3 of the best natural sleep aids and mood boosters, according to research.
Have you ever thought about how much your sleep and mood are interconnected throughout the day?
Perhaps not surprisingly, about 30-48% of adults suffer from insomnia, while 20 million people report having occasional sleep problems. Considering this, chances are that we all face sleep problems at some point in our lives. While stress and anxiety can be some of the most common reasons for disturbed sleep, on the other hand, poor sleep quality can also result in sleep problems.
While there are medications for insomnia, it is always best to try a natural sleep aid first. The best sleep remedies will be those that help restore natural balance to your sleep-wake cycle, which is called your circadian rhythm, naturally help to calm your body and mind, and are much less likely to be habit forming.
It turns out that one of the most significant variables in insomnia is the gut microbiome (Li et al., 2018).
Let’s explore how sleep, mood, and gut microbes are connected and find out 3 science-based ways to improve your sleep quality and mood.
The Connection Between Sleep and Mood
The research is clear that sleep and mood are interrelated e.g., Triantafillou et al., 2017). However, it’s interesting to see the direction of this correlation and whether sleep affects mood or vice versa.
For example, severe insomnia increases the chances of accompanying mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who were limited to sleeping for 4.5 hours a night reported being sadder and more stressed. And on the other hand, depression can also cause insomnia, creating a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, depression, more sleeplessness, worsening depression and so forth.
Gut microbiome imbalances can affect sleep and mood (Neroni et al., 2021), which is why a healthy and balanced intestinal microbiome is crucially important not only for gut health but for overall mental health as well.
Role of Gut Microbiome in Developing Insomnia
It hasn’t been long since researchers started studying how gut microbiome affects sleep patterns. Still, a wide range of findings already prove the connection between diversity in gut microbes and sleep quality.
For example, a 2021 study showed that dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome, is associated with sleep disorders and suggested probiotic nutrition as a way to improve sleep and mood and avoid cognitive impairment (Koszevicz et al., 2021)
Other studies also suggest that microbial diversity directly results in healthier sleep, including better sleep quality and longer sleep time. In particular, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are gut bacterias that promote healthier sleep (Hong et al., 2005). This can be explained by the fact that the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes (F/B) ratio contributes to well-balanced intestinal homeostasis. Besides, the inflammatory marker IL-6 usually results in reduced sleep quality (Wang et al., 2019)
Therefore, the gut microbiome impacts sleep quality. And since gut bacteria also influence the release of chemical messengers such as serotonin and dopamine in the brain, taking care of your gut microbiome can help you improve sleep hygiene, overcome depression symptoms, and result in better psychological well-being.
3 of the best natural tips to improve your sleep and mood
Here are 3 natural tips that the research has shown to be helpful in improving sleep and mood.
1. Have a healthy sleep routine
Even if this sounds trivial, supporting yourself with well-balanced sleep hygiene is indeed the best thing you can do to live a healthier life. The reason is that poor sleep hygiene naturally causes sleep problems and lowers your mood as a result.
For example, if you stay awake at night, sleep in extreme temperatures, or sleep with background noises, you won’t be able to get adequate sleep at night. However, healthy sleep habits will actually optimize your circadian rhythm and enhance your well-being.
Wondering how you can develop a sleep-supporting routine? Let’s take a look at some simple tips:
- Make sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time. Having a steady sleep-wake schedule will help you maintain consistency and improve sleep hygiene.
- Exercise regularly, and don’t forget to try relaxation techniques before bed.
- Expose yourself to sunshine during the day to help your body produce more vitamin D.
- Cut down on caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol intake, especially before bed.
- Minimize the time you spend in front of your laptop or smartphone. While limiting screen time during the day is important, avoiding it before bed is vital for quality sleep.
- Ensure that you sleep in a completely dark room and maintain the optimal sleeping temperature in the bedroom (65-70℉).
2. Diversify your gut microbial population
Considering that microbial diversity results in better sleep quality and improved mood, having a probiotic-rich diet or taking supplements can help diversify the gut microbiota. This will support modulating the inflammatory marker IL-6 and help you decrease the percentage of bacterial toxins and lipopolysaccharides (LPS).
The diversification of your gut microbiota heavily depends on your diet. Luckily, by taking the following simple tips into account, you can easily enhance your microbial diversity and support your gut health:
Live bacteria in your gut, known as “psychobiotics” heavily impact your sleep and mood quality. Psychobiotics are often referred to as probiotics and prebiotics that interact with our gut microbiome and influence our mood and mental state in general.
While not all psychobiotics can promote sleep, studies show that multistrain psychobiotics can significantly reduce inflammation in your gut (Luanag-In et al., 2020). Considering that increased inflammation leads to low microbial diversity in your gut, a multistrain psychobiotic can support gut diversification and reduce inflammation. As a result, psychobiotics will improve your mood, support cognitive functions, decrease stress levels, and reduce insomnia.
Eating prebiotic-rich food is another effective way to diversify your gut microbial population and restore the balance in your gut. Prebiotics are types of fiber — certain carbohydrates that are hard to digest. While fiber passes through our GI tract undigested, it turns out that it can increase the number of good bacteria in your gut (Holscher, 2017).
The reason for this is that beneficial bacteria that are already in your gut use fiber as a food source. As a result, they reproduce, and you get an increased number of good gut bacteria. This means that by eating fiber-rich foods, you can stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your large intestine.
Keep in mind that not all types of fiber are prebiotic. A well-studied prebiotic that you might be aware of is insulin. It’s a type of fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) that regulates blood sugar levels and takes part in the fermentation of fibers in your gut.
These are some of the prebiotic-rich foods you can gradually add to your diet to support diversifying the gut microbiota:
- Whole grains
- Cocoa extracts
- Fermented foods
Fermentation is the process during which your gut bacteria break down sugars. As studies prove, fermented foods stimulate microbial growth and increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome (Leeuwendaal et al., 2022)
Consequently, making simple changes in your diet and eating fermented foods can alter your microbiome and manage inflammation levels in your gut. Here are some of the fermented foods you should add to your diet to increase microbial diversity:
- Fermented cottage cheese
- Kombucha tea
Other than adding psychobiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods to your diet, you can also diversify your gut by taking specific supplements. Here are some research-backed supplements that support the gut-brain axis and, therefore, can help you maintain proper sleep hygiene:
- L-Theanine – maintains the optimal level of glutamate activity and increases GABA. Studies show that it reduces anxiety and overthinking, improves mood, and promotes regular sleep and relaxation (Rao et al., 2015)
- Glycine – lowers the levels of negative mental states, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and reduces anxiety. Therefore, this amino acid has improved sleep quality (Kawai et al., 2015).
- Inositol – affects chemical messengers, such as serotonin and dopamine, in your brain, increases GABA, and reduces anxiety symptoms. Studies show that it improves both sleep quality and duration (Mashayekh-Amiri et al., 2020).
- Phosphatidylserine – this chemical is mainly used for improving cognitive functions, but it can also reduce anxiety and balance the cortisol levels in your blood. As a result, it promotes more restful sleep (Pistollato et al., 2016).
- Taurine – it’s especially beneficial for the brain and heart health. This organic compound modulates GABA and can help you with mood instability and anxiety. Studies show that it can increase sleep by 50% (Lin et al., 2010).
3. Receive CBT for insomnia (CBT-I)
And the third approach to promoting your sleep hygiene and mood is ideal for those who already suffer from insomnia. CBT-I is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy specifically focused on insomnia, and it’s highly recommended by therapists as the first line of treatment for those facing sleeping difficulties. The therapy usually continues for 2-8 sessions and includes relaxation techniques, psychoeducational interventions, and other strategies to help people work on their negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors regarding sleep.
A large number of clinical studies have shown that CBT-I significantly reduces the symptoms of insomnia and improves other related mental health conditions as well (e.g., Freeman et al., 2016).
All in all, your gut health, sleep quality, and mood are significantly interconnected. This means that taking care of your gut health will promote better sleep quality and help you enhance your mood as well. On the other hand, the same can be said about regulating your sleep schedule.
So, try to have well-balanced sleep hygiene and promote your gut diversity with proper supplements such as a probiotic by Omni-Biotic (use code DrCain15 for 15% off every order)!
You’ll soon notice a natural improvement in your emotional well-being and quality of life.
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.