Darcy has been having too many late nights watching the Tour de France and I have been having too many late nights watching the Ashes cricket. Darcy says to me “cricket is not even a real sport” to which I respond, “how can something be a sport when it’s done sitting down?”
Humour aside, the lack of sleep has led to a little grumpiness in the office over the last week and perhaps we have not been our usual efficient and effective selves. I was giving a talk and had one of those moments where my brain wouldn’t retrieve the information I needed, so I tilted my head as I paused, trying to look intelligent and not panic. Apparently, what felt like a lifetime to me was not so obvious to the audience!
We have talked about the importance of sleep to our health in a previous blog (read here) and now I am going to focus on the relationship of sleep with gut health. This is particularly important for those of us (cricket and cycling aside) who suffer from poor sleep.
Sleep and gut health are closely interconnected, and both play significant roles in maintaining overall well-being. The relationship is bidirectional, meaning that the quality and quantity of sleep can impact gut health, and the health of your gut can influence your sleep patterns. “Communication” between the gut and the brain is constant (and in both directions) and it is thought that some sleep disorders may arise when the communication axis breaks down.
The interaction between the gut and the brain is happens via various neurotransmitters, metabolites, vitamins, amines and short chain fatty acids – many of which are produced by microorganisms in our gut. For example, 90% of human serotonin is produced by intestinal bacteria. Serotonin influences many functions - it acts on mood, appetite, eating behaviour and digestion. It is also a precursor of melatonin which is important for maintaining our circadian sleep-wake cycle. Some recent scientific studies show a direct correlation between the host’s melatonin concentrations and the presence of certain intestinal bacteria species.
Sleep disturbances are increasingly being linked to gut dysbiosis (imbalance), to the point that even snoring has been associated with gut imbalance, independently of bodyweight!
So…what to do!
Well, here are some tips for improving your sleep and gut health and getting on that path to better health:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule: try to go to bed and wake up at consistent times each day to regulate your body's internal clock.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment: ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool to promote better sleep.
- Prioritise gut-friendly foods: eat a balanced diet rich in prebiotics, and probiotics to support a healthy gut microbiota (check out our Thrive lozenges for enhancing your gut health).
- Manage stress: chronic stress can negatively impact both sleep and gut health - practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: these substances can disrupt sleep patterns and may also affect gut health negatively.
- Exercise regularly: physical activity can improve sleep quality and promote a healthy gut.
The challenge with poor gut health and poor sleep is that it’s one of those chicken and egg situation – which comes first?
Like any changes and improvements in our health, the path is not always linear, we will have wiggles and dips along the road (too much late night sport for example). Ultimately though, as long as we are going in the right direction, we will make gradual improvements and start to feel better.