The Connection Between Sleep and Gut Health

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern


How’d you sleep last night? Your answer to this question can also tell you a little bit about how your gut is doing too. Gut health and good sleep are hot topics in the health and wellness world, and it turns out that the two are directly related. If your sleep is off then your gut health will be off, and vice versa. So, let’s look at the connections between the two, what can throw it off, and how you can take care of both!

According to Dr. Allison Brager, the gut microbiome, which is all of the bacteria that live in your small intestine, influences all sorts of brain functions, including sleep.  Specifically, the distribution of healthy bacteria in the gut impacts the health of our neurons, the speed at which they transmit signals, and their ability to regrow and regenerate post-stress. Another factor in the gut-sleep relationship is the presence of the hormone serotonin, which regulates your mood, emotions, and sleep. Serotonin is highly present in the gut and brain, but more so in the gut.

Since the relationship between the gut and brain goes both ways, a disruption to either can throw the other off as well. Dr. Wendy Hall says that sleep disruptions such as shift work and the irregular sleep times that come with it can have a profound impact on health. She notes that even small differences in health can result in changes to gut bacteria as well.

So, how do you avoid disruptions to your sleep and gut health? Dr. Shilpa Ravella says that the most important way to take care of your gut health is to eat a diet rich in whole foods rather than processed foods. Add more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to your diet to keep your gut bacteria as healthy as possible. When it comes to sleep, stick with the basics, such as a regular bedtime and wake up time, staying off devices while in bed, and sleeping in a dark, cool, and comfortable environment.

The bottom line? Eat well and sleep well to promote a good relationship between your sleep and your gut health. For more articles about sleep and gut health, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!

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