I’m pretty sure like us here at Ciall Health, you are experiencing some form of worry or stress as the numbers of cases rise and there is plenty of talk about the potential of Level 4 and schools closing for an additional week or two! This week we are drawing your attention to how SLEEP and DIGESTION influence each other. We understand your time is precious, so we have kept it short as we can.
When you are asleep, your digestive system continues to work, albeit at a much slower rate. The body will use stored glucose for growth and repair, it rebuilds body tissues and cells that are damaged as a result of normal daily functions. Restrictive eating patterns means that your body won’t have enough calories for the night-shift.
Let’s talk about how you might not be meeting your daily needs during COVID.
Negative emotional states like fear, anger or anxiety should naturally invoke a reaction of the nervous system. That reaction is that the blood supply will typically flow away from your gastrointestinal tract with the result that you will no longer feel hungry1. Have you ever noticed that you aren’t hungry before that big meeting? Usually feels normal and you complete the task and when you are nice and relaxed, hunger comes calling.
If your current environment feels like there is a big grizzly bear at your ankles everyday and you notice you aren’t eating, then you are normally responding to your hunger cues. But unfortunately you are also not meeting your natural energy needs. Vicious circle isn’t it.
This demand is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it’s the fuel we need for breathing, circulation, nutrient processing and cell production And when you aren’t eating, you may likely be surviving on stimulants like sugary treats or caffeine2.
This is where that sleep/digestion relationship feels the pinch and you may be experiencing the negative side effects of night wakings, poor mood, decreased performance not to mention the 10pm cravings.
So while your behaviours are getting you through the day, it’s playing havoc with your sleep hormones, melatonin and serotonin3.
If you find yourself waking up at 4am, it might be worth thinking about the volume and quality of your calorie intake and not your never ending to-do list.
Interestingly there is also a connection in this story to the immune system. Did you know 80% of your immune system is in your GUT? If you are continuously sleep-deprived, the immune system produces excessive pro-inflammatory cytokines, creating inflammation. Inflammation is widely accepted as a factor in most chronic lifestyle conditions.
We haven’t even gotten to discuss how the stress/sleep/eat cycle impacts the nervous system. It all gets so interesting when you get a better understanding of the cortisol/melatonin cycle.
3 Food things you can do to improve your shut eye!
- Boost the volume of food you take in earlier in the day to fuel your workload. Many people hold their calories until the evening time as a reward for a hard day’s work but end up unable to concentrate through the day?.
- If you are feeling hungry before you sleep, remember your body has work to do. Feed it, if you don’t the body doesn’t like to release fat cells as it’s worried there is a famine. Something like a slice of wholemeal toast, nut butter and banana/mashed berries would be a good choice. The important thing to remember is it’s just something small to tide you over and only if you feel true hunger…not cravings.
- Magnesium has also been shown to aid sleep. Sources of magnesium include; wholegrains, nuts like almonds and pumpkin seeds. You can also try a magnesium supplement, when we are stressed our mineral stores get deleted more easily. Magnesium is involved in over 600 body functions but supplementation has been shown to support better sleep and even to relax you. If you tend to have sensitive bowels, take care and follow the recommended amount , it can make stools overly loose4.
- Fox, S; Egan, J (2017) ‘Emotional Eating: Feeding and Fearing Feelings- What Psychologists Need to Know’ The Irish Psychologist, 43 (8) :194-200.
- What Is Basal Metabolic Rate?. (2020). Retrieved 12 November 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-basal-metabolic-rate
- Shilo, L., Sabbah, H., Hadari, R., Kovatz, S., Weinberg, U., & Dolev, S. et al. (2002). The effects of coffee consumption on sleep and melatonin secretion. Sleep Medicine, 3(3), 271-273. doi: 10.1016/s1389-9457(02)00015-1
- FH, N., LK, J., & H, Z. (2020). Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep. Retrieved 9 October 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21199787/