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Do Gut Issues Cause Insomnia?



When it comes to insomnia or fragmented sleep, no one has an Ambien deficiency. Something is interfering with the ability to sleep and while it’s easier to take a pill, it’s much better to figure out the cause and fix it. Drugs have side effects and they don’t stop the metabolic mayhem that’s causing the sleep issue from leading to new symptoms, which leads to a new diagnosis, which leads to another drug. The functional approach that’s crucial to Alzheimer’s prevention and potential reversal doesn’t use this diagnose and prescribe method.


Sleep issues, especially waking up between 2-3:30am, are often related to gut health. This can be true even if you don’t have symptoms of gut dysfunction – remember symptoms are the last thing to appear in any disease process and symptoms can seem to be unrelated to the actual problem.  Here's an example – eczema is related to the gut


You have an ecosystem in your body called the gut microbiome. Within it are viruses, fungi, and billions of bacteria that keep you healthy and are involved in your digestion, absorption, and elimination. When your gut is properly balanced, you’ll be healthy. When your gut is out of balance, it will let you know. Every PRE-Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s evaluation should include an investigation into the health of the gut microbiome.


One of the many potential symptoms of an unhealthy gut is the inability to sleep through the night. The gut-sleep relationship is a two-way street. In fact, the relationship is so intimately connected that it can be difficult to determine which comes first. Lack of sleep, or fragmented sleep, can cause problems in the gut, and problems in the gut can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.


Here are a few things that happen:


Gut bacteria influence levels of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for natural sleep patterns. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes melatonin. Melatonin helps you sleep at night and is also important for digestion. 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut by your gut microbes. Bacterial infections and imbalances (dysbiosis) interfere with the process and can impact your ability to sleep.

Bacterial imbalances and yeast overgrowth cause inflammation in the body and immune system which affects the ability to sleep. Chronic diseases associated with this are IBS, leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s. Insomnia can lead to these issues or vice versa. You may not have a diagnosis, but can still have the dysbiosis


Acid reflux can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep and usually it is not due to having too much stomach acid – it’s often the opposite. If you lower your stomach acid even further with a medication you could set the stage for further problems.


Leptin-Ghrelin imbalance - A lack of sleep decreases leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you’re full and increases ghrelin which is the hormone in charge of hunger. This hormonal imbalance means leptin can’t tell you you’re full and ghrelin tells you to keep eating. It’s one of the main links between insomnia and obesity. Obesity causes sleep problems and sleep problems cause obesity.


If your blood sugar dips too low during the night, your brain will sound the alarm to release stress hormones which will wake you up and it will be difficult to go back to sleep. This usually happens around 3am. If low blood sugar is the cause you might also feel hungry when you wake, a spoonful of organic nut butter or a hard-boiled egg could help you get back to sleep. On the prevention side, try eating that shortly before you go to bed. The long-term solution is for your diet to be high in healthy fats, moderate in clean protein, and vegetables. Ditch the sugars, bread, and pasta. Stay hydrated.


Sleep apnea can impair the gut microbiome and an impaired gut microbiome can contribute to sleep apnea.


The composition of your gut microbiome affects your sleep and your sleep habits affect the composition of your gut. Many people who have poor sleep quality also have gut dysbiosis as well as less cognitive flexibility. Gut dysbiosis has a number of causes like diet, stress, pathogens, inflammation, and antibiotics.


In my weekly Sunday email I support my subscribers who want to prevent, improve or manage Alzheimer's disease by revealing the underlying contributors to cognitive decline and providing ways to reduce risk. You can sign up for my Sunday email here.


For now, here are a few easy things you can try for a better night’s sleep

  • Wear blue blocker glasses when you’re on the computer, watching television or using an e-reader. The blue light from the devices interferes with sleep. You can get them on Amazon for about 20.00. They also prevent eye strain. If you already wear glasses, check with your optometrist for prescription options.

  • Exercise in the morning.

  • Don’t drink alcohol in the evening, you’ll probably wake up around 2-3am. 

  • Avoid processed food, fast food, sweets, and alcohol.

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. A good mattress and pillow are essential.

  • If you sleep with someone who snores, wear earplugs or sleep in a different room. And ask him/her to get checked for sleep apnea. 

  • Stay hydrated throughout the day.

  • Get early morning sunshine without sunglasses, glasses, or contact lenses.

  • Stay tuned for more info on how to have a healthy gut.



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