One holistic modality that is often overlooked when it comes to digestive issues is sleep!
Poor sleep is correlated with gut damage, including an imbalance of gut bacteria. The opposite is also true: poor gut health can lead to inadequate quality sleep. Like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it may be next to impossible to know which came first, poor sleep or poor gut health. The bottom line is taking care of your gut may improve your sleep and improving your sleep may help alleviate your gut symptoms.
Here are some tips to optimize sleep:
1. Eat a snack before bed that combines fat and carbs. This can be helpful for those who struggle to stay asleep at night, as this can sometimes be due to a drop in blood sugar during the night. A snack that combines fat and carbs can help to stabilize blood sugar through the night. For example: nut butter + berries + banana or apple + tahini or hard-boiled egg + avocado.
2. Don’t eat a snack before bed. I know, I’m completely contradicting the first point. But everybody is different. For those who struggle falling asleep, try skipping a bedtime snack, as digesting too close to bedtime might be what’s keep you awake.
3. Drink less or avoid coffee. Caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours. So if you drink a cup of coffee at 10am, half the caffeine will still be in your system at 5pm and the caffeine will remain in your system until you go to bed and throughout the night. That morning cup of coffee is sticking with you well into the night. If you don’t want to give up caffeine, try less caffeinated options such as black, chai or green tea or kombucha. Non-caffeinated, whole-food, alternatives include herbal teas (e.g., peppermint, lavender, lemon balm), lemon water, golden milk, a smoothie, coconut water, or bone broth.
4. Drink less or avoid alcohol. Alcohol interferes with the REM cycle of sleep and make it harder to stay asleep throughout the night. Take note of how you feel the morning after having had a drink, to find the balance that works for you. Mezcal, vodka, gin, and tequila are lower in sugar than other options, such as wine or beer, and thus are considered a “healthier” option if you choose to drink alcohol.
5. Move your body. Moving your body throughout the day burns off energy and can really help your sleep. And I don’t mean going to the gym for a formal workout, just make sure you aren’t sitting all day. This could look like a standing break every 30 minutes (set a timer!), working from a stand-up or treadmill desk, going on several mini-walks a day (even if it’s just a quick 10 minute walk around the block), taking the stairs, choosing the furthest parking spot, or taking a dancing break.