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The internal microbes in our gut are influenced by disruptions to our sleep patterns, but scientists are beginning to realise that it could also be the other way around: An unhealthy gut can affect the quality and duration of our sleep.
We already know that our gut has an impact on, or is influenced by, a variety of neurological functions including:
We also know that disruptions to our sleep can cause health issues such as:
Based on the relationship between sleep and the gut, researchers are beginning to ask, does the gut have a direct influence on our sleep? Studies suggest the answer is likely to be yes.
Researchers at the University of Colorado found that rats fed with prebiotics (a food source for bacteria) experienced an increase in good gut bacteria after just one month, and were sleeping better than the control rats. This suggests that the improvement in gut heath led to an improvement in their sleep as well.
In a recent BBC television documentary, Dr Michael Mosley then tested this theory by taking prebiotics for five days. He saw an improvement in his sleep as a result, with his ‘awake time’ down to just 8% from 21%.
While these experiments are far from conclusive, they do suggest a link between gut health and sleep health, and with more research undertaken every day, these suspicions could soon be confirmed.
Scientists already know that the way to achieve a healthy gut is through the use of prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are indigestible fibres which gut bacteria love to eat. They are found in plant-based foods such as lentils, chickpeas, green peas, artichokes, apples, oats, asparagus, honey and avocados, and by increasing our intake of these foods, we can help to grow healthy bacteria in our gut.
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are introduced into the gut in the form of supplements. These also encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. Probiotics also produce and regulate various hormones which have an impact on our sleep, including Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA and Cortisol.
There are probiotics to suit every type of person and situation.OptiBac Probiotics for example, produce a complete range of gut health products including probiotics that reduce bloating and diarrhea, boost immunity against colds and flu, reverse the imbalance created by antibiotics and maintain overall intestinal health.
So, while the jury is out regarding the link between gut health and sleep health, creating a healthy gut through a combination of prebiotics and probiotics would seem to be a beneficial course of action.
We can also help to improve our sleep by other means such as:
While the results of studies into a relationship between gut health and sleep health are promising, more large-scale research on humans needs to be undertaken for a significant link to be proven.
But in the meantime, eating the right foods, avoiding stress and taking a regular probiotic supplement will keep your gut healthy, and perhaps come with the silver lining of a good night’s sleep.