2010; 6(1): 54-61.
- Hirotsu C, Tufik S, Anderson M. Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: from physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science. 2015; 8(3): 143-152.
- Thaiss C, Levy M, Korem T, et al. Microbiota diurnal rhythmicity programs host transcriptome oscillations. CellPress. 2016; 1;167(6): 1495-1510.
- Foster J, Rinaman L, Cryan J. Stress & the gut-brain axis: regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiology of Stress. 2017; 124-136.
- Takada M, Nishida K, Gondo Y, et al. Beneficial effects of lactobacillus casei strain shirota on academic stress-induced sleep disturbance in healthy adults. Beneficial Microbes. 2017: 8(2): 153-162.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.