Going to sleep late and/or dedicating a few hours to sleep can have more repercussions than just the dark circles under your eyes and the drowsiness felt the next day. These habits, in fact, can cause alterations at the level of the intestinal microbiota with consequences on the skin, brain, heart and body weight, and this applies to everyone, adults and children. But let's try to understand better by analyzing the results of three very recent scientific studies.
Going to sleep late and intestinal health, here's what happens to children
The first research was published in the journal Nutrients by a Chinese team (Xiang et al, Nutrients, 2023). The study aimed to understand how bedtime can influence children's intestinal microbiota. 88 children, aged 3 to 8 years, were recruited. The time at which they went to sleep was known for these children, in particular whether before or after 10 in the evening. The children then underwent laboratory analyzes to evaluate the state of health and intestinal microbiota. What emerged was that children who went to sleep early in the evening, namely before 10, had a healthier and more varied microbiota than children who went to sleep late. Not only that, children who went to sleep late, as a result of the alteration of the gut microbiota, also had a higher body mass index, as well as a greater risk of developing overweight and obesity.
Going to sleep late and skin health, here's what happens to adults
The second research was published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology by a Chinese team (Shao et al, Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol, 2022). The research, this time, focused on adults and the effects on the skin determined by the time at which one goes to sleep. The scientists recruited 219 women, aged between 18 and 38. The volunteers had to indicate the time at which they usually went to sleep, in particular if before or after 11 in the evening. Well, always going to sleep late has been shown to significantly alter the appearance of the skin, with a reduction in the degree of hydration, tone and elasticity of the skin and an increase in wrinkles and sebum production. Always going to sleep at a late hour alters the skin barrier and destroys the balance between water and oils, as well as impoverishing the skin microbiota.
Few hours of sleep, here are the consequences
The third study deals with comparing and analyzing the results of previous studies and can be consulted online, published in the International Journal of Molecular Science (Sun et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2023). From the analysis it clearly emerges that lack of sleep, a habit unfortunately typical of modern society with increasingly frenetic rhythms and accumulating commitments, is connected to an alteration of the gut microbiota and to dysbiosis, with an excessive presence of pro-inflammatory bacteria at the expense of good anti-inflammatory bacteria. Following the reduction in hours of sleep, it is possible to observe an increase in pro-inflammatory substances in the blood, capable of increasing the levels of chronic inflammation, a condition which in turn weakens the immune system. Not only that, lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. But lack of sleep also acts on the brain, causing a reduction in memory and attention, an increase in neuroinflammation and the accumulation of beta amyloid proteins, thus increasing, in the long term, the risk of developing Alzheimer's. In this study it emerged that the optimal duration of sleep is approximately 7 hours, while sleeping 5 or 9 hours presents the same increased risk of developing diseases. So, sleeping too much is also not good for your health.
Today's studies show that going to sleep too late in the evening and dedicating a few hours to sleep, in particular less than 7, can have important effects on health, acting directly on the gut microbiota, impoverishing it and causing an excess of bad pro inflammatory bacteria. All the effects seen originate from here and, as a consequence, we have an increase in body weight, premature aging of the skin and loss of water from the skin tissues, an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, brain dysfunction and neuroinflammation. Fortunately, this process can be easily reversed by changing our habits and therefore going to sleep earlier in the evening and trying to dedicate about 7 hours to sleep per night. The advice, as we have seen, applies to both children and adults. If there are problems falling asleep or you experience disturbed sleep, help comes from supplements, such as those based on melatonin, some fruits and juices, such as those based on black cherries, a natural source of melatonin, or from essential oils, such as the mixture given by lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang, studied by science and capable of improving the quality of sleep.