We all have those nights when we toss and turn and can’t seem to get to sleep. And when I say we all, I’m serious. Approximately 60 million Americans spend their nights trying and often failing to get to sleep. Each hour creeps by with increasing frustration.
From meditation to aromatherapy to ensuring that you go to sleep with the light and devices off, there are many options to help us sleep better. But what if the solution was someplace you wouldn’t even think of looking, like your gut?
What Is the Sleep-Gut Connection?
What if there is a sleep-gut connection in our bodies without us even knowing about it. There is. About 100 trillion little gut microbes are sometimes to blame for the endless nights of poor sleep.
The Role of Your Gut Microbiome
We are increasingly aware, and research is currently being done on the connection between sleep and our gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microbes that live in our intestines. Some estimate that bacteria living in your microbiome at any moment can weigh as much as 2 to 6 pounds.
Whenever we think of our gut, we think mostly about its main job – to digest food. However, our gut supports our overall health. As we learn more about how the role our gut plays in our health, we are learning more about the connection between lack of sleep and gut bacteria.
The Connection Between Sleep and the Gut Microbiome
When we hear the word neurotransmitters, we think about neurotransmitters in the brain. That’s not surprising since the majority of neurotransmitters are located in the brain. But, surprisingly, our gut has more than 30 types of neurotransmitters similar to the ones found in our brains. These neurotransmitters send signals throughout our body, which is why the gut is often called the second brain.
The Role of Gut Neurotransmitters
The two primary neurotransmitters that help regulate your body’s sleep cycle are serotonin and melatonin. The majority of serotonin – 90% – is produced in your gut. Serotonin is sometimes called the happiness hormone because it promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. However, these neurotransmitters have more than one role. In the case of serotonin, one of them is regulating our sleep patterns.
The Neurotransmitters-Sleep Connection
Serotonin is a building block of melatonin, and melatonin is associated with the onset of sleep. And research is demonstrating that our gut is an essential source of melatonin. The gut holds 400 times more than the pineal gland, which is where the majority of serotonin production was thought to have occurred.
This means your gut can reduce or increase serotonin production, which can then affect your sleep patterns. And your sleep patterns can negatively affect your gut microbiome, setting up a pattern of sleeplessness.
Your Gut Rules Your Sleep
With the production of neurotransmitters in your gut regulating circadian rhythm, it’s no wonder we need a healthy gut and an optimal environment for their production. It may be the key for all of us getting a better night’s sleep.