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What You Need to Know About the Gut Health-Sleep Connection

Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum
March 11, 2021
Photo Credit: Sofie Delauw

In recent years, it’s become increasingly apparent that your gut health affects many, many aspects of your overall health. So it should come as no surprise that gut health and sleep are connected. One impacts the other and vice versa. Here’s what you need to know.

3 Ways Gut Health and Sleep Are Connected

1. Lack of sleep or low-quality sleep upsets your gut.

When you sleep poorly, your gut suffers. And it doesn’t take very long: Research tell us that a tiny amount of sleep loss can very quickly alter the composition of your gut microbiome.

And it’s not just lack of sleep that’s to blame, either. Fragmented sleep, or restless sleep characterized by several frequent, but unnoticeable, awakenings, keeps you from getting adequate REM sleep and the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

The result? A very unhappy gut microbiome, changes in metabolism, and daytime fatigue that leaves you craving sugar and caffeine.

2. Your gut produces sleep hormones.

Out of all the ways your gut health impacts your sleep, this one is probably the simplest: Your gut microbiome regulates the production and distribution of many different hormones, including the sleep-inducing ones: dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and melatonin. An unbalanced microbiome can produce unbalanced levels of these hormones, which can negatively affect sleep.

3. Sleep is linked to mental health which is linked to gut health.

Many people who struggle with insomnia also struggle with depression, and both insomnia and depression have been linked to poor gut health. There’s also a clear connection between stress and sleep and between stress and gut health. It’s a complex three-way intersection, but research suggests that if you take good care of your gut, you’ll get better sleep, and also improve your mood or mental state of being.

How to Improve Gut Health and Sleep

Your sleep cycle is a good place to start:

  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Avoid screens as much as possible in the evening hours.
  • Eat lighter meals at night to give your digestive system time to relax before bed.
  • Stay away from sugary foods before bed.
  • Limit your afternoon caffeine consumption.
  • Implement a relaxing evening routine, such as taking a warm shower and reading one chapter of a good book.

You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement or adding more gut-supporting foods to your diet.

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