How Lack Of Sleep Can Affect Your Gut Health

Affect Your Gut Health

Prioritizing sleep can be difficult. Between work, social life, and self-care time, it can feel impossible to get to bed at a reasonable hour. However, lack of sleep can lead to slowed thinking, reduced attention span, poor decision-making, lack of energy, mood changes, and even can affect your gut health. Prioritizing your sleep should be at the top of your to-do list, as even short-term sleep deprivation can cause abnormalities in your gut’s mobility. 

Lack Of Sleep And Gut Health

In today’s world, it can feel overwhelming to try to follow all of the health recommendations spiraling the internet. Here at Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates, we understand the importance of a healthy digestive system and want to help you understand which digestive issues can be mitigated through healthy lifestyle changes. 

Gut Lining Inflammation

The gastrointestinal tract begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. Studies have shown that sleep loss and inflammation of the gut lining can be directly linked. When sleep deprivation occurs, it can increase the risk of pro-inflammatory molecules. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. To decrease the risk of gut lining inflammation due to sleep deprivation, aim to get the recommended amount of sleep each night— seven to eight hours for most adults. 

Hormonal Disturbances

Another way lack of sleep can affect your gut health is through disturbances to hormone levels. Healthline suggests sleep insufficiency can cause your body to produce cortisol for longer, meaning you’re producing more energy than your body needs, leading to less leptin and more ghrelin. These imbalances may make us crave unhealthy foods such as those high in fat and sugar. Overconsumption of these types of foods can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which may affect your gut health by causing symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. 

Intestinal Permeability

Intestinal permeability is when the gut lining is damaged and no longer functions properly as a barrier. Some symptoms include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Fatigue and headaches
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Skin problems such as eczema, acne, or psoriasis

Intestinal permeability affects your gut health because small holes can become large, which allows for harmful substances and toxins to enter your system. Sleep loss can trigger a rise in cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Increased levels of stress have been directly linked to intestinal permeability issues. 

GERD, Heartburn, And Acid Indigestion

Disturbed sleep or lack of sleep can affect your gut health leading to conditions such as GERD, heartburn, or indigestion. Some symptoms of these conditions include 

  • Burning sensation in your chest
  • Backwash or regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Upper abdominal discomfort
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat

Sleep deprivation increases the odds of having reflux. This is a condition known as reflux hypersensitivity and occurs due to an enhanced perception of acid in the esophagus. GERD and sleep have a bi-directional relationship in which GERD can also wake people from sleep during the night.

Now that you are educated on the surprising connection between sleep and your gut health, are you ready to make a change? A gastroenterologist is best equipped to diagnose the underlying cause of any possible gastrointestinal condition. If you are looking for ways to improve your GI tract, or if you have more questions about how lack of sleep can affect your gut health, do not hesitate to reach out. We have decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. Visit our website to make an appointment, or give us a call at (205) 271-8000.

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