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Is Your Microbiome Affecting Your Sleep And Anxiety?
You’re going to bed early and have set up your bedroom to be the perfect restful experience, except you can’t sleep. You’re meditating, journaling and making the most of the outdoors each day, but those anxious thoughts keep rearing their head. So often, it can seem like we’re doing everything possible for our sleep and mental health, yet something continues to disrupt our rest and wellbeing.
In fact, the cause of your poor sleep and anxiety may not be to do with your environment, but what’s going on inside the body, specifically your gut’s microbiome.
So, just how is your microbiome affecting you?
The Role Of The Gut In Your Wellbeing
Our guts do more than process food, transform it into energy and remove waste matter. Many researchers believe the gut is the body’s second brain. In fact, the gut is home to what’s known as the enteric nervous system. It is here where the brain and central nervous system connect, and the gut serves to regulate vital body processes.
The Gut Microbiome
The gut is home to all sorts of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and even viruses. Research shows that a third of our microbiome is the same as everyone else’s. However, two-thirds of the microbiome is entirely unique to you. Genetics, diet, environment and your personal lifestyle all play a part in determining your own microbiome. When you consider there are around 1,000 different types of bacteria in your microbiome, there is a lot under your control that you may not even think twice about normally!
Fortunately, you have a lot of power in creating a well-balanced microbiome that not only does your body good, but can help your sleep, mental health and wellbeing too.
How Does The Gut Affect Sleep?
The relationship between your microbiome and sleep is complex. However, multiple studies indicate that there is a two-way street when it comes to gut and sleep health. An unhealthy gut composition can lead to poor sleep and even cognitive decline. Similarly, insufficient sleep can lead to a decrease in beneficial gut bacteria and a decrease in insulin sensitivity too.
Consequently, there can be a cycle between poor gut health, leading to poor quality sleep which can then further affect the microbiome.
On the other hand, research by Kent State has shown that a beneficial microbiome leads to higher quality sleep, and better cognitive flexibility, helping to reduce age-related cognitive decline.
Due to its complexity, it is still a matter that is under rigorous research, but what we know so far is that just like our sleep, our guts are regulated by the circadian rhythm and when this rhythm is disrupted our microbiomes suffer too.
How Does The Gut Affect Anxiety?
We all know that quality sleep is vital for our wellbeing, and poor sleep can increase our stress and anxiety levels. However, the microbiome may go one step further in a way to reduce our anxiety. Researchers have found that beneficial bacteria through probiotics can help to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety too.
In one study, probiotics were given to those with exam stress. While the participants still reported stress in the build-up to their exams, they experienced less difficulty falling asleep despite upcoming exam nerves. Furthermore, their slow-wave or deep sleep was strengthened, and the participants reported feeling more refreshed and rested.
Consequently, those with beneficial bacteria may be able to prevent the anxiety/poor sleep cycle in its tracks.
It is perhaps no surprise that the gut can play a part in improving our anxiety. After all, most people will feel stress, anxiety and worry manifest through their core. This could be a knotted stomach sensation, nausea and an upset stomach. As more research is conducted into the area, we may find yet more links into how the guts can really play a part in our wellbeing.
Consequently, if you’re looking to improve your sleep and reduce stress and anxiety, it could be well worth paying attention to your gut and creating a healthy microbiome balance.
How To Improve Your Microbiome Health
Research shows that physical activity can increase gut-friendly bacteria that can help to reduce inflammation. So much so that this can happen independently of your diet. So, even if your diet hasn’t been particularly microbiome-friendly on a particular day, you can still give it a boost with a workout.
Focus On Plant-Based Foods
Having a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is considered the foundation of healthy living. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients as well as full of fibre which can really help to improve gut health. When shopping for fruits and veggies, focus on ‘eating the rainbow’. Look for a wide variety of colourful produce which will be full of microbiome-boosting benefits. The more variety you have, the better diversity of good bacteria in the microbiome. It’s the perfect excuse to try new things!
Stay Clear Of Pesticides
Pesticides used In many conventional farming techniques can impact the healthy bacteria in our microbiome. It can be helpful to opt for organic produce and those free from pesticides. This can help to ensure we protect all of the good bacteria in our bodies as much as we can.
Look For Prebiotics
Prebiotics are the food for the bacteria in your microbiome. There are many ways to consume prebiotics. For example, onions, garlic, apples, bananas and artichokes are all excellent sources of prebiotics. You can also take prebiotics in the form of a supplement.
Consider Your Pre-Bed Snack Carefully
Our willpower is a finite resource and is usually at its lowest at night. This means we are more likely to give in to unhealthy cravings before bed. Having a go-to snack can help you to resist those unhealthy temptations. While it’s not healthy to eat a large meal just before going to sleep, (your body has got important work to do when you sleep and doesn’t want to be slowed down by digesting a heavy meal) it can help to fend off hunger by having a pre-sleep snack an hour or two before bed.
To look after your microbiome, consider an easily digestible snack. Wholegrain cereal and milk may be how you start the day. However, this can be a great snack before bed too. So can a slice of wholegrain toast with nut butter, or a banana.
Are You Looking To Focus On Healthy Eating?
As well as looking after your microbiome, you may be looking to improve other aspects of your diet to see more benefits across your body. You can start with my Mindful Eating hypnosis, which was part of my Live Online Hypnosis this month. To listen to this recording, you can enjoy a one-month free trial of my programme here.
Alternatively, if you’re struggling with comfort eating, cravings and portion control, then my six-week weight loss hypnosis is the perfect way to start 2021 with a healthier mindset towards diet and exercise. You can find this week-by-week transformative programme here.
Don’t forget, if you have any concerns, questions or are looking for one-to-one help, please email email@example.com to book your free consultation.