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How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Diet

How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Diet

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A bad night of sleep affects everyone sooner or later. In many cases, stress is the culprit: an upcoming important meeting, interview, or test could inspire loss of slumber. This is the kind of sleeplessness that can have lasting affects on your daily routine and diet. A study from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine shows an association between what we eat and how we sleep.

Click here for the Ways Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Diet (Slideshow)

"In general, we know that those who report between [seven to eight] hours of sleep each night are most likely to experience better overall health and well being," study researcher Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the university, said in a statement, "so we simply asked the question, 'Are there differences in the diet of those who report shorter sleep, longer sleep, or standard sleep patterns?'"

Dr. Susan Mitchell and Regina Ragone, registered dietitians, nutritionists, and media experts, say there is indeed a direct link between lack of sleep and diet. “Two out of every 10 Americans sleep less than six hours a night. Your body needs seven to eight hours. A poll from the National Sleep Foundation found that those of you sleeping too few hours report being too tired to work efficiently, to exercise, or to eat healthy. The poll suggests that inadequate sleep is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and negatively impacts health and safety.”

Some of the negative effects of lack of sleep directly impact diet, leading to long-term health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. “A lack of sleep actually wears down the fine-tuned machine known as your body and you sustain physical, mental, and emotional wear and tear that takes its toll on your health in a lot of negative ways," explains Ragone. "According to the sleep experts, this ongoing wear and tear is not offset by sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday mornings. To be specific, this wear and tear affects the body’s insulin resistance (meaning how well insulin and blood glucose work as a team) and increases the chance for metabolic syndrome which affects the metabolic processes in the body.”.

A better night’s sleep for you potentially means less weight gain and a healthier lifestyle. Ragone and Mitchell suggest eating more bananas, fish, fortified cereal, and chickpeas to your diet to help combat insomnia. “These foods contain vitamin B6, which helps the body produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.”

Ready to count some sheep? Here are 10 effects poor or insufficient sleep can have:

Caffeine Cravings

Think about it: You wake up tired and reach for the coffee or an energy drink to jump-start your day. The half-life for caffeine is around 4 hours, so come the end of that cycle, your body will need another pick-me-up. This cycle can last all day. Don’t believe us? Just check out the line at Starbucks come 3 p.m.

Carb Craving

Failure to get enough sleep could mean an overload of carbs the next day. A study by Plamen Penev, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Chicago showed that when bedtimes were restricted to five and a half hours of sleep or less, study subjects consumed more carb heavy snacks the next day.

This article was originally published on December 23, 2014.

How What You Eat Affects Your Sleep

Whether or not we get high-quality slumber at night is dependent on a lot more than what time we turn in at night and what time we set the alarm for. That includes everything from how much exercise we get to how much time we spend in the sun to how much time we spend looking at our phones and computer screens. And the combination of foods and drinks we fuel our bodies with throughout the day also get an important spot on that list.

It might seem obvious why a double espresso after dinner might disrupt your sleep that night — as might a greasy, late-night cheeseburger with French fries. The connection between a noontime salad and your slumber is somewhat less straightforward — but it’s an important one, Ana Krieger, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells NBC News BETTER.

Eating an overall healthy and nutrient-rich diet affects our brain health and activity — and in turn, our sleep, she explains.


Sleep Rx A Guide to BETTER Sleep

“Eating healthy and allowing the body to absorb proper nutrients provides the brain with the chemical environment that it needs to produce the neurotransmitters that it needs to maintain adequate sleep,” Krieger says. The nutrients we get from food serve as the building blocks for other minerals and proteins that are needed to create the amino acids that are involved in sleep, she says.

Although the research behind how various nutrients in our diet affect our sleep is young, the evidence thus far is intriguing.

Data shows that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day is linked with lighter, less restorative sleep.

In one study, researchers tracked diet and sleep for a group of healthy adults over the course of five nights and found that indeed, food choices during the day did affect sleep. The researchers chose what the study participants ate for the first four days of the study, but not on the final day of the study. The data showed that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day was linked with participants getting lighter, less restorative sleep, with more awakenings throughout the night.

When we eat is connected to sleep, too

There’s also a connection between sleep and how we metabolize food. Diet and food choices help regulate our circadian rhythm, the roughly 24-hour cycle that our body follows each day, Kristin Eckel-Mahan, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases at The University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston, says. Our circadian rhythms keep our body clock running on time, which in turn keeps all of our bodily functions running on schedule — such as falling asleep at night, waking up in the morning, feeling hungry when we need energy and metabolizing the food we eat.

That means behaviors like shifting our eating patterns or altering what we eat drastically (like switching to a very high-fat diet) can actually reprogram the various clocks our body runs on, Mahan says, “putting them on a different time zone than the master circadian clock in the brain [which controls sleep].”

That’s why what and when we eat affects sleep — and conversely sleep health affects metabolic health, too.

Research shows poor sleep patterns have been linked to eating more overall, worse diet quality and higher rates of obesity and metabolic diseases. While psychological factors (like being tired and making worse food choices) contribute to those problems, metabolic processes — like increased levels of the hormones that tell our bodies we’re hungry getting released when you’re sleep deprived — also play a role.

It’s important for people to know that both what you eat, as well as the timing of when you eat, matter when it comes to sleep and long-term health outcomes, Mahan says. “Making good nutrient choices will optimize the circadian alignment between our clocks.”

Your best bet when it comes to eating right for good sleep? Focus on general healthy eating guidelines — and not skipping or shifting meals too much, Krieger says.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

1. Pay attention to caffeine intake (and when you’re getting it)

Caffeine makes us feel more alert by blocking production of the chemicals in the brain that tell our bodies to sleep — and increasing adrenaline. The stimulant affects everyone’s bodies differently, explains Georgia Giannopoulos, a registered dietician at NewYork-Presbyterian. That’s why some people can handle two Cokes with dinner and fall right asleep, while others can’t handle more than one morning coffee.


Buzzed Science Says ɼoffee Naps' Are Better Than Non-Caffeinated Ones

It’s important to note that caffeine can stay in the bloodstream for up to six hours after you consume it, which is why nearly every sleep guideline you read suggests limiting caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours.

If you’re not having trouble sleeping, you don’t necessarily need to limit or cut back on caffeine, but if you are looking for a way to improve your sleep, how much and when you drink caffeine throughout the day should be one of the first things to consider, Giannopoulos says.

2. Lay off the booze before bedtime

Yes, a glass of red wine (or another cocktail) can definitely make you drowsy, but there’s research that shows it actually disturbs the quality of your sleep later in the night, Giannopoulos explains. Alcohol has the effect of knocking you out pretty hard right away, so your body spends more time early in the night in the deep sleep stage than it otherwise might. But your sleep cycle rebounds and your brain tends to then keep you in the lighter sleep stages (including rapid eye movement or REM sleep, when you dream) the rest of the night. The result: you wake up feeling less rested after a night of heavy drinking or drinking too much too close to when you try to sleep than on nights you skip the libations.

The good news is you don’t necessarily need to swear off a drink or two. Giannopoulos suggests drinking in moderation and not drinking too close to bedtime.

3. Avoid heavy spicy or fatty foods too close to slumber

Save the Buffalo wings and the nachos with hot sauce for daytime tailgates (in moderation!). Heavy foods that are spicy or fatty are tougher for the stomach to digest than lighter ones (like bananas or whole grains). And indigestion before bedtime makes it harder for your body to relax and drift off to slip.

And that’s also why experts recommend…

4. Breakfast like a king and supper like a pauper

Similarly, a large quantity of food eaten in a short period of time takes your body longer to digest and can be more taxing. Remember though that everyone’s body is different — so some people may have to be careful about eating too much before bed than others, Giannopoulos says. Again, if big dinners don’t disrupt your sleep there’s no need to necessarily change your habits. But if you are looking for things that might be affecting your sleep quality, timing of meals is an important one to keep in mind.

And particularly for people with acid reflux disease or other digestive problems, remember these effects may be exacerbated, she adds.


Sleep BETTER Download a Printable 7-day Sleep Journal

5. Snack wisely before bed

While you shouldn’t go to bed with a stuffed stomach, your stomach doesn’t need to be empty either. A growling stomach can definitely keep you awake, Giannopoulos says.

It’s tough to do definitive research to show that certain foods promote sleep over others, since there are so many factors that contribute to good or poor quality sleep, Krieger notes. But there are some foods for which it would make intuitive sense that they promote sleep — and some preliminary studies have been done that support the claims, she explains.

Bananas, for example, contain serotonin, turkey contains tryptophan and berries contain some melatonin — which are some of the building blocks for the chemicals our brains need to make for sleep. There is some research that suggests individuals with insomnia did fall asleep faster after drinking tart cherry juice, which is high in melatonin and inflammatory cytokines, all of which are known to play a role in the sleep process. (Though the researchers who conducted that study point out that such an effect was not as great as results for other more thoroughly vetted insomnia treatments.)

6. Cut back on sugar

Overall, limiting the sugar you eat — particularly added sugars — is well connected to better health. And watching the sweet stuff may help you sleep better, too, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Too much sugar in your diet has a direct effect on blood sugar levels, which very directly influence your energy levels throughout the day. Sugar boosts energy levels quickly, but they crash quickly after that, too. Those energy surges and dips might lead you to reach for extra caffeine, sneak in poorly-timed naps or eat other foods you wouldn’t normally — all of which can affect sleep.

Limiting sugar helps keep energy consistent throughout the day, so you can maintain other healthy habits throughout the day — and catch quality Zs at night.

Which Is Most Important: Diet, Exercise, or Sleep?

While trying to manage a busy, hectic life, it’s understandable to want to prioritize activities that provide the most benefit. Unfortunately, diet, exercise, and sleep are so deeply intertwined, it’s not possible to say that one is more important than the others.

For people who are tight on time or aren’t able to tackle all three, it can be helpful to talk to a doctor for personalized recommendations. A doctor, with knowledge about someone’s unique health history, can help to prioritize lifestyle changes. Doctors can also refer their patients to specialists, like nutritionists, dieticians, physical therapists, and sleep specialists for more tailored advice.

Raw Diet Insomnia Problem Two: Lack Of Chromium

Although only a problem for a small fraction of raw foodists, I've now worked with more than a dozen coaching clients who needed to supplement with the trace mineral chromium to avoid insomnia and other sleep problems.

I first discovered this connection several years ago when trying to address my own sleep problems, and choosing to supplement is probably the single best improvement to my diet regime I've made since I first began experimenting with a raw foods in 2005.

Why is chromium important for high-quality sleep?

At least in rats, chromium consumption increases the uptake of tryptophan to the brain, and therefore probably increases the amount of melatonin you have in circulation (4).

Also, because chromium deficiency impairs carbohydrate metabolism, it may indirectly affect a carbohydrate-rich meal's ability to send tryptophan to the brain.

To read about why raw foodists may have a chromium deficiency, and my suggestions for supplementation, check out this detailed article on chromium.

The Connection Between Sleep and Digestion

Most diet plans caution against eating a large meal or spicy food before bed because you may experience digestive disturbances, such as heartburn, indigestion and nausea. But is there really a connection between sleep and digestion? Does what you eat matter? And does it work vice versa, so that the quality and amount of sleep you get affect your digestion? The answer is yes: There is a strong connection between sleep and digestion, and digestion and sleep.

If you have any form of irritable bowel syndrome or experience food sensitivity, then you may have noticed that after a poor night’s sleep your symptoms are worse in the morning. This is because digestive processing requires a great deal of energy that we get from sleep. When the sleep process is interrupted, the digestive process is also interrupted. Getting a good amount of quality sleep ensures that your digestive system has time to rest and repair between meals and digestive cycles.

A lack of quality and quantity of sleep leads to stress, which exacerbates digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Lack of sleep also makes the body crave a simple solution to restore energy, such as imbibing sugar and caffeine. Sugar and caffeine are harmful to the digestive system, especially in large quantities because they can cause irritation and further disruption in the sleep cycle. Rather than relying on temporary energy boosts from sugar and caffeine, try to break the cycle of poor sleep that leads to heartburn, nausea, anxiety and stress.

Follow good sleep habits in order to enjoy better digestion. Allow at least two hours between your last meal and going to bed to ensure that your stomach is not still working on that midnight snack, which can lead to heartburn. A heavy dose of sugar can interrupt your sleep, much like caffeine. Avoid loading up on sugar before bed to avoid a crash in blood sugar levels, which can keep you up at night. Low blood sugar occurs naturally during the time you are sleeping, but if it gets too low it can lead to an interruption in your sleep cycle. Instead, try to maintain level blood sugar throughout the day by small snacks rather than large meals that can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Try to create a relaxing before bed routine to help reduce stress and thought patterns that keep you awake at night. Enjoying a cup of herbal tea, such as chamomile, along with other relaxing things like gentle stretching, a warm bath, reading a book can also help.

If you suffer from acid reflux, it can be helpful to sleep with your head in an elevated position. Sleeping on the left side of your body has also been found to be beneficial in reducing acid reflux during the night and preventing heartburn. It is most important not to sleep on your stomach, which is the worst position for those that suffer from digestive issues.

5 Ways Your Sleep Affects What You Eat

Great power lies in a solid night's sleep. Logging those 7-9 hours of shut-eye daily helps us stay mentally sharp, repair damage done to our bodies during the day, reduce stress and even achieve more success in life. But what happens when you don't give your body the rest it needs?

Once a healthy sleep routine falls apart, the rest of the body seems to follow suit. Research has linked too little sleep to a decrease in productivity, weaker immune system, and increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. It even affects the ways we eat -- in major ways and not for the better.

Here are five ways sleep deprivation could be negatively affecting your dietary health.

Sleeping less? You're probably eating more.

A 2012 Mayo Clinic study compared the eating habits of people who slept as much as they needed to those who only logged two-thirds of their required rest time for eight days, and found that subjects who were sleep-deprived ended up eating an average of 549 extra calories each day (which could led to the gaining of one pound per week if the habit persisted). Other researchers have attributed this overeating response to the body's simultaneous reduction of leptin, a hormone that signals feelings of fullness, and overproduction of ghrelin, a hormone that signals feelings of hunger, when you are sleep-deprived.

You snack more often -- especially late at night.

While some dietitians suggest that eating several smaller, snack-sized meals throughout the day can be a healthier dietary lifestyle, sleep deprivation can end up taking this form of eating to a new (and not so healthy) extreme. Sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in physical activity and an increase in excessive snacking behavior, and according to a 2008 study, such consumption typically leads to additional, unwanted weight gain.

You crave extra carbs and fatty foods.

And let's face it -- those late-night snacks are rarely carrots or celery sticks. A 2013 study found that we not only crave unhealthy, high-carbohydrate, and high-fat fat foods when we're tired, but also fail to mentally register the consequences of such food choices over time. And it doesn't take long for these cravings to attack. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania found that a single night of poor sleep can lead to increased cravings for fatty foods the following day.

Your disrupted sleep cycle will change your eating patterns (for the worse).

The disruption of your internal clock that guides your natural sleep patterns also determines the times at which you feel hungry during the day (as well as how hungry you feel). A 2011 study found that people who are considered "late sleepers" (the midpoint of their typical rest period is at 5:30 a.m. or later) tend to experience a delay in their meals throughout the day, eating dinner after 8 p.m. and consuming more calories than average at that meal. And those late-eating habits prevent the body from drifting off to sleep the next night, perpetuating the cycles of sleep deprivation and poor eating habits.

You could be missing out on key nutrients.

Just because you overeat when you're sleep-deprived doesn't mean you're providing your body the nourishment it needs. A 2013 study found that in addition to over-consuming unhealthy foods, sleep-deprived subjects consumed half the fruit and vegetable servings of a normal sleeper, losing key nutrients from their overall diet. These dietary imbalances can lead to possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which affect the regular functions of the body and come with a variety of unwanted symptoms.

The Vicious Cycle: Sleep, Stress and Diet

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A basic lack of sleep can affect a sufferer’s future food choices and therefore can induce anxiety. Those that do not get enough sleep tend to make poor choices and experience high anxiety as a result- therefore linking stress-diet-sleep together. It seems to be a vicious cycle of poor food choices and anxiety causing poor sleep which then results in future poor food choices and anxiety. Did you catch all that?

Most people list stress as the number one reason for unhealthy food choices and weight gain. Stress can come from a multitude of sources including your job or workplace, lack of sleep, family and home life, money and bills, or just the daily hassles of life. Sometimes stress can be a good thing – pushing us to meet deadlines and be productive. Other times, feeling constantly overwhelmed or anxious can lead to chronic stress that if left untreated, can affect your health. Many times people use food to cope with stress. The reason for this need to eat can be linked to our neuroendocrine system, effects of which date back to our ancestors in the Paleolithic period.

“Fight or Flight” or Feast?
Those ancestors of ours faced real physical stress — such as fighting off a wild animal — that would activate the “fight or flight” response. Whether they decided to fight or flee a stressful encounter, hormones released by the body during that response provided instant energy. Cortisol, another hormone connected to “fight or flight,” causes an increase in appetite, to provide nutrients to help us refuel our bodies after a stressful encounter. Cortisol’s effect on the body lingers after the stress has passed, ultimately driving us to eat more. Unfortunately, studies have shown that, when under stress, our bodies crave sugary or starchy foods, which are typically the foods that can get people in trouble on the scale.

Then and Now
In modern times, our stress seldom comes from physical demands or the danger of facing down a wooly mammoth, but more so from emotional or mental stress. However, our bodies still respond the same, which is often why many people use eating as a way to alleviate stress. Since our response to stress does not typically involve any kind of caloric expenditure, the calories you may consume can be in excess to what you need, leading to unwanted weight gain.

The day-in-and-day-out stress of work can result in “grazing” on sweet, salty, fattening or high calorie foods throughout the day. Even in small quantities (“bite-size” portions and 100-calorie packs) these incidental calories can add up.

Other times, people deal with stress by not eating, which can be just as bad. Not eating throughout the day causes your metabolism to slow down, putting your body into a semi-starvation mode. By the time you do eat, you are ravenous and more inclined to overeat.

More Meals for Less Stress
So how do you combat stress and our body’s primal hunger? By being prepared and practicing good nutrition! Follow these tips below to help keep your stress (and weight) in check!

Start off your day with a balanced breakfast (carbohydrate with a lean protein and/or healthy fat) and don’t skip meals or snacks! Eating every three to four hours is ideal.

Daily Meal Schedule
Snack (optional)

The Importance of Sleep
The quality of sleep has an enormous impact on daily life. Poor or disordered sleep can affect your work, concentration, and ability to interact with others — therefore inducing more unnecessary stress. During sleep, your body restores itself physically and mentally. This allows you to feel fresh and alert in the morning. Some studies suggest that sleep deprivation has direct effects on eating behavior. People who are continually sleep-deprived show increased appetite, particularly for high-carbohydrate, calorie-rich foods — similar to the types of foods we reach for when we are stressed. Sleep-deprived individuals also show increases in ghrelin (a hormone that increases our desire to eat) and decreases in leptin (a hormone that decreases hunger and the desire to eat).

Use these six tips to adjust your eating routine in a way that may help you get a better night’s sleep…and maintain low stress throughout your day.

  1. Eating Too Much or Too Little Can Disrupt Sleep
    A light snack at bedtime can promote sleep, but too much food can cause digestive discomfort that leads to wakefulness.
  2. Keep the Drinks to a Minimum
    While small amounts of alcohol can help you fall asleep, it might have the opposite effect as the night wears on. As the body metabolizes alcohol, sleep may become fragmented. Alcohol can worsen insomnia and also impair rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the time when the body is in its restorative phase. It can also dehydrate you, leaving you tired the next day.
  3. Caffeine Can Disturb Sleep
    Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why so many of us reach for that cup of coffee in the morning to get us going. And it’s true that some individuals can drink caffeinated beverages all day long and still sleep soundly at night. Limiting your caffeine intake should be one of the first steps you try to help improve your sleep. Be aware that coffee is not the only source of caffeine. Many sodas and teas, chocolate, and some medications, especially those for headaches, also contain caffeine. Check labels to help eliminate such sources of stimulation.
  4. Forget the Fat
    If you consume a high-fat meal in the evening or eat foods that you have found cause you indigestion and heartburn, your sleep can be disturbed and restless.
  5. Do Not Eat Late at Night
    People who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux should avoid late, heavy meals that delay the emptying of the stomach. Lying down with a full stomach puts you at a gravitational disadvantage, encouraging acids and gastric juices to flow up into the esophagus, causing uncomfortable heartburn that will make sleep more challenging.
  6. Drinking Fluids Too Close to Bedtime Can Cause Problems
    Drink the majority of your fluids for the day by the end of dinner. A full bladder may be cutting into your sleep time. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water is essential to healthy bodily functions. Shoot for eight glasses, or two quarts, per day. But be sure to drink the majority of your fluids before dinnertime so you won’t be making numerous trips to the bathroom during your sleeping hours.

The Bottom Line
Eating balanced small meals and snacks throughout the day has several benefits to reducing stress, anxiety, and promote better sleep. First, it helps maintain blood sugar levels which keeps energy levels stabilized over the course of the day. Eating frequently also keeps your metabolism running. It keeps you hungry/full instead of starving/stuffed, which decreases the chance for overeating and inducing anxiety because of those poor food choices. If you come to work prepared with healthy meals and snacks, it decreases the urge for stress-snacking during the day. Finally, it allows more opportunities to include fruits, vegetables, and fiber into your day, which we all need to make a point to do!

How can I raise my iron levels?

If your iron levels are lacking then the most obvious thing to do would be to include more iron-rich foods in your diet. If you’re vegan or vegetarian though, this may seem a bit daunting at first but don’t worry! There are plenty of plant-based options for you to choose from – leafy greens such as spinach and kale are good choices here as are pumpkin seeds and lentils. Incorporating these types of foods into your eating routine should be quite simple but, if you need some inspiration, I personally love whipping up a veg-packed curry such as this easy Chickpea & Spinach Curry or even a Coconut, Spinach & Red Lentil Dhal.

Unhealthy Snacking Becomes Almost a Subconscious Habit

Multiple meals throughout the day is a healthier choice than just three large meals across the entire day, but when you are sleep deprived, frequent snacking is not ideal because of the following reasons:

  • You will crave junk and sweet food more than other healthier options
  • Due to a decrease in leptin, you will likely eat several unhealthy snacks and three large meals anyway
  • Snacking subconsciously without even being aware of all the consumed calories is not uncommon

Diet effectiveness and sleep

Make a neat sleep schedule if you&rsquore planning to go on a diet. Research suggests that sleep is crucial for losing weight the way you want to. Most of us want to lose some fat while retaining muscle mass.

What happens when you sleep poorly is that your body desperately holds onto your energy supplies (fat) because the lack of sleep deprives you of energy. That&rsquos probably why you have an increased appetite when you don&rsquot sleep enough.

So if your body keeps the fat it has to burn something else and this is where your muscles suffer.

The study published in the journal Sleep aimed to see how people will respond to a diet if they had enough (8.5h) and way too short (5.5h) amounts of sleep. They tested the same group of people on two occasions &ndash once with normal and one with restricted sleep. Apart from controlling the length of their sleep, researchers also restricted their calorie intake.

The findings were these &ndash dieters lost the same amount of weight in both cases. However, the composition of weight loss was not the same. Sleeping for 8.5 hours resulted in 50% of the lost weight being from fat and 50% from lean muscle which is normal, whereas sleeping for 5.5 hours a night resulted in the following: 75% of the lost weight came from lean muscle mass and only 25% from fat.

Short sleep cut the fat loss to about half of what it would be had they slept enough.

Exercising may help keep more of your lean muscle, but restorative sleep is what builds your muscle mass so your efforts could be in vain if you&rsquore not sleeping properly. This is because restorative or deep sleep is easily lost &ndash frequent wakings, sleep problems and disturbances, bad sleep schedule, bad food choice, and stress are only some of the things that make it hard to get deep sleep.

How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Gut Health

By Olena Valdenmaiier

Bad night’s sleep, bad mood all day? That poor gut feeling that can cloud you when you’re sleep deprived could have something to do with how your sleep patterns and gut microbiome link up. So far, it seems our microbial composition seems to effect how we sleep, and our sleep and circadian rhythms appear to influence the health and diversity of those all-important bacteria living in our gut. This is a complicated, dynamic interplay that researchers are only just beginning to unravel. To make it a little easier for you, here’s our lo-down on how skipping sleep can squash your gut bugs, and bust your mood.

Impact of Circadian Imbalance

Recent studies have observed that patients with obesity and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often have compromised normal microbiome communities and/or a disturbed sleep cycle (circadian rhythm). These conditions are often associated with chronic inflammation, and scientists now believe that an impaired microbiome might be triggering the systemic inflammation observed during disrupted sleep.¹ At the same time, a circadian imbalance might induce gut dysbiosis. An animal study demonstrated that shifts in the light-dark cycle, combined with a high-fat, high-sugar diet, significantly altered the gut microbiota in observed mice.²

Sleep and Gut Disorders

Sleep irregularities play an important role in many gastrointestinal diseases, in turn, having problems with your gut can often affect sleep. For instance, sleep disruption is not only common in IBD patients, but can impact the rate of disease flare-ups in the future.³ This interdependent relationship between the gut and sleep underlies some novel treatment approaches that actually target sleep abnormalities in patients with gastrointestinal disorders.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Microbiome

Our health is determined by many factors, and there is more and more evidence demonstrating just how important the interaction is between our bodies and the microbes that colonise us. They can make us ill but, at the same time, they are also the ones who have the power to ensure our health.⁴ Given the link between sleep restriction, gut dysbiosis and metabolic disease, many have presumed a relationship between sleep and the gut microbiome. Interestingly, a 2017 study found that sleep restriction did not overtly influence the composition of the microbiome, suggesting there may be some independent effects at play.⁵ The healthy, lean adults in the study followed a normal diet, and were shown to be able to preserve their microbiome diversity after a week of sleep restriction.⁵ Clearly, more research is needed to delve deeper into the direct impact of sleep on the gut. Nevertheless, the good news is that there are ways to change the composition of our microbiome through diet, pre- and probiotics. No wonder our microbial inhabitants have become targets for both disease diagnosis and treatment therapies!


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