Sleep and gut health is bidirectional and plays a vital role in immunity. Find out how to improve sleep efficiency and improve overall health.
Improve Sleep and Gut Health to Boost Immunity
The gut microbiome plays an essential role in sleep efficiency, regulating hormone production, stress response, immune system function, and mood, among other functions.
A study found gut microbiome diversity may improve sleep quality. The study also found a positive correlation between sleep quality and immune system response.
Researchers think increased diversity in the gut may lead to long-term improvements in sleep quality and boost immune function.
There is some evidence that suggests short-term sleep disruptions negatively affect gut health by disrupting digestion and cell repair. However, more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism of the gut-sleep relationship.
Here are some ways to improve sleep and gut health.
Create a Bedtime Routine to Improve Sleep
Mental, physical, and behavioral changes follow a cycle called the circadian rhythms. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, it affects sleep and gut health.
The circadian rhythms are influenced by light. For example, exposure to bright light at night delays the release of melatonin, resulting in difficulty falling asleep.
Having a set bedtime routine can improve sleep quality and may, in turn, improve gut health.
Some habits that contribute to a good bedtime routine include:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Reduce exposure to blue light in the evening (computer and smartphone screens emit blue light)
- Have a bath or shower before going to bed
- Do a relaxing activity like reading or meditating
Exercise May Improve Sleep and Gut Health
Exercise has long been associated with improved health and better sleep quality. Exercise increases the amount of time spent in restorative sleep cycles, which boosts immune function.
Studies have found evidence that physical activity may improve gut health as well.
In one study, gut microbiome samples were taken from 18 lean and 14 obese sedentary adults. The participants then started an exercise program for six weeks.
Researchers sampled gut microbiomes after the exercise program and again after six more weeks of inactivity.
Concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SFDAs) and microbiome diversity increased during the six-week exercise process and decreased with inactivity. At the same time, inflammation was reduced.
Scientists found the benefits of exercise on the gut microbiome happened without changes in the diets of participants.
Exercise also reduces stress, which can negatively impact sleep.
Avoid Processed Foods
Diets high in sugar and processed foods can change the gut microbiome balance. This reduces the number of beneficial microorganisms and increases the growth of harmful bacteria.
Processed foods may also irritate the digestive system and cause inflammation, and as a result, nutrient absorption decreases.
Maintaining the right balance between good and bad gut bacteria may improve digestion, reduce inflammation, improve mood, and lead to better sleep.
Eat Organic Plant-Based Food For Better Sleep
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables enhances gut health and microbiome diversity. It provides vitamins and minerals necessary for sleep efficiency and a healthy immune system.
A plant-based diet may increase tryptophan, an amino acid that contributes to the production of melatonin and serotonin, which, as a result, may improve sleep quality.
Melatonin has other functions as well, most notably regulating and protecting the immune system. Also, studies have shown melatonin may combat bacterial and viral infections.
Eating more fruits and vegetables also improves digestion and reduces inflammation.
Pesticides might be harmful to gut health, so it’s best to eat organic whenever possible.
Don’t Go to Bed Hungry
The body is wired to slow down digestion at night. Eating heavy meals late at night increases digestive activity, making it difficult to sleep.
After an exhausting day, it’s easy to give in to unhealthy food cravings. Highly processed foods can interfere with sleep and digestion, but going to bed hungry may also disrupt sleep.
A healthy nighttime snack may improve sleep. Choose snacks that are easy to digest and contain a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates.
Whole-grain cereal with milk or toast with nut butter are great nighttime snack options for sleep efficiency.
Beneficial Bacteria May Reduce Stress-Related Sleep Disruptions
Stress causes numerous sleep disruptions. A study done in Japan found that students who took a probiotic supplement experienced fewer sleep disruptions associated with stress.
For eight weeks leading up to exams, one group of students took a probiotic supplement while a second group took a placebo.
Both groups experienced increased stress, but the placebo group experienced more sleep disruptions associated with stress. They spent less time in deep sleep cycles and had difficulty falling asleep as exam day approached.
The probiotic group, on the other hand, had less difficulty falling asleep, maintained slow-wave sleep, and woke up feeling more rested.
These results suggest that a probiotic supplement may protect sleep during stressful times.
The results of another study found a prebiotic-rich diet may alleviate REM-disruptions caused by stress. Prebiotics, found in high-fiber foods, is an energy source for gut microbes and improves gut microbiome health.
Address Factors that Affect Sleep Efficiency
Disrupted sleep means the body doesn’t spend enough time in the restorative stages of sleep. Fragmented sleep decreases the beneficial bacteria in your gut and interrupts digestion and cell repair.
The immune system releases cytokines during sleep. Cytokines protect against infections and inflammation.
Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, cause fragmented sleep and may lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes.
Addressing the underlying factors that disrupt sleep will not only improve sleep efficiency but also reduce the risks associated with poor sleep quality.
Sleep and gut-health are bidirectional, and many factors contribute to gut-health and sleep quality. Improving sleep efficiency and gut health boosts immune system function and leads to better overall health.
Know any other ways to sleep better? Let us know in the comments below!