I Need my Sleep!
As a busy mom of three, I know that getting enough good quality sleep is so important. After one night of bad sleep because of a sick kid or when I injured ankle and I had to sleep with it propped up, I’m a wreck. I can’t think, I can’t focus and my mood is all over the place. I can’t remember how I use to function when I had three little ones getting me up in the night, or before that how I use to stay up past midnight doing homework or talking with friends.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve become more attuned to how much sleep my body needs and what I can do to get sleep. I know that getting enough sleep, and not too much, is essential to supporting my mental wellness. There are strong relationships between sleep problems and mental illness. The research confirms that if you have one, your chances of having the other increase.
People with mental health issues are more likely to have sleep problems than those without mental health issues. Studies have found that between 65 and 90% of adults with depression and 50% of adults with anxiety also have sleep issues. Another study found that people with insomnia were four times as likely to develop depression than those without insomnia. People with insomnia were also more likely to have anxiety. And, this is the worst part, people with sleep issues are less likely to respond treatment for depression and PTSD and are more likely to suffer from a return of depressive symptoms.
You may have heard circadian rhythms. These are patterns of brainwave activity, hormones, cell regeneration and biological activities that occur on a daily basis. Sleeping well at the right time each day is essential to keeping the circadian rhythms functioning properly. And when our bodies are function properly, we feel better all around.
The fact that our microbes are actually the regulators of this function and that our sleeps patterns are an issue for our microbes should not surprise us – well, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you won’t be surprise that the gut biome is related to pretty much everything in the body. Our microbes need us to rest so they can do their thing while we sleep and keep their balance.
Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
So what should you do? Should you work on sleeping better to help the microbes or should you work on your gut health to help you sleep better? The answer is to do both. There are number of strategies that can help.
To help reset your circadian rhythm:
- Go to bed at a set time and get up at the same time as much as possible – this means not sleeping in too late on the weekends
- Avoid bright lights near bedtime
- Avoid eating or exercising close to bedtime
- Sleep in dark space – too much light tricks the body into thinking it is time to be awake
- Develop a relaxing routine before bed whether it is taking a bed, deep breathing exercises or having a nice cup of herbal tea such as chamomile or valerian.
- For those who have irregular work and therefore, sleep schedules, consider talking to a practitioner about taking melatonin.
Support Your Gut
Diet also plays a role in the relationship between sleep and the gut biome. In a study with mice, both high fat and low fat diets played a negative role in the function of circadian rhythms and they also altered the microbiome. In both cases, short-chain fatty acid production was lower, especially butyrate which is essential for circadian rhythm function. Butyrate is produced by beneficial colon bacteria from resistant starch found in complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice, legumes and sweet potatoes.
To improve gut health:
- Eat prebiotic foods that feed gut bacteria like asparagus, green bananas (they only need to be slightly green), onions and garlic, beans and legumes, artichokes and apples.
- Eat foods with resistant starch like oats, rice, beans and legumes, green bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Take probiotics that can help melatonin levels which can, in turn, help restore circadian rhythms.
- Butyrate supplements are available if you are unsure as to how well you are producing it.
Sleep is one more example of the potential problems caused by dysbiosis that can effect our mental health. This relationship provides another reason why we should be focused on improving our gut health so we can have more energy and feel better.
Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota, Robin M. Voigt,1 et al, PLoS One. 2014; 9(5): e97500.
Effects of diurnal variation of gut microbes and high-fat feeding on host circadian clock function and metabolism. Leone V1, et al, Cell Host Microbe. 2015 May 13;17(5):681-9.
Melatonin regulation as a possible mechanism for probiotic (VSL#3) in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized double-blinded placebo study, Wong RK1 et al, Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Jan;60(1):186-94.
Gregory AM, et al. “The Direction of Longitudinal Associations Between Sleep Problems and Depression Symptoms: A Study of Twins Aged 8 and 10 Years,” Sleep (Feb. 1, 2009): Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 189–99.
Woodson SRJ (2006) Relationships between sleepiness and emotion experience: An experimental investigation of the role of subjective sleepiness in the generation of positive and negative emotions. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering 67 (5-B) 2849.
Riemann D & Voderholzer U (2003) Primary insomnia: a risk factor to develop depression? Journal of Affective Disorders 76 255-259.
Cole MG & Dendukuri N (2003) Risk factors for depression among elderly community subjects: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry 160 1147-1156.
Krystal AD. “Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders: Future Directions,” Psychiatric Clinics of North America (Dec. 2006): Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 1115–30.
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