Sleep is vital for the body and mind. Lack of sleep can alter your mood and cognition significantly, while it throws your internal clock off balance. Sleep, mood, and cognition are a phenomenon that is constantly being researched due to its interconnected nature.
In this article, we’re going to share with you how lack of sleep affects our mood and cognition, leading to a slowed reaction time, inability to concentrate, and feelings of depression and anxiety. We will also show you how our gut and brains are connected through the gut-brain axis and how they influence one another in relation to gut composition and sleep. Keep reading if you want to learn more!
Lack of sleep will lead to a slowed reaction time
Sleep deprivation is a real problem, and many of us struggle with getting a full night’s sleep of 7-9 uninterrupted hours. Our bodies need rest and sleep to function properly, including our minds. During sleep, our bodies mend themselves, restore chemical pathways in the brain, and get rid of toxic waste.
Throughout our sleeping hours, nerve cells in the brain communicate and form new connections, leading to enhanced memory retention and cognition. When our sleep is disrupted for whatever reason, our brain won’t get the chance to restore itself and function optimally. In a study that measured sleep deprivation and its effect on anaerobic performance and reaction time, it found that cognition and reaction time is adversely affected when we don’t get enough sleep.
If you ever find yourself unable to concentrate or feel mentally exhausted, a good starting point of determining the reason behind this is looking at your sleep schedule and asking yourself whether you’re getting enough sleeping hours at night.
Depression and Anxiety as a result of sleep deprivation
If you’ve ever experienced feelings of grogginess, uneasiness, and anxiousness after a restless night, then you’re definitely not alone. For some, these patterns of sleep disturbances can become chronic, which is diagnosed as insomnia. According to this study, sleep deprivation affects nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and people who suffer from sleep disorders are more likely to have mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Preventing sleep deprivation:
- Limit your day time naps- this will definitely affect your ability to sleep better at night!
- Limit your caffeine consumption and try not to have any a 5-6 hours before you sleep
- Stick to a bedtime routine and go to bed at the same time every night
- Limit distractions and try to avoid screen time 1-2 hours before bedtime
- Slowly wind down for the evening and dim your lights- bright lights will trick our brain into thinking it’s still day time!
- Choose foods that nourish and fuel your body! Food should GIVE and not TAKE. We’ll discuss this further in more detail below!
How your gut, food, and brain are connected: enter the gut-brain axis
Did you know that an estimated 90% of serotonin- a neurotransmitter that puts us in a better mood and affects sleep-wake cycles, is released in the gut? This is just one of the many ways our guts and brains are connected with one another and are both significantly impacted when one of them is thrown off balance. Numerous recent studies have shown that the gut microbiome in conjunction with mental state can put us at risk for sleep disturbances.
When the gut is compromised as a result of diet, lifestyle, or inflammatory conditions, the gut-brain axis will be compromised as well.
How can we make this better?
The gut microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria that are influenced by what we eat daily. Changes in your diet and lifestyle will greatly impact your ability to fall asleep at night and reduce sleep disturbances. Gut composition influences our circadian rhythm- the internal clock that directs the body to fall asleep or stay alert. Improving the gut microbiome needs commitment and consistency, but it can definitely be achieved! Here are some ways you can improve your gut microbiota to reduce emotional and psychological stress and feel better:
- Increase your fiber intake- This can be done by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Eat probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, pickled veggies, miso soup, kefir and soft cheeses
- Avoid red meats and incorporate more lean meats, like chicken, turkey and fish
- Avoid saturated fats and eat more healthy fats. This includes, olive oil, avocados, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Make sure to check out Pure Plate’s delicious 6-oz salmon filet for a meal packed with Omega-3 fats to offer anti-inflammatory effects and enhance your gut composition.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week
Sleep, mood, and cognition are all intrinsically connected and affect each other. Be sure to make sleep a priority and to incorporate healthy habits, like eating a varied and balanced diet, and making sure to include some movement into your daily routine.
Pure Plates offers many fiber-rich foods on their plant-filled menu, including fruit options, vegetables, and homemade bars packed with nuts and seeds to enhance your gut composition, put you in a better mood, and to help you sleep better at night!