Nothing in your body is an island. Everything works together to inform your overall health and well-being. If you're sleeping poorly, and your stomach is all uncomfortable rumbles and grumbles, you might wonder how sleeping badly impacts your gut health. While gut health can affect your sleep quality, it also works the other way around. "Your gut microbiome has immense influence over your immune system health, brain function, hormone balance, and mood. Your gut has so much control over your bodily functions it’s referred to as the 'second brain,'" Dr. Stevin Lin wrote on his website, The Functional Dentist.
"Your gut and sleep patterns work in an axis — a two-way street of communication. They influence each other in either synergistic or antagonistic cycles. When you’re unaware of this connection, it can lead you in a downward health spiral, which can be confusing because symptoms (such as teeth grinding) seem unrelated to the gut." Who knew these two things were so closely related? "When your circadian rhythm is off it begins to severely affect your quality of sleep. When you experience low quality sleep, your gut health is compromised. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may disrupt the microbiome," Dr. Lin explained. I had no idea, but let's go down this rabbit hole together — here are some other ways poor sleep affects your gut health.
Lack Of Sleep Limits Your Body's Ability To Control Blood Sugar
If you're sleep deprived, research suggests that your body might have a difficult time controlling your blood sugar. This is troubling because blood sugar, the glucose in your blood, provides vital energy and nutrients to your body's organs, according to Live Science. A study from the University of Chicago found that: "Sleep deprivation hinders the body’s ability to control blood sugar. In fact, after about a week of sleeping only four hours a night, study participants showed their first meal of the day elicited peak blood sugar responses akin to aging about 30-40 years." Yikes.
Sleep Disorders Can Negatively Affect Your Gut Health
On his website, Dr. Michael Gelb, D.D.S., M.S., a New York-based TMJ and sleep specialist, explained that poor sleep caused by things like sleep apnea can negatively impact your gut microbiome. "When your microbiome is less diverse, it can affect production of serotonin and melatonin which affects your ability to sleep. In an animal study this disruption caused inflammation and insulin resistance — precursors to heart disease and diabetes." If you're sleeping poorly and your gut feels bajiggity, it might be worth consulting a sleep specialist to see if you have sleep apnea or another sleep-airway disorder.
Sleep Loss Can Lead To Gut Inflammation
According to Dr. Gelb, "Sleep deprivation also increases production of B cells that contributes to the body’s defense system, but excess can increase allergies and asthma. Sleep loss and inflammation are intimately linked. Sleep airway disorders can also provoke your immune system to go on overdrive." Basically, your immune system starts attacking itself. This can cause your body to overreact to simple changes in your environment, which can trigger allergies, gut discomfort, cause skin conditions, and more.
Poor Sleep Can Exacerbate Intestinal Distress
If you're already living with an intestinal issue like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), etc., poor sleep quality can make these conditions worse. "Our body requires a remarkable amount of energy to function properly. One of those major functions is our digestive process — eating, chewing, and processing food before eliminating what we don’t need," sleep hygiene company Tuck explained on its website.
"Without sufficient sleep, we don’t have enough energy to perform that process as smoothly and as painlessly as we should. The problems don’t stop there. When we’re sleep deprived, our appetite increases, and we actually begin to crave the kinds of junk food that trigger GI problems."
Overall, everything in your body relies on proper sleep and good gut microbiome to function at its level best. If you're not sleeping well and your gut is a mess, ask your doctor how you can get back on track so you can start feeling better ASAP. #TheMoreYouKnow