Does Bad Sleep Change Your Gut Bacteria?

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Researchers found that those little guys living inside you need their beauty sleep as well.

We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for you. But did you know it might be bad for all the little organisms living inside you?

There are a whole bunch of bacteria and other organisms living in your stomach (it's called your "microbiome"). But be not frightened — you need these guys to help you digest food, catch viruses and do a whole bunch of other important things. Like you, they do not do well after a night of bad sleep.

Researchers at Kent State found a relationship between people who got better sleep and people with healthier microbiomes.

"The emerging science points to a powerful two-way street between sleep and gut health," said Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and American Board of Sleep Medicine diplomat unaffiliated with the study.

It's not clear whether sleep changes bacteria, bacteria change sleep, they both affect each other, or if there's some other explanation. But there does seem to be a connection.

"Sleeping well is one way to help maintain a healthy gut. And maintaining gut health—by managing stress, exercising, eating a healthy diet that’s rich in prebiotic (fiber-rich) foods—can help you sleep better," continued Breus. "Both those pillars—healthy sleep and a balanced, thriving gut—can work to limit harmful inflammation, and may help deliver long-term protection against disease."

It just goes to show that the whole body is connected. In sleeping poorly, you're not just making yourself less focused and energetic. You're impacting the rest of your body, down to the other organisms that live in it.

The same is true of the larger ecosystem. When you chop down a forest, you don't just affect the forest. You affect the planet. When the Amazon rainforest becomes farmland, people around the world breathe less oxygen. Perhaps a more holistic view — of both the human body and the planet — can help people heal themselves and the world.