You eat healthily and get regular exercise. You finish dinner before 7:30pm and don’t snack late at the night. And even though you try to turn off lights by 10pm, sweet sleep eludes you. Why can’t you fall asleep despite leading a seemingly healthy lifestyle?
There’s a remarkable connection between gut health and sleep, and a lot of people have no idea about it. Melatonin—the regulator of the body’s sleep-wake cycle—is produced in the brain, but there’s also a ton of it in your digestive tract.
The health of the bacteria in your gut, what we call your microbiome, is critical to the production and proper function of your sleep-related hormones.
The Gut-Sleep Relationship
The term microbiome can mean a couple of different things. This vast array of microbial life lives on the skin and throughout the body. The largest single collection of microbes resides in the intestine—hence the attention to “gut” health. Here, trillions of microscopic organisms live and die—and appear to exert a profound effect on human health.
The constant communication and interplay between the gut and the brain have the potential to influence and intersect with sleep both directly and indirectly. Melatonin, the “darkness hormone,” which is essential to sleep and a healthy sleep-wake cycle, also contributes to maintaining gut health. Melatonin is produced in the gut as well as the brain, and evidence suggests intestinal melatonin may operate on a different cyclical rhythm than the pineal melatonin generated in the brain.
How to Improve Gut Health for Better Quality Sleep?
- Avoid anything that can damage gut health. This includes processed foods, alcohol and heavy antibiotics that interfere with normal gut bacteria.
- Take good sleep nutrients. Magnesium helps regulate more than 300 biochemical processes in the body, and studies have shown that getting enough of it can improve sleep problems. You can get magnesium from food sources, like dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, but supplementation can help. Calcium, potassium, and selenium are important too.
- Eat more probiotics and prebiotics as these are rich in healthy, live bacteria which is crucial to good gut health. Miso, yoghurt, and kimchi are your gut’s friends.
Invest in good blackout curtains and turn off all devices an hour before bedtime. Learn to unwind, so that your body produces melatonin needed to fall off to sleep.
Image via http://www.colorado.edu/