Why would a company that makes fermented foods be writing an article about sleep?
What do pickles and sleep actually have in common? The answer is that they can both have a huge impact on gut health.
At Olive My Pickle, we're passionate about gut health and helping you improve yours. Whether it's through our fermented foods or by sharing how sleep habits affect your gut health, we'll ensure you have what you need to keep your gut happy.
Your gut is responsible for more than just digesting your food.
A healthy gut microbiome helps to keep your hormones balanced, your immune system strong, your skin clear, your mental health in check, and so much more.
If your gut isn't healthy, it can have far-reaching effects on the body, one of which includes a negative affect on sleep quality.
On the other hand, if you're not getting adequate sleep, your gut health can suffer. Sufficient, restful sleep is crucial for a healthy functioning body. Lack of sleep can have short- and long-term mental and physical health effects.
How are the gut and the brain linked?
Your brain and your gut know each other pretty well. The gut is often referred to as the second brain. The gut is connected to the brain through the gut-brain axis.
The gut-brain axis is the communication pathway between your gut and brain. Your brain tells your body how to behave through neurons, which are cells found in the brain and central nervous system.
There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain. By contrast, the gut contains 500 million neurons connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system. The "superhighway" on which the messages between the gut and brain speak to one another is the Vagus nerve which governs the parasympathetic nervous system. Those are the systems in charge of unconscious activities such as digestion, heart rate and immune system function, to name a few.
Keeping your gut healthy, responsive, communicative and strong is vital to keeping the communication clear between your brain and other areas of the body.
How lack of sleep can affect gut health
We all know that feeling when we don't get enough sleep. You feel groggy, foggy and maybe even sick. When you go long periods of experiencing poor sleep, it can affect your gut health.
Even while you sleep, your digestive system continues to work. During this time, the tissues in your digestive system grow, repair, and rebuild.
Therefore, sleep is essential to give your body and digestive system a much-needed break and to ensure the proper balance and function of bacteria in the gut.
Lack of sleep can alter your gut microbiome, leading to inflammation and insulin sensitivity, which leads to type 2 diabetes, and a decrease of the richness and diversity (2) of the microbiota in the colon.
Even just two nights (3) of lack of sleep can alter your gut microbiome.
How gut health can affect lack of sleep
Research has found (4) that healthy, diverse gut bacteria is associated with better sleep, while bad gut bacteria is associated with poor sleep (5).
You're probably already familiar with melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is produced in the pineal gland. But did you know that the gut (6) is also responsible for synthesizing and housing melatonin?
Microbes in the gut produce melatonin and other sleep-regulating hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. This is why gut health directly affects circadian rhythm (7) - your body's sleep-wake cycle.
If you have poor gut health or lack of microbiome diversity, you may struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or may experience insomnia. This lack of sleep creates a cycle that can affect your digestive health, gut microbiome, and overall wellness.
This is why focusing on improving your sleep and gut health is important.
4 Ways to Improve Gut Health for Better Sleep
If you've ever spent a day hiking, playing sports, or walking around a new city, you probably experienced a restful night's sleep afterward.
Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality (8), which we know leads to better gut health.
Research also shows that exercise modifies the gut microbiota (9), leading to a healthier gut, a stronger digestive system, and better sleep!
Low-intensity exercise, such as walking, yoga, swimming, or cycling, is great to incorporate into your routine to improve your gut health and promote better sleep!
2. Eat Probiotic Foods
What you eat can help or hinder your gut health.
Eating a diverse palette leads to microbiome diversity, and balanced meals can help keep your gut health in check.
Eating probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, or kombucha can support a healthy microbiome. Fermented foods add beneficial bacteria to your gut, which your digestive system needs to thrive.
Probiotic supplements can also improve your gut health and increase microbiome diversity. However, fermented foods are far more effective than probiotic supplements.
3. Manage Stress
Stress can lead to communication issues in the gut-brain axis that can impact digestion and lead to poor sleep quality.
We've all experienced a sleepless night after a stressful day. Stress may seem inevitable, but finding ways to manage stress can improve your mental health and ensure a healthy gut.
Ways to manage stress
- Regular exercise
- Breathing exercises
- Spend time with friends
- Take a break
- Make time for hobbies
4. Sleep on your left side
You may not think your sleeping position can impact your health, much less your digestion.
However, sleeping on your left side has been shown to improve your gut health. It allows gravity to move waste through your colon, aiding the digestive process. This can be especially helpful if you deal with heartburn.
4 Healthy Sleep Habits
1. Follow a schedule
>Have you ever tried to sleep in on the weekend, but instead, you woke up around the same time your alarm clock would typically go off?
That's your circadian rhythm at work!
Your gut follows your circadian rhythms. Going to sleep and waking up around the same times each day help to reinforce your circadian rhythms, telling your body when it's time to go to sleep and when it's time to wake up.
Going to sleep at nine one night and midnight the next can confuse your body and make sleep more difficult.
Sticking to a regular sleep schedule and aiming to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night can set you up for sleep success.
2. Create a nighttime routine
In the same way, that a bedtime routine helps your toddler prepare for sleep; it can help you too.
A few hours before you plan to sleep, put away your devices, get into comfy clothes, dim the lights, and do something relaxing. Maybe that's reading your favorite book or taking a bubble bath.
Telling your body it's time to slow down and prepare for sleep can help you fall asleep easier and sleep more restfully.
3. Avoid screens
The blue lights from devices is an artificial light that mimics daylight. Just like daylight, it can make you feel more alert - the opposite of what you need before bed.
Blue light suppresses your melatonin levels, the hormone needed to help your body fall asleep. The light from the screen will tell your brain that it's still daytime and won't produce the hormones necessary to help you fall asleep.
An hour or two before bed, put the screens away and start winding down. This will reinforce your sleep-wake cycle, telling your body it's time to sleep. If you need to be on screens, invest in blue blocking glasses and wear them after dark if you're watching TV or on your phone or computer.
4. Exposing your body to the morning sun
When you first wake up, exposing your body to 15-20 minutes of morning sunlight tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, waking up the body.
The sun will tell your body it's time to wake up and get productive. You will wake up faster and have more energy rather than dragging through the first hour or two of the morning.
This simple practice helps reinforce your body's circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), so it knows when to wake up and wind down.
For anyone on a gut healing journey, sleep quality and quantity must be considered. By making a few simple lifestyle adjustments like the ones described in this article, you can vastly improve your quality of sleep, quality of life and quality of gut health.
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Olive My Pickle
At Olive My Pickle, we make caring for your gut simple. We know real fermented foods can be hard to find, which is why we deliver tasty, fermented foods right to your door.
We offer many fermented foods such as pickles, kraut, kimchi, olives, fermented vegetables, and LiveBrine Probiotic Pickle Juice to help decrease inflammation and improve overall microbial diversity.
Visit our shop to explore our unique fermented foods and start optimizing your gut health today!