Sleep that is!
Its hard to feel your best when you are tired, and our brains literally start to slow down when we don’t sleep, so getting those good hours of rest is hugely important to our health.
There are many factors to consider if we find ourselves tossing and turning, and you may not think that your gut bacteria (probiotics) in your digestive tract is involvedbut they could be contributing to a poor sleep cycle.
How? Actually there are a variety of ways that your gut can affect your sleep quality.
Lets start with your brain chemistry. Serotonin, often referred to as our ‘happy hormone’ balances our mood, makes us feel good, and generally keep things on the lighter side of life. Serotonin, however, is also converted into melatonin, a neurotransmitter that literally puts us to sleep at night. This happens via an enzyme pathway and needs a couple of extras – vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc for this to happen. A dysregulation of this conversion will lead to us being awake when we would much rather be far away and dreaming. Those probiotic bacteria in our gut are integral to our ability to harness these nutrients needed for this process to happen. If our bacteria are not super happy little fellows we can quickly start to suffer from poor sleep and start to feel less than our best.
We also need to think about how this can then work the other way round too. Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter the levels of beneficial bacteria, which can result in a vicious cycle that can lead to other symptoms such as a less effective immune system, poorly functioning digestive tract, mood swings and fatigue.
So what are my top tips for keeping our sleep cycle on track?
Feed Your Gut: Just as we don’t function well on little food neither will our probiotic bacteria! They are pretty easy to please though, just give them plenty of lovely fibrous foods and they’ll be your friends forever! Tiger Nuts are a fantastic food for your gut bacteria because they are full of lovely prebiotic fibre! Green leafy vegetables, the skins of fruits and root veggies, whole grains and cereals are all brilliant foods to include.
Caffeine & Stimulants : Coffee acts as a gastric irritant, which can over time disrupt those microbes and cause the bowel to become lazy.
Stress : Spikes of stress hormones throughout the day will disrupt our natural cortisol and melatonin rhythm, also making sleep harder to come by.
An easy swap is to try matcha or green tea as these still have a stimulating effect but also contain l-theanine, a compound that calms the ‘wired but tired’ feeling many people will experience with coffee.
Big Up Those Cofactors: Another huge one. Often I see people in my clinic who eat fabulously well but still struggle with sleep, mood swings, anxiety and/or fatigue because their current lifestyle is sapping those all-important nutrients they need to make the neurotransmitters we mentioned earlier. Flooding the body with minerals, vitamins and other phytochemicals means you have all the resources to make serotonin and melatonin as efficiently as possible, and over time this will really help in regulating, and improving your sleep long term.
A colourful diet, think about eating rainbow each day, is a brilliant idea,. In particular including more green leaves, pumpkin seeds, tiger nuts, shellfish, beans, mushrooms, and almonds will super boost your magnesium, zinc and B6 levels.
Balance That Blood Sugar: Having a blood glucose rollercoaster will affect sleep, and also disrupt those all-important gut bacteria exacerbating sleep disturbances, feelings of fatigue, anxiety, depression and causing digestive upset.
To avoid this pair your carbohydrates with a portion of protein and/or healthy fat, start your day with plenty of these two too, and if you’re feeling tired try to keep some healthy snacks on hand to avoid reaching for simple sugary fixes if your energy levels dip. Check out my recipe for Tropical Matcha Tiger Nut Bites for a healthy, gut boosting snack here.
And that, in a (tiger)nut shell are a few things that you can do to keep you and your gut microbiome sleeping soundly!