The answer to a better night’s sleep could be in your gut
Want to sleep more and sleep better? This answer might be hiding in your gut, of all places. The healthier your gut, the healthier your sleep may be. Here are steps you can take to improve gut health, and potentially catch some better shut-eye in the process. And the best part? You’ll improve overall health, too.
What does the gut do?
While gut health isn’t exactly a dinner party topic (depending on your taste in friends), it’s one well worth (ahem) digesting. The gut, it turns out, is super important for much more than processing food. There are trillions of bacteria hiding out inside you, and they affect pretty much everything your body does—from getting energy and vitamins from food to producing hormones and telling our immune system what to do. The gut also affects bodily functions, including our sleep.
How does the gut affect sleep?
It’s no surprise that a spicy curry churning in your gut will keep you up half the night, but what you eat on a normal day affects sleep as well. All of those bacteria in your gut have their own 24-hour activity cycle, just like you. Good luck trying to catch some z’s if they’re up having a party.
So, what are they doing exactly? Well, they can make your body produce more or less of certain hormones, including-sleep related ones you’ve probably heard of like melatonin, serotonin and dopamine. These pesky bacteria can even influence stress hormone production, and feelings of anxiety and depression—all of which can keep you up at night.
How do you get a healthier gut?
If you’ve got poor gut health, some of the symptoms will be obvious: bloating, nausea and nastier than usual bowel movements. But others are less obvious, including foggy thinking, anxiety and feeling “tired but wired.”
To have good gut health, you want to aim for a diverse range of “good” bacteria. These are friendly beings that absorb all the best bits from food and act as a security network to keep the bad guys at bay. Ideally, you want to do everything you can to help these good bacteria thrive while the bad ones get kicked into line. Here are a few ways to give those good bacteria a boost:
- Add a probiotic supplement to your list of sleep essentials, and eat foods containing good bacteria. That includes preserved foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso or kombucha tea and kefir. Probiotic yogurts (including dairy-free versions) are widely available and delicious way to top up your good bacteria.
- Feed your good bacteria. Their favorite food group is fiber, and they like eating a variety of different kinds. Get into the healthy habit of including a good dose of fruit and vegetables into every meal along with whole grains to make sure your bacteria don’t go hungry.
- Give those bacteria a quality home. That is, look after your gut. The steps you’ve already taken to keep the bacteria in the gut happy will help, but you can also eat coconut oil and bone broth to ensure a happy home for your friendly bacteria.
- Finally, exercise. Doesn’t it always come down to exercise? Regular cardio is great for gut bacteria and sleep. And if you’re not motivated to get sprinting, here’s some good news: too much or too intense exercise is actually bad for the gut, so keep it moderate and your gut—and sleep—will thank you.
You probably already knew your digestion influenced sleep (cheese dreams anyone?) but did you know there were so many other little critters in there influencing your sleep wake cycle? Keep the gut happy, and your overall health will reap the benefits. Let’s hope you and the trillions of bacteria catching a ride in your gut sleep well tonight.
Written By Vicky Ware
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