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Sleep and Gut Health: A Love-Hate Relationship

What if I told you that you are more microbe than human? And that, technically, you are simply a host to a wide variety of lifeforms which, in turn, do their due diligence in keeping you healthy and thriving.

I am speaking of your microbiome. A collection of over 100 trillion microbes (outnumbering the number of our human cells 10:1) that live in and on your body, and consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Though they live all throughout your body, the intestinal microbiome is the one that is raising most interest regarding its role in our physical and mental health.

Our microbiome is home to its own nervous system, which communicates constantly with our brain and central nervous system, helping regulate our appetite, digestion, immune system and hormonal production.

And here is where it gets interesting as far as sleep quality is concerned: the intestinal microbiome produces and releases melatonin and many of the same sleep-influencing neurotransmitters—dopamine, serotonin, and GABA among them—that are also produced by the brain. Making the healthy balance of the gut a big influence on how you sleep.

The relationship between sleep and the microbiome is increasingly seen as a two-way street. Only two nights of partial sleep deprivation can lead to a significant decrease in types of beneficial bacteria, as well as decreased insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, gut health may be an important factor in the onset of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. These two go hand-in-hand in creating a stress cycle, as stress can negatively affect gut health, and poor gut health can exacerbate the body’s stress response.

I could go on and on and list the things that can (and do) go wrong when this delicate balance between gut health and sleep is upset. But rather than put you into a stress response (which we now know will wreak havoc on your gut), let’s see what can be done about this.

The most obvious and “quick” fix is restoring a good gut health balance through the use of properly prescribed probiotics, eating organic and whole, minimally processed food, exercising regularly (proven to change the composition of your microbiome) and removing avoidable stress from your life as much as possible.

But just because I say “quick fix” doesn’t mean that actually introducing these changes is an easy walk in the park. Changing our diets, stress responses or established daily habits is a big task. One that needs to be done with a strong sense of WHY you are doing it (purpose), for what GOAL (vision), in which TIMEFRAME (schedule) and in which WAY (methodology).

But wait, you must be thinking, I want results NOW. As geeky and boring as it sounds, what is called for is a planned and actionable approach to introducing change into your lifestyle. If you really want lasting change, then you have to put in the effort. Sorry  So my “quick fix” reference is a relative one – the results are quick to arrive and significant, but only after you put in time and effort to carefully look at your habits (in eating, relating, working, being human…), put systems in place to help you introduce healthier ways of living and finding purpose in them so that they become second nature.

Are you willing to carefully examine why you eat the way you do, why you refuse to distance yourself from toxic people in your life or why regular exercise is not a priority? Uncomfortable truths might surface – from discovering that your eating patterns are a way of self-soothing or that lack of exercise might signal poor self-appreciation.

Are you willing to put in the work? And create favorable conditions for those hundred trillion suckers to thrive in your body, helping you sleep, love, grow and play? Your (quality of) life literally depends on it.

My gut tells me you will take action. 


If you would like to work 1-on-1 on your particular habits and lifestyle changes for the sake of sleep health, contact me on for information on individual sleep coaching, or visit my webpage for information.


About the author

Maša Nobilo, Sleep Coach

From first-hand insomniac to certified Embodied Facilitator with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, the Feldenkrais Method and Embodied Yoga Principles, Maša is well-equipped to support you on journey to restful sleep.
Learn more below.

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