Sleep and Gut health

Sleep and gut health

The importance of sleep

Like exercise, the relationship between sleep and gut health goes both ways.  Better sleep leads to better gut health, poor sleep has a negative effect on gut health
 - simple.  The research in this area is emerging, but it is clear that a relationship exists. 

Not getting enough sleep can quickly affect your microbiome. Numerous studies show that people who sleep well have more diverse levels of gut bacteria than poor sleepers. 

Evidence also shows that your gut health impacts on your circadian rhythms, or your body clock, influencing when you sleep and when you wake. Unsurprisingly, when your gut health is disrupted it can also disrupt your sleep patterns. The gut is where sleep hormones like Dopamine, GABA, Melatonin and Serotonin are created and regulated.  Poor gut health can disrupt the production of these all-important hormones consequently impacting on sleep quality. 

The consequences of poor sleep 

Not getting enough sleep has both mental and physical implications
 in both the short and the long term. Short term consequences are often more mental. Over a more prolonged period it can lead to stress and anxiety and even depression. 

More frightening are the potential outcomes of consistently poor sleep over time.  Serious, life limiting illness such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer could be a result of long-term sleep deprivation.  There is also evidence showing links between lack of sleep and debilitating cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

Summary of Poor Sleep Outcomes 

  • Memory Issues 

  • Mood Changes – depression & anxiety 

  • Trouble thinking and concentrating, impaired judgement 

  • Accidents and injury through lack of concentration 

  • Poor balance 

  • Low sex drive 

  • Weakened Immunity 

  • High Blood Pressure 

  • Weight Gain 

  • Risk of diabetes 

  • Risk of heart disease 

What happens when we sleep? 

This is the time when your body repairs and rejuvenates, growing muscle, mending damaged tissue and synthesising hormones. At the same time, your brain is processing and consolidating information and memories; transferring fleeting, short-term memories to stronger, long term ones that you won’t forget. 

During the deepest stages of sleep the brain disposes of anything it doesn’t need in communication with the gut. More and more research is taking place in this area to understand how it all works and what we can do to ensure we all sleep better.

Benefits of sleep

How much sleep do we need?

The amount of sleep that you need varies by person but is usually between 7 and 9 hours for a healthy adult – importantly despite what some say this does NOT change with age.  Even the elderly should have at least 7 hours sleep.  Teenagers and children need even more to aid their physical and mental development.  The Sleep Foundation provides guidance. 

However it’s not just quantity of sleep, it’s quality too.  You want to ensure you get the right mix of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (None Rapid Eye Movement), and of course you don’t wake up too much. The sleep cycle is really important, creating the right conditions for a good nights sleep will help regulate the cycle. 

Please note: The contents of this website are provided for you as information. It is not intended to replace advice from a qualified professional. We encourage you to make health care decisions based on your own research and in partnership with a qualified professional.

Want to learn more?

Read our blogs on sleep and gut health.

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