NYC Gastroenterologist

Get Better Sleep

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I know what you’re thinking…why am I writing about sleep? This is supposed to be a gut blog! I am partial to the gut as it is notoriously known as the second brain (rightfully so as it contains more neurons than the spinal cord), but the first brain needs a break. You know how awesome it feels to wake up from a restful night’s sleep.

Good sleep is just as important for optimal health as exercise and nutrition. And, the gut isn’t just an innocent bystander in the process. Our gut houses a microbiome, which consists of microorganisms that carry out special functions. The gut microbiome has the ability to produce important neurotransmitters that impact our sleep.

Sleep and our delicate microbiome are intertwined; therefore, it is important to keep sleep hygiene in mind when thinking about gut health.

Here are some tips —beyond black-out shades — to help get some quality shut-eye:

Get out in the sun
Our sleep is affected by our exposure to natural light. Unfortunately, most of us spend far too much time indoors, even sometimes in a location without a window. Sunlight exposure for at least 30 minutes helps set our internal clock, the circadian rhythm, and suppresses our good-night friend, melatonin. Generally, for purposes of this discussion, the best time to be the sun is in the early morning (6 am-8:30 am). If this isn’t possible, and you find yourself stuck inside a building at work most days, then you should at least try to go outside during your lunch break.

Start to wind down
No phone, computer, or TV for at least 30 minutes before the Z’s. If you are brave, stretch it out and stop using devices 1 hour before bedtime. Blue light is emitted by these devices (even from your digital clock) and suppresses melatonin.

There are many blue light blocking products. I personally use f.lux on my computer. This is a free program that adjusts the lighting of the computer based on when the sun sets.

Eat better
The gut is responsible for more than 90% of the production of serotonin, an important substance in making melatonin. In order to feed our hard-working gut and keep the good organisms happy, it is important to eat indigestible fibers AKA plants.

For all those Margaret Wise Brown fans…goodnight stars, goodnight air, good night noises everywhere.

Sam Nazareth