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Sweet Dreams: Exploring the Impact of Sleep on your Gut Microbiome

As National Sleep Awareness Week came to an end, I thought it would be timely to discuss the effect of sleep on your gut microbiome.


It will come as no surprise to many of you to find out that there is a bi-directional link between the quality of your sleep and your gut health and microbiome. 


Studies have shown that when you have broken sleep or you do not get enough sleep, negative changes take place to the profile of your gut bacteria.  Scientists postulate that this might happen because of the activation of the HPA-axis.  In short, when you don't sleep enough, it can mess with your metabolism, possibly causing the overgrowth of specific gut bacteria.  Conversely, if you develop a metabolic disease like diabetes, this increases inflammation which can then contribute to an imbalance in your gut microbiome.


It's well established that shift work has negative effects on your health, but what about other more subtle work-life patterns, like trying to catch up on your sleep at the weekends or when you are on holiday?  Does this mean that the negative effects of staying up too late can be reduced?


There is a term for this – it is called social jet lag

Many of us go to bed early and wake up early Monday to Friday but go to bed later or wake up later on weekends. We call it “social jet lag” — relatively minor shifts in your daily sleep-wake cycle.

Social jet lag can occur due to various factors, including work schedules, social obligations and lifestyle choices. It can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, and achieving restorative sleep. Over time, chronic social jet lag may contribute to long-term health problems, such as obesity, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular issues.


There are many reasons why we do not sleep as much as we used to or have difficulty sleeping, such as a move towards a more 24/7 society and easy access to technology and there are some definite positives to our more modern lifestyle, don’t get me wrong!  And if you have a serious sleep disorder, then what I am about to say is unlikely to help. However, if you know that you go to bed at night later than you should or your children do (and you have a choice to change this), even going to bed or starting your wind down routine 30 minutes earlier each night, would mean 3.5 hours extra sleep a week or 14 hours (2 days!) every month or so.  Imagine how your microbiome health might change and your health overall, if you could achieve this, even only on some nights.


Sweet dreams and have a purrfect night’s sleep tonight!



Matenchuck et al (2020)  Sleep Med Review. Sleep, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiota Oct:53:101340.

Melody Mackeown is a registered Nutritional Therapist and Microbiome Analyst. Please click on the link below if you would like to find out more about Melody or to book an Exploratory Call or Initial Appointment with her.

Picture of my brother's cat, Mumu, having a nap.

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