How Poor Sleep Impacts Our Microbiome
Spring ahead. Sure, it means the daylight will stretch farther into the evening, but the loss of an hour’s sleep as the clock skips forward into daylight savings time, leaves many of us feeling foggy and out of synch for the days that follow.
Sleep is a very precious commodity. While there is still no answer as to ‘why we sleep,’ we do know that sleep (or lack thereof) dramatically impacts our capacity for learning, memory, safety, health and longevity.1
As many of us will feel the effects of an extra early wake-up this upcoming Monday morning, we thought we would look at how poor sleep affects our health and the health of our microbiome.
How Lack of Sleep Impacts Our Health
Yes, daylight savings time does leave many of us feeling the acute effects of a lack of sleep, but in fact, our modern-day lifestyle has shifted our schedules dramatically. The blue light emitted from our devices tricks our minds into believing it is still daylight out, suppressing our sleep hormone melatonin.2 Many of us also use our smartphones as alarm clocks meaning the pull of the internet (and email, social media, text, and DMs) are at an arm’s length away making it hard for our brain to shut down and unwind for the deep, restful sleep our body needs.
Feeling groggy, unable to focus and irritable the next day are the short-term effects of lack of sleep, but if the pattern continues it sets us up for some fairly serious long-term health issues as well.
The Common Cold: people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep per night were about 3x likely to develop the common cold when exposed to the virus as people who were well rested.1
Type 2 Diabetes: people who sleep fewer than 5 hours per night have greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.1
Cardiovascular Disease: reduced sleep (six to seven hours per night) increases the risk of artery calcification; a predictor for future heart attack.1
Weight Gain & Obesity: poor quality sleep increases obesity by interfering with hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, increasing food intake without compensating for energy expenditure.3
How Poor Sleep Impacts Our Microbiome
Our microbiome is composed of about 2-6 pounds of bacteria, and like the human’s they live in, they work on a 24-hour cycle, known as a circadian rhythm.4
Due to various complexities, researching the rhythmic fluctuations of the microbiome in humans remains somewhat tricky, yet animal models are giving us a good insight into how our bacteria respond over a 24-hour period.4
It is currently believed that cycling bacteria communities within the gastrointestinal tract produce the ideal amount of active hormones, precursors, or metabolites for the regulation of our metabolism and circadian rhythm.4
Mice with a disturbed circadian rhythm (aka jet lag-like conditions) have been shown to display an increased progression of weight gain, blood glucose levels, body fat, and increased metabolic disease. Many of the issues we see in humans who do not make sleep a priority in their day-to-day lives.4
We already know that our immune system and gut microbiome is intrinsically related, but studies are now showing host-microbe circadian rhythm-mediated disturbances to the immune system could influence diseases such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic autoimmune diseases, and cancer risk.4,5
How to Protect Your Microbiome When Sleep Is Lacking
As we learn more about health and wellness, paying attention to the valuable role sleep plays is hard to ignore. But sometimes that is easier said than done. Whether you are travelling, under a hectic deadline, dealing with a stressful situation in your life, or just up against daylight savings time, sometimes we just don’t get the sleep that we should.
If you can’t get the hours of shut-eye that your body needs to function optimally, here are tips to support your body and keep it healthy until you can get back to regularly scheduled programming (aka, sleeping).
Protect Your Gut
Whether it’s to give your immune system a boost or keep things moving, a high-quality probiotic will provide you with the added help you need.
Bio-K+ includes three unique, patented strains of bacteria that have been clinically proven to work synergistically together to keep bad bacteria in check, create a healthy environment for good bacteria to grow and maintain gut integrity to support your immune system. With 50 billion CFU per bottle, dairy and non-dairy options, and a variety of flavours, it’s an easy addition to your routine, no matter how tired you are.
Skip the Junk
When we are feeling tired, it is tempting to want to reach for sugary snacks or an extra cup of coffee that will give us the hit of energy we are looking for, but those quick fixes only set us up for more trouble in the long run.
High-sugar diets favour the growth of bad bacteria. Too much coffee (or more accurately the caffeine in the coffee) can lead to exacerbated cortisol levels, increasing gut permeability and thus inflammation throughout the body.
Skip the junk and fuel your body on fibre rich foods like roasted sweet potatoes, squash or whole grains like brown rice, and quinoa that will still satisfy cravings for carbs but feed your healthy bacteria thanks to their high fibre content. If you’re craving a coffee, try to keep it before noon, when cortisol levels are naturally high.
If You Can’t Go for Quantity, Go for Quality
If you know you aren’t going to be able to get the required amount of sleep, you need to set yourself up to maximize the time you have. Aim to turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime and dim the lights to signal the production of melatonin. Practice good sleep hygiene by ensuring your bedroom is as dark and cold as possible to promote optimal conditions for deep sleep. If you’re having a hard time winding down, try following a guided meditation or practice some deep breathing to help both body, mind and microbiome relax.
Sleep plays a vital role in both our health and the health of our microbiome. When you can’t get enough shut-eye, be sure to take extra care to support both body and mind so that you can get back on track quickly.
Do you have any other questions concerning the health of your gut microbiome? Let us know in comments below! Join our community for more healthy tips. Click here to find a store near you. Contact us or follow us on Facebook or Instagram.