Most of us are aware of the critical connection between sleep and health. But did you know your sleep can also affect your gut health? Thanks to a study published recently by PLOS ONE, we now have some interesting information on how a lack of sleep can negatively impact your gut health.
Why does this matter?
Poor sleep habits can lead to poor gut health, and that can cause a multitude of problems in the rest of your body.
Researchers Discover Link Between Sleep and Gut Health
Study researchers from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) outfitted participants with a wrist device that measures vitals and sleep quality.
Next, researchers tested the gut microbiome of subjects.
Their findings revealed that microbiome diversity—the number of bacteria present in the gut—was positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time. An imbalance in microbiome diversity was correlated with sleep disturbances.
To put it simply: study participants who had the healthiest gut microbiome were those who slept well.
Gut Health and Sleep: Two Critical Factors for Whole-body Health
The human gut plays a vital role in whole-body health. A healthy gut is associated with a healthy immune system, heart, brain, mood, and digestion.
The health of your gut microbiome may even play a role in preventing certain cancers or diseases.
A diverse gut microbiome has also been associated with healthy aging. One study of healthy nonagenarians (people 90-99 years old) and centenarians (people aged 100 or older) in China revealed that healthy, long-living people had more diverse and balanced gut microbiotas. In contrast, older adults who suffered from multiple chronic diseases had an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy gut microbiotas, known as gut dysbiosis.
Just like your gut microbiome, sleep is another critical factor in overall health.
Poor sleep has been linked to several health problems, including a weakened immune system, increased risk for diabetes, memory issues, and increased blood pressure and risk for heart disease, to name a few.
“We know that sleep is pretty much the ‘Swiss Army Knife of health,” Jaime Tartar, lead author of the study, explained.
Tartar says that sleep deprivation can lead to short term problems such as stress and long-term health problems, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The Connection Between Gut Health and Sleep
Study authors explain that the connection between microbiome health and sleep appears to be a two-way street. “They likely influence each other,” Tartar states.
A cycle of poor sleep can lead to poor gut health, which, in turn, can lead to even worse sleep, and so on.
The good news is this: the strong, two-way communication between the gut and the brain means improvements in one or the other is likely to have a positive influence on the other.
Improve your gut health, and you may improve your sleep quality.
Improve the quality and duration of your sleep, and you’re likely to make improvements in your gut health, as well.