Natural cycles, known as circadian rhythms, control the sleep/wake patterns of all organisms. These cycles tell some animals to become sleepy as the sun goes down just as circadian rhythms tell creatures of the night to wake up. They also affect other bodily functions, such as appetite and metabolism.
Humans sometimes override their body clocks so that they can work night shifts, fly across time zones in airplanes and stay up late to study or play. This control over circadian rhythms comes at a price, however, as those who try to overcome the natural sleep/wake cycles are more vulnerable to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Scientists work to understand the connection between circadian rhythms and disease. New studies suggest a surprising connection – bacteria living in the gut. Bacteria, fungi and viruses, known collectively as the gut microbiota, live inside the human digestive tract. Unlike other bacteria that cause infection and illness, the beneficial bacteria, like those found in Natren probiotics, help the body digest food. These good microbes in the gut can also influence allergies, mental health, weight and metabolic disorders.
There is a relationship between gut health and sleep – an unhealthy digestive tract can reduce the quantity and the quality of sleep. A healthy gut can have a positive effect on gut health and, in turn, improve sleep.
EFFECTS OF CIRCADIAN RHYTHM DYSFUNCTION
Studies link insufficient sleep to motor vehicle crashes, occupational errors and industrial accidents. Individuals experiencing sleep insufficiency are more likely to suffer chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, diabetes and depression. Inadequate sleep can also increase mortality, decrease productivity and reduce quality of life.
Sleep disorders are among the most common effects of circadian rhythm dysfunction. Nearly half of all people in a National Sleep Foundation survey say that insufficient or poor sleep negatively affected their daily activities at least once a week.
Shift workers and travelers are at special risk for sleep problems. Shifting to the new time zone or work schedule can cause sleep disturbances. Traveling by plane causes ‘jet lag,’ which occurs as a mismatch between the environment and the individual’s biological clock.
GUT MICROBES AND THE CIRCADIAN CLOCK
The human gut contains a constellation of microbes that can affect metabolism, immunity, and even mood. These microbes have a circadian clock of their own. One study showed that gut microbes synchronize themselves with the clocks of their hosts. Another study published very recently, in January 2016, showed that another type of gut bacteria responded to changes in the host’s melatonin, which helps control sleep signals.
Research published in Cell Host & Microbe shows that gut bacteria also control the circadian rhythm of its host. This means bacteria can improve or interfere with your sleep.
Another study shows a strong association between constipation, sleep and a particular gut bacterium. The scientists measured Bifidobacterium, known as useful intestinal bacteria for human health. The researchers found that people with constipation had significantly lower levels of Bifidobacterium in their stool. Since people with constipation sleep poorly, those with enough Bifidobacterium sleep better.
BACTERIA DIVERSITY IS KEY
So which is worse – having only a few types of microbes or having too much of one strain? Researchers published a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that helped to answer that question by examining the stool of infants with eczema, which causes itchiness and poor sleep.
They found that diversity is more important than imbalance, at least when it comes to babies with eczema. The scientists found that administering certain probiotic bacteria, especially those containing Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, could help babies sleep better.
So much of our overall health depends on maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. It can be quite confusing sometimes to understand how to maintain this balance, which is why we have a team of probiotic consultants on hand to help answer your questions – contact us at 866-4-NATREN (866-462-8736) for a free consultation with one of our probiotics experts.
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"Did you know there’s a relationship between gut health and sleep? An unhealthy digestive tract can reduce the quantity and quality of sleep. Help balance your digestive system with Natren probiotics today!"