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Are you losing sleep over gut health?

Posted by Nic Florido on 23rd Jul 2021

Elina Winnel

Elina has received global recognition for redefining how sleep-related issues are perceived, treated and resolved. Her revolutionary approach, which evolved as a result of her own healing journey, brings new hope for countless sufferers of chronic insomnia.

Insomnia. It’s a dreaded curse that can seem to be impossible to shake from our fast-paced 21st-century lifestyle. How many people do you know who have trouble sleeping? Or maybe sleeplessness is something you experience yourself?

Believe me, I know how awful it is to lie awake all night, stressing, tossing, turning and then ending up like a zombie the next day. Rinse, repeat… it’s a vicious cycle, and it’s terrible for your mental, physical and emotional health.

My name is Elina, and I’ve made it my mission to help people just like you learn how to sleep better. Or maybe you’re a good sleeper, but you’ve got a mate who always looks like a teenage vampire, and they’re not even into emo music.

Regardless of whether it’s you or someone you know; poor sleep affects 66% of Aussies. It’s a pandemic that’s been messing with our lives for much, much longer than COVID-19.

Let me cut to a flashback right now which will explain my sleep-supporting superpowers.

How I found the holy grail of sleep health

I used to work in finance. Ew, I know, but true story – hear me out. You probably won’t be surprised to read that I ended up becoming a chronic insomniac. Sleep deprivation destroyed the quality of my life, and none of the usual suspects for fixing my sleep were working.

I reached a point where the problem had gotten so bad, I really had to drop everything and find a way to cure my problems with sleep – I felt like my life depended on it. So I went full Jedi and spent several years learning everything I could about what REALLY works to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested.

Why is sleep important?

OK, so this might seem like an obvious question, but seriously, let’s unpack the details about why sleep is so crucial for your physical, mental and emotional health.

Sleeping well reduces your risk of randomly, like, dying

Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of chronic and non-transmissible health conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. But since sleep is also crucial for a strong immune system, it helps you fight off bacterial and viral illnesses like a UTI or the common cold.

A good night rest is vital for regulating your sugar levels

Your circadian rhythm – which is like your body’s inner version of Google Calendar – sets the schedule for your metabolic patterns, including how efficiently you break down sugars and absorb nutrients from food. In one slightly creepy experiment, researchers found that sleep deprivation increases the risk of type 2 diabetes!

Quality sleep gives you all the best feels

Sleep is vital for your hormonal balance, which in turn affects your moods and emotions. Plenty of rest is essential if you want to feel happy and positive, and studies have even shown that the way we interact with others can be affected by our sleep quality. As anyone who’s had a crappy night’s sleep and then gotten cranky with the fam will know!

Smart people value their sleep

When you sleep, the toxins that accumulate while you’re awake are flushed from your brain, helping you think clearly and access the information you need in your mind. Sleep is believed to be when memories are consolidated, as well.

During deep sleep, you channel your inner Wolverine

Stage 3 sleep (might sound like Star Trek, but actually means the deepest stage of your sleep cycle) is when human growth hormone is secreted. This enables you to repair cells and tissues that have been damaged by injury or stressed through exercise – so if you want to get ripped like Hugh Jackman, you need to get plenty of shut-eye.

What does gut health have to do with sleep?

Short answer: heaps! Ever heard of the gut-brain axis? The so-called vagus nerve is an information superhighway linking your brain with your gut – conveying details of your body’s fuel supply and stocks of repair materials. It’s only recently that we are learning what an important aspect of our organic comms network this channel is – it’s even earned its own moniker, the enteric nervous system.

But it’s not just your gut health that affects sleep – cutting-edge research suggests the connection between sleep and the microbiome is a two-way street. One example of this is that poor sleep is believed to have a “strong negative effect” on the diversity of bacteria in the microbiome.

Another case study highlighting this link is the effect of fragmented sleep, also known as ‘tossing and turning’ – is thin and restless, a shallow semi-conscious state that doesn’t feel peaceful or refreshing. Fragmentation can have a shocking effect on stage 3 sleep and REM sleep, and this in turn has been associated with disruptions to our metabolic patterns – the science-y term for how our bodies utilise nutrients from our food.

When your tummy has a happy, your sleep has a happy too

How amazing is this? Researchers have found that the bacteria in our gut have a circadian rhythm just like we humans (and other animals) do. That means you’ve got billions of tiny little sleepy-time helpers in there depending on you to look after them – and if you do, they’ll be able to do what they do best. In other words, a healthy gut’s circadian rhythm improves our body’s circadian rhythm, helping our sleep-wake cycle.

A healthy gut makes lots of melatonin

Melatonin is the key hormone responsible for relaxing us and putting us to sleep. The pineal gland, located in the centre of the brain, only makes a fraction of our melatonin. We produce 400 times the amount of melatonin in our gut as we do in the pineal gland. Beneficial bacteria in our guts boost the production of melatonin.

A healthy gut makes us happy

Similarly, the gut is responsible for a large proportion of our serotonin production. We need serotonin to feel happy. The better our mood, the better we sleep. When we feel happy, our nervous system calms down, allowing us to enjoy more deep, quality sleep when night time comes.

Our gut health influences our stress levels

If our gut is unhealthy, it can place a lot of stress and strain on our system. Any form of stress (mental, physical, emotional or energetic) has a negative impact on our sleep.

The microbiome produces neurotransmitters which impact sleep

Not only is the gut a key producer of serotonin, it also produces GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). How’s that for a crash course in neurochemistry? For those of us who aren’t rocking lab coats, this simply means the gut secretes key chemical messengers that help us to relax, in turn improving our sleep.

A comfortable gut means a comfortable sleep

Many of my clients have reported difficulty falling asleep due to digestive disturbances (pain, bloating and so on). By taking care to ensure we have a healthy gut, this is one less disturbance that may take us away from blissful sleep.

How to make good sleep and gut health a win-win combination

So obviously if you want to join all the dots above, you’re probably thinking right now about what might be the best foods for a good night’s sleep. This is not to give you the big sales pitch at the end, it’s more about sharing what’s worked for me, because I want other people to benefit from this too.

I can tell you I’ve personally experienced the benefits of probiotics, which is why I invite you to try them for yourself. Don’t take my word for it! Do your own trial and error, because everyone is different and there are so many wonderful options out there that you’re sure to find one that resonates with you naturally. When you hit on the blend you like, your body will thank you and you will get a personal understanding of how much easier it is to sleep when your tummy has a happy.

My own favourites are Nexba Mango Kombucha and Pineapple Probiotic Soda. These are the ‘craft beers’ of the soft drink world, except hello, they have more in common with health food than going down to the pub. And they’re nothing like the crappy, mass-produced, sugar-loaded fake-ness lining supermarket shelves, full of artificial chemmies for colour and flavour.

Do your gut – and your sleep – a favour. Give them a taste, tag us on social and tell us what your faves are!