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Want a good night's sleep? Start with your Microbiome

Want a good night’s sleep? Start with your Microbiome

As Many as 45% of adults are not getting the sleep they need, and 29% of adults say they have made mistakes at work because of lack of sleep. Our 24/7 culture and constant need to be online don’t help, but as Dr Michael Mosley found out an uncomplicated way to address the issue is to feed the microbiome.

Blood sugar levels and sleep quality.

Our bodies require a consistent level of energy even when we are sleeping. This energy comes in the form of blood glucose extracted from our foods or converted from stored body fat. When we eat high Glycaemic Index (GI) foods our blood sugar initially spikes. Shortly after we go into a low sugar state that the body must compensate for. These highs and lows trigger stress hormones such as cortisol that make it very hard for us to sleep. Additionally, processing high GI foods may keep our core temperature high which inhibits sleep.

The Gut-Brain axis affects sleep as well.

The effect that the gut brain axis has on mood and inflammation is well characterised. We are now beginning to understand what effect it has on sleep as well. There are 3 reported ways that microbiome can abuse the gut-brain axis and affect sleep:

  • Inflammation caused by inflammatory bacteria in the microbiome can send negative signals through the central nervous system.
  • The microbiome plays a significant role in hormone regulation. Specifically the microbiome is responsible for approximately 95% of serotonin production. Serotonin is a key hormone required to produce melatonin which is a key element in the sleep cycle.
  • The microbiome modulates the immune response. Immune disorders are commonly associated with conditions such as sleep apnoea.

The cycle goes both ways.

Not only does the gut microbiome affect the quality of our sleep, the quality of our sleep can affect our microbiome. The gut-brain axis communicates in both directions. Amazingly not only do we have a day/night cycle (called circadian rhythm) but so do the bacteria in our gut. Poor sleep has been shown to reduce the biodiversity of the microbes in our gut, which in turn leads to poor health outcomes. The good news is that improving sleep by disconnecting from electronics, reducing stimuli, and relaxing will also improve your general health by increasing the diversity of gut microbiota.

In summary

There are several dietary factors involved in good sleep patterns:

  • Avoid high glycaemic foods (sugary drinks, highly processed carbs, junk food) just before bed to avoid sugar spikes and crashes that affect sleep. Studies suggest avoiding hi GI foods within 1 hour of bedtime.
  • High fibre, high nutrient foods, such as whole fruit just before bed help support regular sleep. One study saw a significant improvement in sleep quality with 2 kiwifruit consumed 1 hour before bed time. Additionally, high fibre high antioxidant foods help produce melatonin and reduce inflammation. Increasing daily fibre intake by more than 3g improves sleep quality.
  • A good prebiotic that feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut will regulate sleep in the long term as well.
  • The microbiome and sleep are a cycle – working on one can improve the other for an overall health boost.

As with so many things to do with our health an excellent quality broad spectrum prebiotic food will aid with a good night’s sleep.