Not getting enough sleep can have more severe consequences than just being tired the next day. Recent research has shown that your guts – which refer to your small and large intestines – might suffer if you fail to get a good night’s rest, and that could have a huge, negative impact on your quality of life and overall healthy. To avoid this, it’s important to understand how a lack of sleep affects your gut health.
How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Your Gut?
You might be surprised to learn that your intestines make up what’s called a “microbiome”; basically, it serves as a home to all kinds of bacteria and other microbes. Most of these organisms are beneficial; for example, they can help break down undigested food, neutralize harmful byproducts of digestion, help the body absorb nutrients and produce vitamins like Vitamin K. A well-balanced microbiome in your gut is crucial for good health, but poor balance can lead to diarrhea and other unpleasant problems.
So what happens to your gut health if you don’t get enough sleep? A 2016 Swedish study published in Nature found that after just a couple of nights of insufficient slumber, the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestines was reduced by almost half. Obviously, a massive change like that will upset the balance that’s essential for healthy intestines. Furthermore, the researchers found that the changed microbiomes resembled those found in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the patients became more resistant to insulin. Over the long term, these changes could have dire effects.
What if You Take a Nap?
Can you make up for lost sleep by taking a nap? Unfortunately, while these short breaks during the day can be healthy, they won’t make up for a full night’s slumber. That’s because the gut’s microbiome and the rest of your body depends on regular, predictable cycles of sleep and wakefulness. If you disrupt your routine, then you could still suffer from sleep-related health issues.
What if Sleep is Interrupted?
Even if you think you’re getting a full eight hours every night, it won’t do your gut much good if you kept waking up. For example, if you suffer from sleep apnea, interrupted breathing might cause you to wake up to catch your breath hundreds of times each night. Not only does this affect your gut’s microbiome, but it could also lead to heart problems and other serious complications.
It doesn’t take much missed sleep to disrupt your gut health, so if you have good reason to think you’re not getting enough rest, call a sleep dentist right away. They can arrange for a sleep test that can help determine whether you’re suffering from a sleep disorder. Your intestines may just thank you for it later!
About the Author
Dr. Keane Fedosky is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and has been using oral appliance therapy to treat sleep apnea and snoring for over 20 years. At his practice, Sleep Rehab, he helps guide his patients through every step of treating their sleep disorders. To schedule an appointment, visit his website or call (972) 753-3737.