Sleep is the new hip thang in the health realm. Everybody loves talking about sleep. And rightly so, it’s a very important factor in the overall health equation.
Many people have asked me about the connection between our gut and sleep, so in today’s video and article I’m going to give you the low down… let’s get into it.
[Video contains a mixture of Venice, Italy & sleep talk]
Let’s first have a basic look at sleep itself and highlight it’s importance for the human body. After all, something we spend around 30% of our whole existence doing has to be significant right?
Sleep is, in essence, our regenerative time. We spend all day breaking down elements, both very tangible (metabolism, cell apoptosis etc) and some less tangible (think Qi), within the body, and at some point of course we need to do some replenishing.
Of course this replenishment is always happening to an extent, but it is within those quiet hours between 11pm and 7am where a somewhat deeper healing can take place.
Sleep is important, yes, but good quality sleep is paramount to ongoing health & wellbeing. We’re now finding that a night of tossing and turning, of fragmented or disrupted sleep, can have significant impacts on our wellbeing.
Without adequate sleep, we open up the doors for
Mental health issues
Poor neurological function
& digestive/ gastro-intestinal challenges.
That’s right, inadequate or poor quality sleep may be having an impact on your microbiome!
Many of you would be aware of the fact that up to 90% of our Serotonin, an important neurotransmitter required for normal sleep patterns, is manufactured in the gut.
This one example of the intimate connection between the gut and brain is well discussed, and certainly provides an insight that yes, chemical messengers, both good and bad, can travel from the digestive system to the brain and have an impact once there.
But the inverse relationship, that is, poor sleep affecting your gut, is not so well discussed. I contacted Audra Starkey from The Healthy Shiftworker Podcast (on which I have been a guest) and she sent me a handful of articles which I found rather compelling in this regard.
One, a study in which mice were subjected to fragmented (disrupted) sleep, saw some pretty startling results.
“Food intake, fat mass, and metabolic disturbance increased in the sleep fragmented mice. There was decreased tissue-specific and systemic insulin sensitivity [meaning the mice became more insulin resistant – not good], increased leptin, and increased inflammatory markers. Reversible changes in the fecal microbiota, such as an increase in Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae and a decrease in Lactobacillaceae families, were also seen.”
Translation: poor sleep results in negative metabolic changes and also results in changes in gut bacteria populations.
Significantly, the researchers took this a step further, actually performing an FMT procedure.
“Transplanting gut flora from sleep-fragmented mice into non–sleep fragmented mice replicated the inflammatory and metabolic changes seen in sleep fragmentation [emphasis mine], suggesting that the inflammatory and metabolic changes were mediated by changes in the gut microbiota. To test a potential mechanism by which this process might occur, fecal water from sleep fragmented mice was applied in vitro to colonic epithelium and was found to increase permeability. This increased permeability is a potential pathway for microbial products to enter the systemic circulation and stimulate an inflammatory response that may mediate the metabolic dysfunctions associated with chronic sleep fragmentation.”
Translation: taking poo from the sleep disrupted mice and putting it into mice who had a good sleep caused the same negative metabolic & gut lining changes, suggesting that it was indeed a gut related phenomenon.
So how might this be working? How does having a disrupted sleep affect our gut bacteria? The exact biology going on here is of course yet to be determined but certainly this research paves the way for more insight into the complex relation between our gut and brain.
I think what makes this so interesting is the fact that we’re continually finding symbiotic relationships between the gut and the rest of the body, and these relationships are very bidirectional. This means that it is not only pivotal to attain fantastic gut health, but actually to examine and explore the idea of whole wellness.
If we take probiotics every day, follow a great gut nourishing diet, but allow our sleep to be disrupted (beyond ‘normal’) then we’re not setting ourselves up for long term success.
I look forward to seeing more studies in which we see the effects of our emotions on gut health – these will be absolutely pivotal studies as, if you’ll allow me to presume, they’ll show how our thoughts & feelings actually impact the gut & microbiome.
My Take Away
I take from this that it is important to cultivate a sleep sanctuary. As I mentioned in the video above, taking measures to carefully construct a great sleep as often as possible, is going to be paramount to your health outcomes. It will also be very important in maintaining a good, healthy gut.
This article was brought to you by the THIRD edition of The Gut Healing Protocol!! get it now!
This article was also brought to you by Nice Life, The Gut Health Store, bringing Australians the best gut health products from around the world.
Sources for this article include
Lucey, B. (2018). Sleepy, leaky gut. [online] Science Translational Medicine. Available at: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/363/363ec177 [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].