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Could your gut be to blame for your restless nights?
When your sleep hygiene is as good as it can be, there might be something else causing your insomnia.
You’re struggling to focus, can’t stop yawning and the only thing you want to do is crawl back into bed, even though it does you no favours most nights. Sound familiar?
Sleep hygiene is so important for a good night's sleep but for a huge portion of people dealing with chronic insomnia, sleep hygiene is rarely enough.
“Disease is often an overlooked cause of sleeping problems, nevertheless we all know it can cause a sleepless night,” says our Holistic Health Nutritionist Sarah Murphy. “All of us have had a bad cold, or flu that made it impossible to sleep, and those who experience chronic pain know that sleeping can be impossible.”
Yet Sarah suspects another condition could be causing sleepless nights, one which is not yet well known or understood, called endotoxemia. “This is low grade intestinal inflammation which affects every system throughout the whole body, manifesting in a whole host of symptoms—a major one being insomnia.”
Your gut bacteria affects your circadian rhythms and all your biological functions. At night, your cortisol levels should be at their lowest for good sleep, yet inflammation leads to high cortisol levels.
This changes your melatonin, serotonin and hypothalamic function (an area of your brain which releases hormones and regulates body temperature). Anything that raises your cortisol at night will stop you from getting a good night's sleep because it throws off your entire internal clock.
If your sleep hygiene is good, i.e. you’re restricting screen time before bed, dimming lights, sticking to a nightly routine etc, but you’re still unable to have a satisfying night of rest, then it’s worth considering where else this cortisol could be coming from. “Look to your gut inflammation,” suggests Sarah. “Insomnia is associated with diabetes, obesity, cancer, skin diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, anxiety, mood swings and dementia. The common denominator? Inflammation.”
Sarah explains this further: “Overgrowths of yeasts, viral infections, parasites—all these cause inflammation due to compromised gut barrier function. This inflammation damages our cells including the cells in our hypothalamus (the site of your biological clock). The increase in inflammatory cytokines leads to decrease in tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin which is the precursor to melatonin). Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant they even use in cancer therapies— not only does it help us sleep but it also is a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps scavenge free radicals. You don't want to mess with these levels. If you have chronic insomnia and there are no other obvious illnesses, external stressors or glucose deficiencies, I can confidently say your answer lies right there. As long as gut inflammation exists, you will have a hard time getting a good night's sleep.”
One of the best ways to look after your overall health including sleep is to nurture your gut: create a solid foundation by supplementing with a probiotic to ensure that you’re maintaining a balance of good bacteria in the gut to protect against potential inflammation. Better yet, use a PREBIOTIC + PROBIOTIC together to ensure you’re giving the probiotic bacteria the best chance of survival. Who would have thought that the answer to a good night’s sleep was within your body the whole time?