Everyone knows that sleep is important for our health. Without it, our brain would suffer and we wouldn’t be able to function properly on a daily basis. But did you know that sleep plays a major role in keeping your digestive system functioning optimally too? So now you may be wondering if your poor sleep habits are affecting your digestion in a negative way. Keep reading to learn more about why getting a good night’s sleep is important for your digestive health and to get some tips for regulating your sleep schedule to improve your digestion.
Lack of Sleep Can Affect Stress Hormones
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may increase its production of the stress hormone cortisol. Melatonin, a hormone that we produce at nighttime to help us fall asleep, also regulates gastrointestinal motility, which is the movement of food through the digestive system. We normally have higher melatonin levels at night and higher cortisol levels in the morning. When we miss out on enough sleep, these hormones become imbalanced. Increased cortisol, or stress on the body, can cause gut motility to be either too fast or too slow. This can lead to gas, bloating, or stomach pain. It can also lead to the development of various other gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS, IBD, or GERD to name a few.
Sleep Deprivation Makes You Crave Sugary Foods
Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, will be elevated after a poor night’s sleep, while your levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite, will be reduced. This can result in binge eating unhealthy snacks, especially high carb and sugary foods. Consuming too much of these types of foods can have a negative impact on your digestive system, cause you to consume too many calories, and can increase weight gain.
Healthy Sleep Habits To Focus On
Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s sleep so that your body can function optimally:
- Stick to a regular routine. The body likes consistency and it’s no different when it comes to sleep.
- Expose yourself to natural sunlight daily. Your circadian rhythms are tied to sunlight cues, so getting some sun exposure daily can help your body regulate it’s sleep cycle.
- Avoid caffeine later in the day. Caffeine increases cortisol and has the potential to alter circadian rhythms.
- Limit blue light before falling asleep. Exposure to artificial light, especially from screens, can negatively impact your production of melatonin.
- Try eating a piece of fruit before bedtime. While it’s best not to eat a very large and heavy meal right before bed, eating a snack consisting of fruit can be helpful.