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5 Benefits of Sleep for Optimal Gut Function

As a nutritionist, I am always telling my clients that getting enough sleep is key for our physical and mental wellbeing, but few people understand the importance of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule when it comes to improving their stomach and poop problems.

You see, getting enough sleep every night is crucial for regulating the hormones that control appetite and digestion, which can contribute to better gut health as well as reducing stress, improving energy levels, weight management and helping you to stay productive and alert.

Here's what you need to know about why it's so important for promoting a healthy gut and to make sure that you're getting quality rest each night for your overall health.

  • Poor sleep slows digestion and the production of digestive enzymes down leading to problems like acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea. Conversely, digestion can also affect sleep, causing discomfort and interrupting sleep patterns. It's important to maintain a healthy sleep routine and diet to promote good digestion and overall health.

  • Inadequate sleep can lead to changes in gut bacteria, increase inflammation, and an increased risk of developing digestive disorders.

  • Research has shown a link between poor sleep quality and an increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

  • During sleep, the body rests, repairs and rejuvenates tissues and organs, like the liver and gallbladder along with the lining of the digestive system which increases nutrient absorption

  • Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining sufficient energy levels, better moods and concentration throughout the day.

  • People with food intolerance may experience difficulty sleeping due to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, or abdominal pain while others may experience fatigue and drowsiness.

Sleep is also beneficial for managing stress levels and stress is something you want to keep in check when it comes to maintaining a healthy digestive system. When the body is in stress mode digestion shuts down, food cravings can kick in as the body looks for energy, blood pressure can increase, the immune system weakens and bowel habits change.

Cortisol is the bodies stress hormone but it is also involved in the sleep/wake cycle.

Normal cortisol levels need to be at their highest in the morning to help us wake up, keep us focused and alert through the day while also slowly decreasing, then drop at night time for melatonin to kick in to help us go to sleep.

However, chronic stress can disrupt this cycle and lead to higher cortisol levels at night, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep or leave you feeling tired but wired. Establishing good sleep habits, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule and minimizing stress, can help regulate cortisol levels and improve sleep.

A lack of sleep can also carry over into other areas of life such as work performance or personal relationships.

Is this YOU? - Signs of a good nights sleep

  • You fall asleep soon after getting into bed, within 30 minutes or less.

  • You typically sleep straight through the night, getting the recommended 7-9 hours

  • Wake feeling refreshed in the morning and have high energy levels throughout the day

  • Feeling clear headed and alert with good moods

  • Improved digestion, reduced inflammation and better regulation of gut bacteria and gut motility

  • Less stress and more energy from better absorption of nutrients from food.

Or this? - Signs of a bad nights sleep

  • Trouble getting up in the morning, you keep hitting the snooze button

  • Feeling sleepy or dozing off during the day

  • Struggling to focus or have unstructured days

  • Irritability, depression, anxiety

  • Sleeping much longer or later on

  • Increase in acid reflux, or heartburn

  • Slower digestion and increased risk of constipation

Here are five key tips I give my clients to help establish a regular sleep pattern:

  1. A good night’s sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning -

  • Wake up early in the morning, try for the same time each day

  • Eat a protein rich breakfast (within an hour of waking), to help with energy and stress. This sets the body up with neurotransmitters needed for sleep hormones at night,

  • Exercise in the morning to balance natural body rhythm’s for sleep.

  • Get some sun, at least 20 minutes a day on bare skin and the eyes, (excluding the hottest part of the day) to help regulate sleep/wake cycle

2. Avoid stimulates like caffeine and alcohol -

  • While drinking coffee can help you stay awake and alert it also interferes with sleep, especially if it is consumed in the afternoon or evening. Caffeine can stay in the body for several hours, and increase cortisol production, so it is important to consider the timing and amount of coffee consumed. I recommend having your last cup at lunch.

  • Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep faster, but it will affect your quality of sleep and can cause you to wake during the night. It is best to avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Your liver will also be thankful as it detox's during the night.

  • Drink water and herbal teas throughout the day and for a nightcap try golden milk.

3. Eat a healthy diet -

  • Eating big meals before going to sleep can lead to discomfort and disrupted sleep. It's recommended to have a lighter meal at least a few hours before bedtime to allow for proper digestion.

  • Watch the spice. Consuming spicy foods close to bedtime will increase the risk of heartburn through the night.

  • Eating a balanced diet full of wholefoods help provide the body with necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber needed for sleep hormones, feeding healthy gut bacteria and helping regulate bowel habits.

4. Keep a night time routine -

  • Ensuring the bedroom is optimized for relaxing, unwinding and sleeping is essential.

  • Try not to take the stressors from the day into the bedroom. Brain dump into a journal if you need to so that your thoughts are not keeping you from sleep.

  • Try to be in bed at the same time each night or before you second wind kicks in about 930-1030

  • Ensure the room is dark enough - all sources of light are off, moon light can't get in, or wear an eye mask

  • A cooler room and a warm bed help with sleep but cold feet keep everyone awake. Try having a warm salt bath before bed or if you need to, keep the socks on.

  • Avoid screen time before bed as the blue light emitted from devices causes your body to create more of the daytime hormone cortisol rather than the sleep hormone melatonin.

5. Take naps sparingly or not at all -

  • Napping during the day can affect your ability to get to sleep at night along with the length and depth of sleep that you do get.

  • If you had a late night and just feel like you are catching up, try to keep the nap under 1 hour.

  • If you find that you are napping all the time or falling asleep at the drop of a hat, we really need to look deeper into the reasons why.

Can you now see how establishing and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is essential for anyone looking to improve their digestion, gut health, energy and overall health.

When you get a good night's rest, every night, the positive health impacts ripple out across your whole life!

So let's prioritize sleep from tonight on!


If you're ready to finally tackle your sleep, stomach and poop problems, increase your energy levels and find out what foods work for you or against you so that your overall health improves and you can clear that foggy feeling and feel like you again, feel free to book in a discovery call to learn more about how I can help you!

Find this helpful? You may like to grab the my freebie 4 essential steps for balanced and healthy meals for tips on how you can start eating right for your health starting today and check out my recipe book store

For more tips on how to solve digestive and gut health issues, autoimmune and thyroid related issues follow me on Instagram at @paulagrubbnutrition or on Facebook @paulagrubbnutrition


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