Great Gut Blog

Sleep and Your Gut

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Sleep and Your Gut

Sleep and Your Gut

Sleep is an essential function to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Giving your body enough sleep each night helps us in a myriad of ways above and beyond simply feeling awake, refreshed, and ready for school or work. Sleep is when our body heals and rejuvenates itself. It should come as no surprise that sleep is very good for our gut (and vice versa, as it turns out)!

Detrimental Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Several studies have demonstrated that a lack of good sleep causes people to struggle with lapses in attention and delayed reactions, reduced cognition, and mood swings. Without good sleep, our brains simply cannot function properly, leading to difficulties concentrating and learning (which is why sleep is so important for our kids). In addition, a study found that just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to accumulation of the β-Amyloid protein, which is one of the major risks of Alzheimer’s disease.

But more than that, sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of a number of serious medical conditions and diseases. For example – did you know that poor sleep is linked to weight gain and, in fact, is one of the highest risk factors for obesity? A lack of sleep is also linked to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

The Benefits of Sleep

Unsurprisingly, getting a good night’s sleep each night helps us with our ability to think and be productive the next day. But there are many long-term effects to good sleep hygiene, and some of them might surprise you!

Did you know that sleep can help maximize athletic performance? A Stanford University study found that college basketball athletes who got good sleep over the course of several weeks showed improvement in their speed, reaction times, and accuracy.

Here’s another surprising benefit: good sleep leads to eating less. Sleep deprivation causes disruptions in the hormones that control appetite, leading to overeating and potential weight gain.

Sleep and Our Gut

There’s a strong connection between our gut and our sleep. A study done by the University of Tsukuba discovered that our gut bacteria affect and influence our sleep patterns. To put it simply: an unhealthy gut can lead to poor sleep. The reverse is also true – poor sleep can lead to poor gut health.

Our stress level increases when we don’t get enough sleep (even if we have a relatively stress-free life); we’ve all experienced those days when we find ourselves crankier and more short-tempered because we got a bad night’s sleep. When we lack sleep, the stress hormone cortisol rises, while the calming sleep hormone, melatonin, falls. And while melatonin is instrumental in helping us fall asleep, it’s also important in the regulation of gastrointestinal mobility; if our melatonin levels are out of whack, it can increase our risk of developing GERD.

Remember how much of our immune system is in our gut? Turns out, poor sleep has a detrimental effect on our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to catching stray colds and viruses.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

We can’t survive without sleep; our physical and mental health depend on it.

In general, adults need between seven and nine hours of good sleep each night, and children need more than that – yes, really! Many of us “feel” as though we do just fine on less sleep, but that’s because our bodies falsely convince us that’s the case. Basically, our bodies get so used to chronic sleep deprivation, it finally thinks everything is fine because it no longer remembers what it feels like to be well-rested.

So do yourself a favor – work on improving your sleep hygiene such that you can regularly get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Your mind, body, and gut will thank you!


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