sleep and gut health

A Healthier Microbiome

Does gut health affect sleep?

Written by Kean Health
4 min

Gut Health and Good Sleep

There’s a powerful connection in your body, known as the gut-brain axis, which affects your immune system, hormones, brain health, and sleep. Developing science suggests the key to achieving a good night’s sleep may reside in your gut.

How does gut health affect the nervous system?

There are many ways our gut health can impact our brain health. According to research published in the Journal of Medicine Food, the gut microbiome communicates with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to form the different stages of sleep you cycle through each night. Your HPA axis is the interaction between your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. This interaction mainly occurs when you are stressed.

The science explained:

Certain microbes in your gut can stimulate your body to produce inflammatory substances called cytokines, which create a state of low-grade inflammation in your body or nervous system. Low-grade inflammation also decreases the levels of adrenal outputs, stress hormones, and cortisol and disrupts the intricate balance of the HPA. Essentially, an imbalance in your microbiome can cause an abundance of cytokines in the body, which contributes to sleep disorders. 

What microbes could be harming your nervous system?

When your microbial ecosystem is out of balance, also known as dysbiosis, your gut bacteria can produce substances like D-lactic acid and ammonia, which can exert neurotoxic properties and block the function of the nervous system. This makes the communication between the gut and brain difficult and can trigger inflammation or even stress in your body.

If your body has increased levels of neurotoxins, that may be a factor in diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and conditions like insomnia. The typical chemical processes that induce sleep can be interrupted when high levels of neurotoxins are present in your brain, even though the problem may stem from your gut.  

How does good gut bacteria impact your brain?

There’s a symbiotic relationship between your gut and your brain through the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in your body. The vagus nerve acts as a highway transporting sleep-inducing chemicals like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to the brain. When your gut flora is balanced, the transportation system works efficiently, and you’re more likely to fall into a deeper sleep.

However, your microbiome can become impaired by stress, lifestyle choices, and medications. Suddenly, you can be bombarded with bacteria producing stimulating chemicals, leaving you wide-eyed and alert instead of catching some zzz’s.

How can you get better sleep through your gut health?

There are ways to foster the comprehensive health of the microbiome and improve the symptoms of sleeplessness and insomnia.

Improving your diet can alter the microbiome’s ability to properly function. The foods that you consume daily or even before you go to bed at night for a midnight snack can be an integral part of improving your sleep.
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are great for GABA production to feed the good bacteria in your gut. *Pro-tip: Taking prebiotic or probiotic supplements before bed allows more time for your gut to integrate the good bacteria into your body.
Fermented foods such as yogurt may influence the impact of the gut microbiome on the CNS (central nervous system) and have shown significant effects on brain function in many clinical studies.
Create a healthy nighttime routine. Preparing your body and mind for a restful night will help your brain recognize when it is time to go to sleep.

  1. Getting your mind and body ready for bed is a great way to be proactive in achieving better sleep and building healthier sleep habits.

Studies are finding a deep connection between the gut, the brain, and sleep. To get better rest, you may need to make a few lifestyle adjustments to beat insomnia and poor sleep quality, but, in the long run, you are building healthier habits that will, directly and indirectly, improve other areas of your daily life. Take the guesswork out of your gut health. Take a Gut+ microbiome test to begin your health journey today!

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