Your digestive highway—your gut—is long and complicated, leaving a lot of potential problems in its wake. Nearly one-fifth of all Americans are affected by digestive health disease. From acid reflux to gastric ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, maintaining a healthy gut is one of the most important things you can do for your body—and your lifestyle plays a significant role.
You probably understand the link between your gut and diet and exercise. But where does sleep fit in? Well, to be fair, your sleep-gut relationship is a two-way street. While a disruptive gut may affect your sleep, a lack of sleep will definitely affect your gut.
In fact, a Swedish study reveals that in as little as two consecutive nights of 4.5 hours of sleep the beneficial bacterial strains in your gut can be reduced by nearly 50%. Considering that many adults (and children) tend to brush sleep off for other activities. Such as work, play, and going out with friends. The effect on your digestive system can be painful and take days or weeks to improve once disrupted.
When it comes to your body, it is all about routine. While naps are great, your body is designed to follow patterns. So, trying to make up a loss of two hours sleep with an afternoon nap or an extended sleep on the weekend doesn’t do the trick. This lack of sleep, or even disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can disrupt the gut microbiome within our digestive system.
Disrupting the microbiome has an impact on how your gut works with the brain to produce hormones such as melatonin, which is produced in both your gut and the brain and is essential for quality sleep. Other hormones such as cortisol are also affected. Cortisol helps your body manage stress and inflammation as well as alertness, focus, and energy throughout the day.
With the constant interaction between your gut and your brain any unexpected change (such as staying out late and waking up early) can affect your gut health. As you fall into poor sleeping habits those habits are directly linked to the hormones and health of your gut which are designed to help you both fall asleep and maintain sleep as well as keep your digestive system operating efficiently.
Want to maintain a healthy gut? Develop healthy sleep habits and learn how to improve your sleep hygiene.
Here are a few quick tips you can start tonight:
Develop a regular sleeping habit
Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday (yes, the weekends too) will help you sync your routine to your circadian rhythm. Start a wind-down routine with the same habits each night like taking a warm bath, practicing yoga, or another relaxing activity.
Block out the light
Some people use a sleep mask and others use light-blocking curtains. However, you do it, finding a way to block out the light will help you fall asleep sooner as darkness tells your brain to start the melatonin production.
Save the caffeine for lunch
It’s not uncommon to need a little pick-me-up around lunch time but digesting caffeine within four to six hours of bedtime can be a big no-no when it comes to somber sleep.
Exercising regularly helps you burn off the extra energy you would otherwise carry with you into bed each night. Make sure you’re staying active by walking at least 30 minutes a day.