It’s no surprise another study revealed poor sleep has a direct impact on your overall health. But what is unexpected is the aspect of your health the researchers at Nova Southeastern University found were affected by this treasured rest.
Their work found sleep has a profound impact on your gut microbiome which in turn could affect your sleep. "Given the strong gut-brain bidirectional communication they likely influence each other," said NSU research director Jaime Tartar, Ph.D.
Driven by curiosity, Tartar and her team approached their research project with the thought, "Based on previous reports, we think that poor sleep probably exerts a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity.” And their suspicions were confirmed. The report published in the journal PLoS ONE detailed the link between poor sleep and poor gut health, which she and her team defined as a lack of diversity of microorganisms.
The study participants wore a monitor on their wrist to bed similar to a smart watch which measured their vital signs and allowed researchers to determine just how well they slept. The ones who slept well had a “better” or more diverse collection of gut microbes.
According to Tartar, previous research has linked poor gut health with issues such as Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune diseases along with psychological issues like anxiety and depression.
"We know that sleep is pretty much the 'Swiss Army Knife of health," Tartar said. "Getting a good night's sleep can lead to improved health, and a lack of sleep can have detrimental effects. We've all seen the reports that show not getting proper sleep can lead to short term (stress, psychosocial issues) and long-term (cardiovascular disease, cancer) health problems. We know that the deepest stages of sleep are when the brain 'takes out the trash' since the brain and gut communicate with each other. Quality sleep impacts so many other facets of human health."
Fellow researcher Robert Smith, Ph.D. said in addition to sleep there are several factors that go into determining the makeup of someone’s gut microbiome. Genetics plays a role as some are predisposed from birth to have more diversity. Other factors include what you eat and what you take in the form of medicines. Antibiotics in particular have the ability to indiscriminately wipe out large amounts of gut bacteria.
Smith is interested in better understanding the brain and gut connection which could lead to new sleep intervention strategies.
"The preliminary results are promising, but there's still more to learn," Smith said. "But eventually people may be able to take steps to manipulate their gut microbiome in order to help them get a good night's sleep."
Click here to read more in the journal PLoS ONE.