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.