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How much sleep do you need to support your gut health?

Is six hours of sleep enough? Salvo Health Clinical Advisor Dr. Frank Lipman tells us about the connection between sleep and your gut health.

Published:

November 11, 2022

Written by:

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Frank Lipman

Published:

November 11, 2022

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Is it really possible to get eight hours of sleep every night? Work, socializing, exercising, commuting, cooking, eating, cleaning, caring for your family, take up a lot of the 9-to-5, then the 5-to-9, sometimes the 9-Midnight, or even eat into the early hours of the morning. When is sleeping supposed to happen when you have so much to do? More importantly, how much sleep do you need to fit into your schedule to manage your gut health? 

Through the Salvo Health app, our doctors and health coaches recommend specific sleep hours and coaching to help you get the rest you need. But if you’re braving it alone, we have some advice on how to get more sleep and improve your symptoms at the same time. 

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How is sleep connected to your gut?

Polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation indicated that the average duration of sleep for Americans had fallen to 6.9-7.0 hours, with the majority sleeping closer to 6 hours every night. We're a country of poor sleepers, it seems, and considering sleep’s close relationship with gut health, it’s no wonder that over 60 million of us suffer from a chronic GI condition. 

But why is it when you don’t get enough sleep that you’re more likely to experience a flare-up or rough stomach symptoms? Well, as Dr. Frank Lipman, Salvo Health Clinical Advisor, explains, “When you’re not sleeping properly, there’s going to be various hormonal consequences.” 

The hormonal consequences in question include an impact on leptin, a hormone released by the fat cells that signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. While loss of sleep decreases leptin, an appetite suppressant, it also increases ghrelin, a peptide secreted by the stomach and an appetite stimulant. 

“There's a direct highway connecting the gut to the brain. So what happens in the brain is going to affect the gut. What happens in the gut is going to affect the brain. Sleep is going to directly impact what’s going on in the brain, and indirectly affect what’s going on in the gut as a result,” Dr. Lipman reminds us. With these two hormonal signals unable to communicate to the brain, our hunger increases in the gut. Being tired or suffering from sleep deprivation, hormonally can make you hungrier or prone to overeating. 

Sleep deprivation increases hunger, but also has a major impact on your stress levels. “Sleep deprivation is a high stress state, producing a high amount of catecholamines, which are stress hormones. When you're in a sleep deprived state, your nervous system is in fight-or-flight mode, not rest-and-digest mode.” 

We know that stress has a direct effect on the gut due to the aforementioned Brain-Gut Connection, with stress able to trigger nausea, stomachaches, diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms. 

How much sleep should you be getting? 

We’ve seen a lot of different numbers thrown out there, but how much is too little sleep and how much is too much sleep? 

To avoid a gastro flare-up, and to feel less hungry and more relaxed on a daily basis, National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Now, these guidelines might change depending on your age. According to Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H., teens need 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night. And as you get older, you might find it harder to get enough sleep, or maintain your deep sleep state. 

Dr. Lipman reiterates, “As you age, it's harder to sleep, or people find it harder to get good sleep. That doesn't mean you don't need sleep. A lot of people think, “Oh now that I'm 70, I only need five hours.” That's not the case.” 

While you want to aim for a good seven hours minimum, keep in mind that sleep quality matters just as much as quantity of sleep. 

How to improve sleep quality 

So you’re committing to getting more sleep every night for the sake of your gut health, but now you have to meet the challenge of ensuring you get quality sleep. 

Here are the four ways we measure sleep quality from the Sleep Foundation

  • Sleep latency, or how long it takes you to fall asleep. You want to fall asleep within thirty minutes of lying down. 
  • Sleep waking: How often you wake up during the night. Waking up more often during the night disrupts your sleep cycle and decreases the quality of your sleep. 
  • Wakefulness: This is how long you stay awake when trying to fall asleep. When you wake up in the middle of the night, do you stay up for minutes or hours? 
  • Sleep efficiency: This is the amount of time you spend in deep sleep at night. 

A number of things can impact these four factors, including… 

  • The lighting of your bedroom when you go to sleep. Do you need it pitch black dark or prefer to pull back the curtains for more moonlight? 
  • Room temperature; People tend to sleep better in cooler rooms, which is why we tend to sleep more during the winter. 
  • Eating habits; Eating too close to bed or eating too much before bed can trigger GERD symptoms 
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeine before bed; Sugar and caffeine can keep you up at night
  • Avoiding technology before bed; Blue lights from screens can keep your mind and nervous system activated. 

Salvo Health can help you figure out what’s keeping you up at night 

Imagine if you could text your sleep symptoms to a doctor, and get specific advice on how to sleep better, and then have a health coach supporting you along the way to make meaningful changes to your sleep routine. 

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When you sign up for Salvo Health to take care of your chronic GI condition, you’ll get access to our app, staffed with a Care Team including a doctor and health coach, who will not only work to make an accurate diagnosis and  help you with medications or supplements, but will also help you adjust your lifestyle, including nutrition, movement, and sleep, to support your gut health. 

Behavior change is easier with Salvo Health on your side. Start your free assessment today

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