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How Lack of Sleep May Affect Risk of Obesity and Insulin Resistance

Getting enough sleep at night isn’t just important for your well-being the next day. It is also critical for your long-term health in many ways – including affecting your gut.


Gut microbiota. You may have heard this term more and more often recently because scientists are really starting to delve into just how this living colony of bacteria within our digestive system affects us on a daily basis.

Our gut is home to tens of trillions of micro-organisms that are vitally important to our health. About one third is common to most people, while two-thirds are specific to each one of us because of our environment and lifestyle habits.

Here are just some of the important functions of the microbiota which directly affects us daily:
• A healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning.
• These bacteria help with the production of some vitamins – particularly B and K.
• It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
• It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.

Our microbiota begins to form as soon as we are born. Over time, it can change and adapt but in specific situations it can get “out of balance”. This is called dysbiosis and it is linked to health problems such as functional bowel disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, obesity, and diabetes.

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What we eat is critically important to maintaining balance. For example, a “Western” diet that is full of fat, sugar and processed foods can throw our gut microbiota out of balance. Eating whole foods (fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains with fiber) can help maintain the delicate ecosystem within our digestive systems.

Scientists are newly discovering that sleep habits may also affect our microbiota. Even just two days of sleep loss may alter the balance of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria and may exacerbate negative metabolic health consequences such as weight gain and insulin resistance, notes Jonathan Cedernaes with Uppsala University.

"We found that participants were over 20 percent less sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin following sleep loss. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone needed to bring down blood glucose levels," says first author Christian Benedict.
For more on how to get more sleep at night, check out these tips by Dr. Aneesa Das, Sleep Specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Journal Reference:
Christian Benedict, Heike Vogel, Wenke Jonas, Anni Woting, Michael Blaut, Annette Schürmann, Jonathan Cedernaes. Gut Microbiota and Glucometabolic Alterations in Response to Recurrent Partial Sleep Deprivation in Normal-weight Young Individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003

Photo Credit:
By Stéfan - Asleep at McDonald's, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons