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The Surprising Link Between Gut Health and Sleep

By Nicole Sell  •   December 5, 2022
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jan 19, 2023

Photo Credit: by Tiffany L, Flickr.com
Photo Credit: by Tiffany L, Flickr.com

Did you know there's a link between gut health and sleep? Many people don't, but recent studies have shown that the two are closely connected. What's even more surprising is just how important gut health is for getting a good night's sleep. So if you're struggling to get enough rest, your gut health may be to blame. Here we'll explore the link between gut health and sleep and show you how to improve your gut health for better sleep.

What is Gut Health?

At its most basic, gut health refers to the balance and diversity of microorganisms in our digestive tract. These microorganisms, called the gut microbiome, include various kinds of bacteria that help to break down our food and extract important nutrients from it. When these organisms are functioning properly, we can get all of the nutrition we need from the food we eat. However, when our gut health is compromised, we will feel less nourished and energized and may also be more prone to infection and illness.

The Benefits of Good Gut Health

There are many benefits to maintaining good gut health, including:

Better sleep: As mentioned, a healthy gut leads to better sleep. This is because the metabolites produced by gut bacteria help to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. When this cycle is disrupted, we may experience insomnia or other sleep problems.

Reduced inflammation: Inflammation is a natural response to infection or injury. However, chronic inflammation can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. Fortunately, gut bacteria help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Improved mood: Gut bacteria also produce metabolites that influence our mood. In fact, studies have shown that people with depression or anxiety are more likely to have an imbalance of gut bacteria. This is because a large portion of our body’s serotonin is actually made in our gut. Therefore, supporting gut health can lead to improved mood and mental well-being.

Better digestion: When gut bacteria are out of balance, we may experience digestive problems like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Maintaining a healthy gut can help to improve our digestive function and prevent these problems.

Boosted immunity: Our gut bacteria play a crucial role in our immune system. In fact, they make up 70% of our immune cells. Therefore, it's no surprise that a healthy gut can lead to a stronger immune system and reduced susceptibility to illness.

The Benefits of Good Sleep

Just as there are many benefits to maintaining good gut health, there are also many benefits to getting enough sleep. These include:

Reduced stress: Sleep is essential for our bodies to recover from the day's stresses. When we don't get enough sleep, our bodies produce more stress hormones, which can lead to various health problems.

Improved mood: Sleep also helps to regulate our mood. We're more likely to be irritable and stressed when we're tired. Getting enough sleep can help us to maintain a positive outlook and cope with stress in a healthy way.

Better cognitive function: Sleep is essential for brain health. When we're tired, our cognitive function suffers. We may have trouble concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions. Getting enough sleep can help us to think more clearly and make better decisions.

Reduced risk of accidents: Sleep deprivation can lead to accidents because it impairs our ability to focus and react quickly. In fact, drowsy driving is responsible for thousands of car accidents every year. Getting enough sleep can help us to stay alert and avoid accidents.

Lower risk of chronic diseases: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Therefore, getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining our health.

The Gut-Sleep Connection

At first glance, it may not seem like there's a connection between our gut and our sleep. After all, the gut is one of the primary systems responsible for processing food and nutrients, while sleep is crucial for rest and repair. However, recent studies have uncovered an intriguing link between these two processes: our gut microbiome communicates with the body's sleep-wake cycle.

This communication occurs through a series of bacteria-derived molecules called metabolites found in our stomachs and brains. These metabolites regulate various bodily functions, including breathing patterns, blood pressure, muscle relaxation, hormone levels, body temperature, and more. Therefore, it's no surprise that disruptions in this system can lead to problems with sleep – and vice versa.

How Does Gut Health Impact Sleep?

Recent research has revealed that one way gut health can affect sleep is by influencing the levels of certain hormones in our bodies. For example, disruptions to signals from the gastrointestinal tract can lead to changes in hormone levels, causing fluctuations in melatonin and cortisol that interfere with natural sleeping patterns. According to studies, poor sleep due to imbalanced hormones can ultimately take a serious toll on our overall health, increasing the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Another way that gut health can impact sleep is how we process and store energy from food. When our gut bacteria are out of balance, we may have difficulty processing carbohydrates and other nutrients, which can lead to fatigue and low energy levels. This can make it harder to fall asleep at night and stay asleep throughout the night.

Additionally, our Neurotransmitter GABA which helps to keep us in deep sleep can be affected by our gut health. If we are not eating foods rich in glutamic acid–the precursor that helps to make GABAS, er could become deficient in this neurotransmitter and it can affect our sleep quality, especially our deep REM related sleep. If you find yourself waking up at night, it might be a sign that you’re GABA deficient. Foods rich in Glutamic acid include eggs, cheeses, poultry. Plant based glutamic acid sources include mushrooms, green peas and ripe tomatoes.

Disruptions in our gut microbiome can also cause inflammation, a known insomnia trigger. According to one study, people with chronic insomnia had significantly higher levels of inflammation markers in their blood than those who slept normally. This suggests that addressing gut health may be one way to help improve sleep for people with chronic insomnia.

How Can We Support Gut Health?

There are a few different ways we can support gut health and, in turn, improve our sleep quality:


In addition to following a healthy diet, we can also take probiotic supplements to help improve gut health. These supplements introduce good bacteria into the digestive tract, helping balance out harmful microbes. By restoring the natural balance in our guts, probiotics can help to improve nutrient absorption and prevent GI issues like bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Additionally, they can promote better mental health by improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety levels.


As well as probiotics, we can also take prebiotic supplements to help improve gut health. Prebiotics are dietary nutrients that act as food for the probiotic microbes in our gut. Unlike probiotics, which are live microorganisms, prebiotics are simply nutrients that help to enable their growth and activity. By supporting healthy bacteria in our gut, prebiotics can help to improve many aspects of digestive and overall health, from reducing inflammation and improving nutrient absorption to bolstering our immunity.

Foods to Eat for Gut Health

One of the most important things we can do is to eat a healthy diet that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as:

Fermented foods

Fermented foods are known for their rich nutrient content and many health benefits. They are full of beneficial probiotics that help to support gut health and improve overall well-being. Some popular fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso. These foods contain billions of friendly bacteria that help crowd out harmful pathogens, boost the immune system, improve digestion, and stimulate good gut bacteria growth.

Bone broth

Bone broth is a powerful ally for gut health. Containing beneficial nutrients like collagen, amino acids, and minerals, bone broth can help to promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Furthermore, its antimicrobial properties can help to fight off harmful microbes, while its anti-inflammatory properties can ease inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Fiber-rich foods

Fiber is crucial for gut health, as it keeps the digestive system functioning smoothly. Not only does fiber help to prevent constipation, but it also helps nutrient absorption and promotes overall gut health. Food sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains such as oats and brown rice. Picking foods rich in fiber can be an easy way to improve your diet and support your body's natural processes. In particular, incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your daily routine can lead to improved digestion, better bowel movements, and higher levels of overall well-being.

Antioxidant-rich foods

Antioxidants are important for gut health, as they help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause inflammation and cell damage. Foods rich in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, and green tea. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help reduce inflammation, fight harmful microbes, and improve gut health.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are important for gut health as they help to keep the digestive system lubricated and prevent constipation. In addition, they help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Adding these foods to your diet can help improve gut motility and keep you regular.

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices not only add flavor to our food, but they also have many health benefits. Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and other nutrients that support gut health. Some gut-friendly herbs and spices include ginger, turmeric, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon. Adding these ingredients to your meals can help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and fight off harmful microbes.


A good night's sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being, but it can be hard to come by. If you're struggling to get enough rest, your gut health may be to blame. Recent studies have shown a link between gut health and sleep, so improving your gut health is a good place to start if you're having trouble sleeping. Here we've explored the connection between gut health and sleep and offered tips on improving your gut health for better sleep. Try incorporating some of these tips into your routine and see if they help you get the restful night's sleep you need.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.