7 reasons why poor digestion could be disrupting your sleep

Could your gut be to blame for keeping you up at night?

Stress and sleep | Digestion

asktheexpert
Sonia Chartier
@AVogel_ca


01 July 2019

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1 – You eat too late

You'd think that this one would be fairly obvious, but many of us don't realize that the time of our last meal of the day can have a major impact on how well we sleep at night. As you eat, your body spurs into action, releasing a whole host of chemicals and hormones to digest your food to fuel your body efficiently. This causes peaks and troughs in blood sugar, the release of insulin and then cortisol. Research has shown that cortisol in particular tends to peak around 30 to 60 minutes after eating, so eating too close to bedtime could easily cause a cortisol release precisely when you should be dozing off.

I think it's safe to say that metabolically, a lot goes on soon after eating, not to mention the fact that you could potentially feel some discomfort if you've eaten a bit too much. As one of your body's main stress hormones, cortisol levels should be at their lowest at bedtime so that you can better relax and wind down toward an undisturbed slumber.

2 - You eat too much

The obvious issue with eating too much is that your stomach is left feeling uncomfortable and fit to burst—not exactly the best time if you're hoping to go to bed and settle in for the night.

Next, all the chemical mechanisms that I've just mentioned will be more pronounced if you've overindulged. Your blood sugar will more likely have spiked, a bigger dose of insulin will be required to try and manage the crazy influx of macronutrients, and the subsequent cortisol spike will also be more pronounced.

As I'll discuss in greater detail below, routinely eating too much, especially before bedtime, can also make problems like acid reflux more likely and put unnecessary pressure on your liver.

Then there's the question of what you're eating. Meals laden with stimulants such as sugars and spices, or those washed down with copious caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, will unsurprisingly only add to your digestive woes. It can take your system up to eight hours to clear caffeine from your system, and contrary to popular belief, alcohol can disrupt sleep quality, so you may wake up feeling groggier than ever.

3 - You eat too little

Although this isn't such a common problem nowadays as most of us are eating too much rather than too little, going to bed hungry can also disrupt your sleep.

While you sleep, your parasympathetic nervous system is more dominant; we call this "rest and digest mode." This means that your digestive system should be happily working away quietly in the background, digesting the remnants of the day's food and processing out the unwanted stuff to be excreted as waste.

But if your system is too empty and there's not enough substance to keep the process going, you could experience stomach rumblings or hunger pangs that could wake you from your slumber. This is especially common in the morning. Your early-morning awakenings may even be coupled with bouts of anxiety, which could suggest that you aren't eating enough, or at least enough of the right types of foods such as protein or healthy fats, to get you through until morning.

4 - You suffer from acid reflux

Dyspeptic symptoms including indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn are on the rise, and unfortunately, lying down flat won't do much to help the symptoms. This is why people often suffer or have more noticeable symptoms as they retreat for the night. As you lie in bed, gravity works against you and the acidic contents of your stomach are much more likely to creep up into your unprotected esophagus. As a result, you can end up experiencing pain.

A long list of bad habits can make acid reflux more likely, including eating too fast, slumped over, while stressed or too much. For many of us, these factors can build up over time, making us turn to some kind of digestive support to help get things back to normal.

Nowadays doctors are quick to prescribe acid-reducing medications. But did you know that for most of us, many issues are likely being caused by low stomach acid? This becomes more common as we get older and in times of stress. Having low levels of stomach acid can create symptoms similar to having levels that are too high, causing acid reflux and a feeling of fullness as gastric emptying slows down to a snail's pace.

5 - Your liver is under pressure

According to traditional Chinese medicine, waking up between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. is a classic sign that your liver might be under pressure. Your liver is one of your key digestive organs, so if it isn't working optimally, you could find yourself suffering as a result.

Many modern-day habits can put pressure on your liver: indulging in sugar and alcohol and relying heavily on medication are just two of them. And then there are other common conditions such as PMS and constipation.

A sluggish bowel means a backlog of toxins will be redirected to your liver, and unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly common for people not to go the toilet regularly enough. In terms of PMS, your liver has to recycle excess hormones. If your monthly symptoms are a little hard to handle, a hormone imbalance could be at a play, forcing your liver to work extra hard to keep things in balance.

6 - You have some underlying inflammation

While conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) aren't technically considered inflammatory, we know that subclinical inflammation—this refers to inflammation not detectable by the usual clinical tests—is on the rise. But this isn't something allopathic medicine, i.e. typical family doctors, are likely to recognize. Subclinical inflammation, in many cases, is thought to originate in the gut and can crop up as a result of weak digestion. As food isn't pdown properly in the stomach, partially undigested food can become a target for immune cells further along in the gut, which can ultimately create a low-grade inflammatory response.

As low-grade inflammation builds, the structure of your gut can become compromised, potentially creating what we call "leaky gut." This condition can lead to further inflammation as larger molecules of food or pathogens pass into your system, ready to come under fire from your frantic immune system. This can easily turn into a vicious cycle, with other symptoms such as stress or lack of sleep only adding to the problem.

7 - Your gut bacteria are out of balance

Our company's founder, Alfred Vogel, was very much a believer that overall health stems from gut health and, with the magnitude of benefits that prebiotics and probiotics seem to bring, this certainly seems to ring true!

New research suggests that gut bacteria may also be able to directly influence sleep quality. The findings suggest that prebiotics could help improve both REM and non-REM sleep, covering the different stages of sleep needed to feel properly rested. It seems that the bacteria that reside in your gut could be successfully influencing your sleep by releasing beneficial by-products that can affect brain function. Amazing, isn't it?

Bearing in mind that prebiotics help feed the good bacteria, prebiotic foods worth stocking up on include vegetables such as onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes and bananas. If you feel you need a little bit more help, you can try Molkosan, a concentrated lacto-fermented whey supplement high in L+ lactic acid and alkaline minerals. As a prebiotic, Molkosan helps to support the internal environment of the gut, perfect for assisting good gut bacteria.

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3033415/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00240/full

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