If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know how our gut health, and our microbiome, influences many systems and functions in our body.
Did you know, that our gut health can actually have an impact on our sleep?
While there’s a reciprocal relationship that can occur between sleep in our gut health — a sleep deficit and a compromised sleep-wake cycle can greatly influence our microbiome and digestive function, and likewise, our digestive function and microbiome can impact our sleep — we’re just going to hone in on one direction for right now.
This week we’re exploring yet another way that our digestion and gut microbiome can influence an important function: sleep.
Microbial Diversity and Sleep
Not only is the diversity of our microbiome important for our gut-associated immunity, the health of our intestinal lining, our metabolism, and beyond — it’s also proving to be really important for sleep!
Studies have shown that diversity in the beneficial bugs that live in our gut, has a positive correlation with sleep efficiency, and the amount of time that we sleep. Specifically, richness in species in the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla have been shown to have positive impacts on our sleep.
We have also seen the converse effects from a lack of diversity and richness in the microbiome. When there is less diversity in beneficial species (perhaps due to antibiotic or medication use, due to a diet low in plant diversity and carbohydrates, or due to dysbiosis), there are negative correlations with sleep.
Serotonin and Your Microbiome
Did you know that around 90% of serotonin is made by cells in our digestive tract? Serotonin is a neurochemical that plays a role in our mood and general feeling of well-being, in our digestion, our sleep, and more. As it relates to sleep, serotonin is really important for deep REM sleep.
Some of the microorganisms that live in our gut microbiome actually modulate the production of serotonin in the gut and play a role in its secretion.
If we don’t have enough of the specific types of microbiomes that play this role in serotonin, we might not have as much access to this neurochemical. If there is dysbiosis in the gut (an overgrowth of “pathogenic” or “opportunistic” flora, or a deficiency in beneficial flora, the production and secretion of serotonin can become impacted, which can influence the quality of our sleep.
Digestive Imbalances and Sleep Disturbances
There are a number of digestive imbalances and even GI pathologies that have been shown to impact our sleep, a few of them being IBS, GERD, IBD, and even serious GI concerns like colorectal cancer.
That being said, can sleep issues be related back to certain digestive issues, then?
Studies have shown, in the case of IBS and functional dyspepsia, that these conditions were risk factors for impacted sleep. This was mainly due to the symptoms associated with IBS. There have also been correlations observed between GERD and the occurrence of sleep disturbances.
One of the reasons that these digestive conditions can contribute to sleep issues may be due to immune mediators called cytokines. Certain cytokines (specifically IL-6, IL-8 and IL-1), can actually impact our sleep-wake cycle. In many digestive conditions, including the ones mentioned above, there can be an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. This increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body can ultimately impact our sleep!
If you’re currently struggling with sleep concerns, and you’d like to explore your gut health further to see whether or not that may be contributing to what you're experiencing, I am currently accepting new 1:1 clients in my Gut Rehab Intensive program.