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Sleep and good digestion: How they’re related?

Did you know good sleep is essential for your digestive system to function properly. Dietitian Shah explains how sleep and digestion are interlinked.

3 min read
Sleep and good digestion: How they’re related?

Sleep is essential to keep your body healthy. When you sleep, your body repairs itself consolidates information to learn and also helps in better concentration. Moreover, it improves productivity, strengthens your immune system, increases the blood supply to your muscles and even gives the new tissue time to grow. Having ample body rest is highly correlated to reduced inflammation in your body, increased social and emotional intelligence, and reduced risk of a variety of health challenges such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

“When we are on the path of success, we tend to forget sound sleep and good digestion”

We all know gut (digestive) health is important to overall health. It is necessary to keep our digestive system healthy so that it can perform its activities well such as transporting food, storing energy, absorbing nutrients and disposing waste and toxins from your body.  Your gut has many microorganisms which help in supporting the lining of the intestines which influence the absorption of food and nutrients. Gut microbes are easily affected by certain factors such as high-stress levels, little sleep, high sugar foods and also taking antibiotics. When affected, this causes problems with our immune system, weight, body organs (brain, heart etc), hormone levels, development of cancer and ability to absorb nutrients.

There are many organs in our body which work for 24*7, one of which is our digestive tract. During the day, our body will be crying out for glucose, your main source of energy, to fuel your muscles, joints, nervous system, and healthy digestion. This means that our digestive system constantly works to break down our food and when we sleep the need for glucose is greatly reduced. Therefore, both your metabolism and your digestive system will gradually slow down. However, if you have eaten a large meal immediately before going to bed, the digestion continues while you sleep too as there was no adequate rest given to our digestive system. This results in heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux leading to sleep-disturbing symptoms as without adequate supply of energy your digestive system will not function efficiently. 

Effect of sleep deprivation on gut health

  • It leads to gastrointestinal disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which are almost caused by a problem with the immune system leading to inflammation in the body. Sleep deprivation is shown to aggravate the problem more by enhancing pro-inflammatory agents.
  • Lack of sleep also makes you crave for sugary foods by releasing hunger hormones which ultimately results in binging on unhealthy snacks which is going to impact our digestive tract. Constipation, bloating, and diarrhoea are very commonly seen with high sugar intake.
  • It has an impact on our mood, which leads to stress which then results in triggering fight or flight instincts of our body, which ultimately is going to divert your body energy to fight for your life, leaving the other necessary processes as it is. This may result in waste products and undigested food sitting in your digestive tract causing the unfriendly bacteria to proliferate and stimulate inflammation.
  • Sleep deprivation also majorly affects our sleep-wake cycle causing mismanagement of sleep hormones thereby affecting our digestive system function, leaving a great impact.

There are some gut issues like indigestion, constipation, heartburn, gastric reflux, IBD and IBS which are extremely uncomfortable and have a direct impact on gut health. If such GI issues strike at night, it makes it difficult to sleep, persisting our stomach problems into the next day and making it worse.

Some habits which we could cultivate for good gut health and secured sleep:

  1. Reduce stress.

  2. Avoid big or heavy bedtime meals at night.

  3. Check your sleep position and be relaxed before you sleep.

  4. Watch your diet and avoid all sleep-disturbing foods, basically fatty and sugary foods, they show a direct impact on our digestive system.

  5. Probiotics (Curd, Yakult, Kefir, and Buttermilk) are the best remedies for an unhealthy gut.

  6. Drink more water during the day and ideally should stop water 2 hours before bed for a night of undisturbed sleep.

  7. Having a warm water bath before bed also helps to be relaxed and improves the quality of sleep.

To conclude, good sleep is as important as good gut health. We need to maintain both for a healthy life. Improving gut health is a possible new sleep therapy.