How poor sleep could be impacting our Gut Health

Today is World Sleep Day and with around 45% of British adults not getting the recommended 8 hours sleep a night I thought I’d share with you how not getting enough sleep may be affecting our digestive health and what we can do about it.

The beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines (microbes) can be disrupted in a number of ways including by poor diet, stress, illness and medications like antibiotics, but they can also be disrupted by our sleep, or lack of.

Like our sleep patterns, it appears that our microbes are regulated by circadian rhythms and emerging research shows that when our circadian rhythms are disrupted, the health of our microbiome suffers too. It appears that just two nights of partial sleep deprivation can significantly decrease types of beneficial bacteria, as well as changing the composition of bacteria that are linked specifically to obesity and type 2 diabetes, so can you imagine the impact that long term sleep deprivation could have!

So how can we help?

All too often sleep takes a back seat with our busy lives nowadays, with so many other distractions like Netflix and Social Media steeling our precious night time hours. Prioritising our sleep and developing a sounds night-time routine can really help improve our sleep quantity and quality. Here are a few tips; 

  • Try darkening rooms as the evening draws in – turn off harsh overhead lights and use lamps or downlighting only.

  • Stop using technology for the hour before bedtime (try meditation, journaling, reading instead).

  • If looking at a screen cannot be avoided perhaps try some blue light blocking glasses in the evenings to help reduce the amount the blue light from the screen will affect melatonin production (sleep hormone).

  • Leave enough time between supper and bed – it is not good to go to sleep hungry as this can disrupt sleep but equally we don’t want to be going to bed straight after supper so making sure we leave enough time between eating and bed can help us get a good night sleep – aim for at least 1.5 hours.

  • No caffeine after midday – caffeine stays in our system for much longer than we think (over 12 hours!) so swapping our afternoon coffee for an alternative hot drink, such as herbal tea, may help our sleep quality.