There’s no doubt that our digestive health and the wellbeing of bacteria go hand in hand. The quality and how much sleep we’re getting impacts the way in which our gut microbiome actually works and vice versa.
We can easily disrupt our ‘circadian rhythm’, an internal clock that regulates our body’s functions and we can do it through various ways, from sleep deprivation, shift work, to poor quality sleep. All of these contributing factors can change the community of microbes living in our digestive system.
A study was released back in 2016 that explained that the shift between day and night does not only impact our circadian rhythm, but also the rhythm of our microbes too. And these little guys rely on our day and night schedule so that they can support the rhythm of our other organs. Interesting, right? Our microbes are practically operating on clockwork, in the sense that when we go to sleep, this signals for one shift to finish and another to begin. And this is extremely important to recognise.
So, when we disrupt our circadian rhythm, due to lack of sleep a vital hormone ‘leptin’ decreases, and this little guy is responsible for our feelings of satiety. Lack of sleep also increases the level of ghrelin, a hormone that is responsible for your appetite. So when we lack sleep, leptin cannot control or signal when we are full, but ghrelin is encouraging us to continue eating more. This is why a lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to obesity, and or increased weight gain.
So, how does sleep work?
There are 4 stages of sleep that ideally rotate 5-6 cycles per night. The first stage of sleep is the non-rapid eye movement. And this slowly progresses, deeper and deeper into 3 different stages. Waking up in this phase can leave you feeling slightly disorientated or confused. Followed by this is the rapid eye movement, where you dream. Each adult cycle lasts about 1.5 hours and to feel refreshed you need to reach all 4 stages, as well as reaching that rotation goal of 5-6 cycles per night.
So now you’re probably wondering how much sleep you need per day…
Between the ages of 18-65, you need roughly 7-9 hours per day of sleep. However, an exact figure depends on the individual. Quality of sleep is also integral to these 7-9 hours, so it’s important to recognise any reasons why you may be having a disturbed or interrupted sleep that won’t allow you to wake up feeling refreshed.
So how can you have a GREAT night sleep?
After highlighting all the reasons why sleep is so damn important for your microbiome, let’s chat about ways in which we can improve our gut health:
- Create a routine: A regular sleep routine helps regulate your circadian rhythm, and regulating your circadian rhythm regulates your microbiome so that they can work most effectively in maintaining healthy organs
- Natural light: It doesn’t have to be sunny all day, every day but try to expose yourself to natural light at the same time of day, every day. This certainly helps for those who spend lots of hours in front of a screen
- Exercise: The best time to exercise is either in the morning or during the day. Exercising in the evening can disrupt your sleep as it can boost your ‘energy’ hormones.
- Avoid stimulants: Keep away from nicotine, and caffeine for at least 8 hours before you go to sleep. Caffeine generally can leave lasting effects on the body for up to 12 hours, so our recommendation is post midday, find a less caffeinated beverage, or opt for some fruit to give you a pick me up!
- Happy belly: Make sure you’re not too hungry, full, or thirsty before you go to sleep.
- Don’t nap after 3 pm: Yes that’s right, and don’t nap longer than 20 minutes
- No screen time: Give up your screen time habit about half an hour before bed. Read a book, have a conversation with someone in your house, play with your dog or just meditate. Screens can interfere with your body’s hormones
- Alcohol: While it may help you feel relaxed, it can impact the quality of your sleep incredibly, especially your sleep cycles.
- Don’t lay awake: If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes of laying down, get up and do something that will make you feel sleepy. Maybe try listening to soft music?
There you have it, nine simple ways to help regulate your sleep so that your circadian rhythm is also happy. If your sleep issues still persist, then we recommend seeing a doctor!