The gut plays a huge role in regulating how well you sleep. And the reverse is true, your sleep plays a role in how your gut functions.
There are a host of reasons sleep is important, below are just some of them:
Quality sleep positively impacts-
The list goes on.
Restful sleep is a time for our body to clean itself. Our body takes the 7-9 hours we sleep to do some spring cleaning.
Our brain takes all of the information it brought in throughout the day and files the info away into a very intricate filing cabinet. It files the folders in an orderly way so that
a) it will know where to access the info when it needs it in the future, and
b) it can make room for new information the following day.
You may have noticed before that when you skip on sleep (new parents, you can probably attest to this) your brain doesn’t feel like it’s working as efficiently as it usually does. Your thoughts are jumbled, your words aren’t coming to you, and you can’t keep up with your normal cognitive function. This is because your brain’s filing system wasn’t able to do its work as well as normal.
Sleep is also time for your body to cleanse and detox. Your biggest organ, your skin, takes this time to flush things out and reboot, giving you that glowy morning dew look when you wake up. Same goes for your mouth and tongue, it does it’s own cleansing, which is why we wake up with strange smelling breath- it’s been detoxified.
The biggest thing your body works on while you sleep is detoxifying your internal organs. Every organ in your body goes through its own detoxification process which is imperative for your organs, and body, to function properly.
Your body has a certain order in which is goes through this organ detoxification. Some organs go through this detox while we sleep and it’s important that we are asleep during the detox. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body starts with detoxing the gall bladder, moves to the liver, then on to the lungs, and finishes with the large intestine while we sleep.
Part of the reason so many people have to poop first thing in the morning? Their large intestine just went through its detox, a sign of healthy digestion!
Have you ever skipped on sleep or had to wake up really early for a flight and you felt a little sick to your stomach? Your bowels feel off or plugged up? This is from skipping out on that last hour of sleep. Your body didn’t get time to detox the large intestine, the organ that is a part of your gut, and it throws off your digestion.
Your hormones are greatly affected by your gut. Your gut helps regulate and synthesis your hormones and plays a pivotal role in creating healthy levels of estrogen.
Men might think hormones aren’t as big of a factor for them. That hormones matter mostly for women’s health and fertility.
Wrong! Hormones are an integral part of everyone’s system.
Your hormones do everything from regulating your mood, managing your metabolism, creating hunger hormones (or an overabundance of them), handling stress, helping us sleep or keeping us awake (hi, melatonin and serotonin!), and, yes, play a pivotal role in our ability to make babies. They do far more than that, but these are the big kahunas when it comes to the effects hormones play on our health.
Regulating hormones is incredibly in depth. I won’t get into all of it, but a few key components:
In order to support your hormones as they relate to sleep, we are just going to dive into the circadian rhythms component of balancing hormones and how beneficial it can be for sleep, thus supporting the gut.
“Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.” Eric Sumi, thesleepfoundation.org.
The basic idea of circadian rhythms are that our body has a natural rhythm it wants to adhere to that is in sync with the cycle of day and night. When it is light outside, our body naturally wants to be awake, happy, and alert, moving about and doing things. When it gets dark outside, our body naturally wants to shut down, relax, recoup, and sleep.
Many living organisms adhere to a natural circadian rhythm. We see it in flowers, opening during the day to get as much sun exposure as it can, and then closing when it becomes dark. Animals also have a circadian rhythm they naturally follow, depending on their survival needs.
When we are in tune with our circadian rhythms, our sleep will improve as our body is following the pattern nature has set up for us. It also means that our hormones will be more balanced. Daylight time is when our body wants to naturally produce serotonin, or the happy hormone. Serotonin keeps us awake, alert, and productive. At night, our body (when balanced) produces melatonin, which is known to help us slow down and get sleepy.
If our hormones are out of whack because of our gut and/or our circadian rhythms are off, our body will produce the wrong kind of hormones at the wrong time, or won’t produce enough/will produce too much. That is why people often use a melatonin supplement when they struggle with sleep.
How do our circadian rhythms get thrown out of whack? Lot’s of things we face today.
There are a few things you can do to get in sync with your natural circadian rhythms-
Give these three tips a try for a month and see how your sleep and energy levels change!