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Sleep and the microbiome

To get a good night’s sleep, what we can do ..

Preparing for sleep | Water | During the day | Mealtimes | Microbiome | When Tired

*Be in bed on time?
When thinking about good sleep the idea of being in bed on time seems obvious, yet is it? Why do so many of us, even in this lockdown situation, insult ourselves by going to bed too late? We know how great it feels to have slept well, as then our mood is perfectly pitched, all day, and our life can run smoothly. Yet many of us ignore the clock, dispel any signs of tiredness and extend those evening hours such that bedtime is delayed? Why do we do that?

Is TV the culprit? Do we allow that ‘box’ to control us? Are the trailers and the promotions so good that we cannot resist? Question: is TV watching addictive? Perhaps we need a nudge? .. would it be good if we set ourselves an alarm, telling us to push record, turn the TV off and head for bed?

*Set a pattern for ourselves
Maybe this evening will be the first instance when we have supper early then watch and enjoy TV until our chosen time, to then push record, turn all electric devices ‘off ’, quickly tidy up, perhaps do some gentle yoga or sleep inducing exercises then, with a calm mind, go to bed. Perhaps this can be at 10pm? To then let this become our daily pattern? For some it already is! When choosing that magical bed time remember that many say the hours of sleep before midnight are worth twice those after midnight. So, what time will bedtime be tonight?

*Later, please?
The idea of going to bed later and waking late the next morning might seem like a useful way to stay up late and still have sufficient sleep (!) but no, it would go against the grain as the body naturally has an internal process (Circadian Rhythm) that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This cycle, based on the daylight and darkness hours, repeats every 24 hours. To work with this natural cycle, we need to set our own rhythm. To go to bed at the same sort of time each night and to get up at a regular time each morning. Once in our sleep routine, we will begin to know whether 8 hours of sleep is about right for us, or whether we need more? Or less?


*To actually sleep
We’ve addressed bed time, how long after bed time is sleep time? There are some who fall asleep immediately, for them head on pillow equals sleep, for others it is not that simple, indeed for some it might take a very long time. Even then, if they do fall asleep ok, many wake up in the middle of the night and find it very hard to get back to sleep.


When sleeping well all night becomes the norm, waking up the next morning could need no alarm at all. Naturally sleeping and naturally waking, feeling well rested and ready to start the day.

What might we be able to do during the day to encourage the body to fall asleep quickly and to sleep well all night? Fresh air, exercise, water, minerals and food to address the microbiome, more .. please read on.

*Look after your bed
It is important to have a mattress which gives you the right type of firmness, one which not only makes you feel comfortable but also offers you the correct support. Is your mattress too soft, too firm or just right? Have you turned the mattress recently? Also are your pillows comfortable?


Think about how the bed is situated in the room, some people consider the orientation of the bed to be very important.

*Fresh laundry!
We all love the feeling and the sheer cleanliness of freshly laundered sheets, duvet cover and pillowcases. Treat yourself .. !

*Light in the bedroom
At night in the bedroom lower the lights and stay away from computer ‘blue’ light. The light from electrical devices such as the computer, the tablet, the mobile and more adds confusion as the brain associates this light with daylight.

The body’s natural rhythm was established well before electricity. So, we can easily recognise that it has a genuine wish to be in a room where the lights have been lowered, for there to be some quiet. At night the body is comfortable to be in an almost cave like situation with very little or no light and with no disturbance, silence.

*Temperature in the room
When lying in bed at bedtime the body temperature decreases to initiate sleep. If the temperature in the bedroom reflects this lowering of the body’s temperature to cool rather than warm, it allows sleep to happen more easily, helps avoid restlessness and insomnia.

The suggested temperatures for optimal sleep are between:
15.56 - 19.44 degrees Celsius = 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Fresh air
Each day to have some fresh air either by stepping outside if you can, or by opening a window, to take in some different air. To stand tall, shoulders back, inhaling deeply to bring oxygen in, then exhaling completely to send carbon dioxide out. Breathing in and out for several deep breaths to cleanse and respire. Hopefully with some bright, natural light! Sunshine. Light on the face. Sunlight allows the body to make some Vitamin D. Perhaps more than just respiring, maybe some exercise. Half an hour or more of good breathing and exercise to help tonight’s sleep.


Does a dehydrated human sleep well? We know the answer to that. Dehydration is linked with lack of focus, headaches, bad moods, a gentle lowering of mental functioning. Also, when dehydrated, the body’s production of Melatonin is slowed or prevented which can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep. Melatonin is produced in the pineal glands, its production is linked with the body’s natural body clock, the levels of Melatonin are automatically boosted when it is dark, helping the body to fall asleep. Keep hydrated during the day and early evening so the melatonin levels can be as they should be for sleep.

Be sure to drink enough water during the day, wake up and start your day with a large glass of water. Perhaps refill the glass, drink more! Drink plenty of water first thing, then take your minerals and have breakfast. A couple of hours after breakfast drink some more water, then continue drinking fresh water at several (many) times during the day. We’re told 8 glasses of water, or 1.5 to 2 litres, is about right. Some might think we need to drink more water than that. If drinking lots of water feels odd, perhaps set times during the day to be your ‘drinking glasses of water’ times .. drink plenty, drink enough.

When the body is hydrated it works well all day, including in the afternoons. Clearer skin. More energy. Happy afternoons! Keep hydrated.

In the late afternoon and early evening start to drink less water, maybe sip some water from a posh glass (!).

Then imagine, by about 7 or 8pm, you know you have been drinking enough water during the day and that you are up to your daily quota of water, that you now wish to let 7 or 8pm be your time to stop drinking any more water, no more fluids.

This will allow your body to have the time it needs to process the water before sleep, with only one or no visits to the bathroom during the night. If you haven’t been drinking enough water during the day, make a clear note to drink more water during the day tomorrow.

*Routine first thing in the morning (to include the drinking of water .. )
Each morning the body wakes with the body temperature at its baseline of 98.6 degrees. Normal. Almost as if the body has done its own cleansing in the night, set for the start of the new day. To take advantage of this cleansing we need to have a good morning routine:

To wake up, breathe deep, get up, stretch, drink some water, stretch again and exercise a little or a lot, drink some more water, take minerals, eat and enjoy eating breakfast, chew well, have good posture, think good thoughts, eliminate the toxins, time to shower and get dressed. Choose something lovely to wear, then, shoulders back, breathe deep and smile! Step outside or step into your space for today.

*Enjoy and use the day:
Synchronise your actions during the day with your body’s natural ‘awake time/sleep time’ cycle. Enjoy these daylight hours, be alert and energetic, busy. Keep focused.

Should you make a list of things to do today or do you already know? You choose .. choose well. Get started! If at a loss as to what to do, maybe learn something new? Expand the mind.

Whatever you do, throughout the day breathe well, have good posture, respect you and your body, thinking and being happy.

A sedentary lifestyle is not good for sound sleep.

Use the day to get everything done as with good time management and accomplishing tasks one can have that great feeling of having achieved. To achieve and accomplish naturally boosts the way we feel, helps the way we sleep. Children, students, adults of all ages like to have achieved.

*Calm and quiet
Yes, be busy, yet at some points during the day be less busy. Enjoy some quiet, some calm. Perhaps have some time to read a book and be still or time to practice good breathing exercises, or time to be listening to music or answering texts or emails, or even writing letters. Contact with friends, being content. Laugh, learn!

There are no rules, especially in this lockdown period, so why not take a few minutes to dance? Even if it is in your kitchen, just put on some music, grab a scarf, (or a sweeping brush!) stand tall, move your arms or twist your hips and dance! Feel pretty or feel handsome. Enjoy this! .. or do FaceTime and enjoy that! .. or, or !! .. spend the day as you please!

A happy, balanced day to allow for good sleep.

*Certainty about meal times
Help the body’s rhythms by having a mealtime routine which the body can begin to rely on and trust. Have your meals at chosen times of the day, each day. No long periods of starvation, no binging. To eat well. To eat well at breakfast, lunch and dinner. To chew well. To eat until full at each meal, then stop.

After each meal have some time with no eating or drinking. Push pause and allow the digestive system to do its work, uninterrupted. (Maybe chew some gum if you find this hard).

*Breakfast, lunch and dinner .. What to eat with gut health and sleep in mind
Could the situation in the gut hold the key to good sleep?

The intestine is home to a vast concentration of micro-organisms, such as bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Scientists now call this concentration in the gut the “microbiome”.

The microbiome is unique to each of us. It plays an important role in our digestion, our mood, our health, it helps support the immune system and much more, including our sleep. The microbiome has been and is influenced by many factors from birth. Our microbiome is altered by our actions today, including our nutrition.

We want our microbiome to be working very well.

Gut researchers investigated the influence of the microbiome in a group of adults ages 50-85. They found strong connections between higher sleep quality, better cognitive flexibility and improvement in the gut itself. The relationship between sleep and the microbiome is increasingly seen as a 2 way street. Take care of the microbiome, the life in the gut, and it will take care of you.

*How can we help our own microbiome?
For the digestive system including the microbiome (gut flora) to be happy we must eat a good variety foods, a balanced diet which introduces plenty of vegetables, pulses, beans, whole grains, some lean protein, some live yogurt with probiotic culture and some fruit & nuts.

To eat this way is to eat food which contains great carbohydrates, great fibre and also contains both prebiotics and probiotics, all helping to ensure that the good bacteria in the microbiome are being fed and can work efficiently, creating a healthy environment for our microbiome.

We are advised to steer away, or minimise consumption of, processed, high-sugar foods.

As stated by Dr Michael Mosley: Eating balanced amounts of both prebiotic and probiotic foods can ensure you have the right balance of these bacteria. Good for health. Good for sleep.

*What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fibre which, when eaten, pass through our system to encourage and feed the good bacteria in the gut. When in the gut, the prebiotics almost act as a fertiliser for the good bacteria. Please see the list of Prebiotics below. We can easily find and include prebiotics in our diet.

Please note that all Prebiotic foods are fibrous but not all fibres are Prebiotic.

The good bacteria in the gut, in our microbiome are called Probiotics. They are live cultures which help support a healthy digestion and immune function. We want the Probiotics in our microbiome to live well and to work well.

We can add to the number of Probiotics in our microbiome by eating food which contains live Probiotic cultures and/or by taking a Probiotic supplement. We can improve the health of the Probiotics in our microbiome by eating some Prebiotic food, as this gives energy to the Probiotics and keeps them working well, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. Teamwork between the Probiotics and the Prebiotics helps us thrive and live well.

*What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber which, when eaten, pass through our system to encourage and feed the good bacteria in the gut. When in the gut, the prebiotics almost act as a fertiliser for the good bacteria. We can quite easily find and include Prebiotics to our diet.

All Prebiotic foods are fibrous but not all fibers are Prebiotic.

The good bacteria in the gut, called Probiotics, are live cultures which help support a healthy digestion and immune function. We want the probiotics in our microbiome to live well and to work well. We can add to the number of probiotics in our gut by eating food which contains live probiotic cultures and by taking a probiotic supplement. We can improve the health of the probiotics in our gut by eating some prebiotic food.

We can add to the health and ability to work well of the probiotics in the gut by eating some prebiotic food to give them energy.

The prebiotics and the probiotics work together to help maintain a healthy digestive system. We should eat both. The prebiotics feed the probiotics. The probiotics work well when they are fed.

To include some Prebiotic food at dinner time seems to be extra good for sleep. Some research is starting to suggest that if the bacteria in the gut have not had sufficient Prebiotic food in the evening that we might wake up in the night.

Some research is starting to suggest that, if the bacteria in the gut have not had sufficient prebiotic food in the evening, we might wake up in the night.

*Where to find prebiotics?
Foods rich in prebiotics are chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, bananas.

There are many other foods which have some prebiotics such as cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, pak choy, turnip, kale, Brussel sprouts, Savoy cabbage, garden cress, watercress, radish, edible seaweed, Burdock root, some whole grains, beans and peas, also in sweet potato, yams, lentils, chickpeas (hummus), red kidney beans, baked beans, blueberries, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, even in some dark chocolate.

Some of these prebiotic foods are indigestible by us but are digestible by the gut bacteria.


*Where to find probiotics?
Probiotics are live organisms. You can find Probiotics in fermented foods such as: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, fermented cucumbers, pickles, some cheeses which have live and active cultures (look on food labels). Taking probiotics as a supplement is popular.


Modere Protozymes

The Mayo Clinic states ‘the healthier your microbiome, the healthier you are’. Also saying ‘the key to a healthy microbiome is nourishing a balance - helping the microbes which are already in the gut to grow by giving them the foods they like (prebiotic) and adding living microbes directly to your system (probiotic). Everyone has their own individual microbiome, each one is different. The food eaten plays an important role in the balance of good and bad gut bacteria.

*What to eat in the evening
Best to have a light supper/dinner then to stop eating. Having learned about the microbiome and our wish to keep it healthy, good to think about including some prebiotic food in the evening meal, perhaps some hummus or some lentils with a little rice or a rice cake. Or natural yogurt with some almonds.

A handful of almonds is a rich source of tryptophan which the body uses to make several important molecules, including serotonin which influences sleep and melatonin which helps with the body’s sleep and the sleep-wake cycle.

Instead of snacking, if not really hungry, maybe sip a little water or have nil by mouth so that the tummy is calm at bedtime.

*Change in hormones when tired
Being tired causes changes to hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. The hormone leptin suppresses appetite and encourages the body to expend energy. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin making it more likely that you will eat more. It encourages over-eating of any food, including all the wrong foods, just before bed. To wake up after eating like that the night before is exhausting, and it creates a vicious cycle.

Try to eat well at meal times. Being sure to eat well at breakfast, lunch with a light supper, this is a good balance for the body and with which the body can work well as it brings some space for the body’s naturally calming rhythms to let the mind know when it is necessary and when it is not necessary to eat. In particular a time without eating after dinner .. indeed at dinner for the body to let the mind know and the mind to let the body know and recognise when it is time to eat some supper/dinner and when it is time to stop eating.

*When tired late at night
When we are tired, especially when exhausted late at night, it is easy to think we are hungry, and for us to just grab something ridiculous to eat, just because it is there or because it smells great from some take away. Then we might have a night of sleep when overfull.

Good to go to sleep when we are not too full and not hungry. To eat well at dinner time, then, if the night is going to be very late, much better to have some prebiotic food ready in the fridge or somewhere handy.

For a happy microbiome, try to say no to high-fat, high-sugar foods at any time as eating this way may encourage more of the not-so-good bacteria to stay in the gut. Especially say no to these high-fat, high-sugar foods late at night as they may cause people to eat mindlessly and might be quite disturbing for good sleep.

People with a healthy balance of gut bacteria tend to be leaner.

*Catching up on sleep not as good as regular nightly sleep
Neuroscientist, Matthew Walker in his International Best Seller ‘Why We Sleep’, encourages us to recognise that sleep is not like a bank balance where there might be the chance to top up the ‘sleep account’ at the end of the month. No. Sleep needs to be there nightly, in a way which gives the body the rest it needs. Mr Walker also states that each cell in your body has its DNA, there to perform specific functions, the cells depend on sufficient sleep. The depth of sleep varies, there are stages involving Non-REM sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Mr Walker calls these REM moments of sleep rich and important, like a luxury. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep.

Sleep has cycles with distinct brain patterns which set up our ability to perform normal functions when we are awake. There are four main stages of sleep, which occur in 90 minute cycles, with 4 to 5 cycles each night. Important to let these cycles occur.

Good sleep helps good health, good sleep each night helps the body to repair itself ready for the morning.

*Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted so it can’t perform its duties well. Difficulty in concentration, irritability, impatient, lethargy, memory loss, cognitive decline, mood swings, appetite, focus, helping the mind consolidate information and making it stick. Good sleep vs lack of sleep certainly alters the life we are able to live.

*At bedtime
Allow yourself a moment to unwind before sleep. Perhaps read a book or listen to music. To wash the face, or have a bath, clean the teeth, floss, for a beautifully fresh mouth in the morning, use a good mouth wash.

Some like to have a bath before sleep. Perhaps adding a few drops of lavender , vanilla , jasmine or rose&geranium, sandalwood to the bath water. The delightful smell of one of thes oils can send messages through the nose to the emotion & sensory part of the brain. Happy, quiet thoughts. Peaceful. Reducing restlessness, quieting the nervous system, perhaps relieving anxiety or depression, uplifting the mood. For lovely future dreams an`d thoughts.

Some essential oils could be sprayed gently in the bedroom or on the underside of a pillow.

Remember something good. Remember some wonderful times!

Imagine some future wonderful times.

Think happy. Smile. Sleep happy.

*Bath before bedtime with calming oils
Some like to have a relaxing bath in the evening and, as the cells in the nose can directly send messages to the emotion and sensory part of the brain, it is delightful to add some fragrant oil, such as lavender or vanilla or jasmine or rose & geranium or sandalwood to the bath water.

Happy, quiet, thoughts - to bring back memories or to allow for some lovely future thoughts and dreams.

Reduce restlessness, quiet the nervous system, relieve anxiety or depression, uplift the mood.
Scientists are still at the very beginning stages of understanding this complicated, dynamic relationship.

Some essential oil can be in a diffuser or in a little water and added to an atomiser, or sprayed gently in the bedroom or on the underside of a pillow.

*Position for sleeping
During sleep, the brain clears our harmful toxins, like a cleaning squad, the cells have done some tidying up in the night. Research has shown that sleeping on our sides is the most beneficial way for this cleansing to take place.

*Awake in the night
If you do wake up or are woken in the night, getting back to sleep can be helped having music or a story lined up. Some like to hear the sound of the sea’s waves, other’s to listen to someone telling a story. Many like to hear calm music, particularly to hear Calm Music with Delta waves.

{There are different types of brain waves, Alpha, Beta, Gamma .. Alpha can help with being alert. Delta waves are associated with the very deepest levels of sleep. Music with Delta waves helps achieve tranquillity, relaxation and peace of mind. To hear music with Delta waves encourages the listener to sleep with the music}.

*To sleep .. a way to relax ..
Hello and welcome to relaxation, for many of us our bodies are overworked for long periods of time. Let this be your time to relax, be sure to lie comfortably in your bed. Gently close your eyes and think for a moment about your breathing.

Breathe out, gently and fully exhaling. Then gently start to breathe in. As you breathe in start to tune in to your body’s own breathing rhythm.

Breathe In and count 1,2,3 ... then Out 1,2,3 ... then In 1,2,3, 4 .. and Out 1,2,3,4 ..
Breathe slowly. Breathe well. Relax your eyes, relax your jaw, relax your tongue, pulling your tongue away from the roof of your mouth.

Breathe slowly. Breathe well. Relax your eyes, relax your jaw, relax your tongue, pulling your tongue away from the roof of your mouth.

To calm your mind, with your eyes closed, look right, look left, look right again. Repeat this eye movement a couple of times. Again relax your tongue. This is sleep time, no need to think about anything.

Breathing slowly and deeply. Breathing well.

I hope you sleep very well.


Disclaimer: All information, recommendations, statements and advice (Content) on this website is for general guidance only, with the understanding that It's Your Life are not offering medical advice of any kind. It's Your Life makes no representations or warranties of any kind, expressed or implied, as to the Content included on this site. It is given in good faith and based on sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release on the website.

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