Wanna learn how to improve sleep? Have you tinkered around with blocking blue light and time-restricted eating without much improvement? Well, maybe you should teach your cells to take out the trash.
A new paper discovered why our biological clocks become disrupted with age. As a result, our sleep gets worse and our risk for chronic disease skyrockets. And interestingly, chronic diseases make this same problem worse.
Essentially, a cascade of events happens as we get older that makes our sleep worse. And as our sleep worsens, this problem gets worse as well.
So what are we talking about? We’re talking about proteostasis, the process our cells use to stay tidy. But not just any proteostasis, proteostasis in the cytoplasm of our cells. If you’re not familiar with the cytoplasm, it’s essentially the entire portion of the cell enclosed by the cell membrane, where all the organelles hang out.
When our cytoplasm gets crowded with junk, the junk interferes with a core component of our circadian clock called PERIOD(PER). PER essentially acts as the sands of the hourglass in our cells, and the junk prevents it from entering the nucleus of our cells.
As a result, this causes disruption of our circadian rhythm and negatively impacts your sleep.
How to improve sleep: Mitochondria play an important role
Mitochondria perform many different important functions within our cells. For example, they produce more than 90% of the energy our cells use.
Taking out the trash is another function our mitochondria perform. In addition to taking out their own trash, mitochondria also import junk from the cytosol for degradation.
Not surprisingly, dysfunction of the mitochondria disturbs proteostasis in the cytoplasm. Therefore, to ensure a nice, squeaky clean cytoplasm, you want many, properly functioning mitochondria.
The problem: Aging and chronic disease all come with mitochondrial dysfunction. The list of chronic diseases that have mitochondrial dysfunction include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, etc.)
- Autoimmune disease (Lupus, MS, Fibromyalgia, etc.)
- Gut disorders
- Chronic fatigue
As you can see, mitochondrial dysfunction is not all that uncommon. Moreover, neither are sleep problems.
Circadian rhythms set the tone…
We covered the importance of circadian rhythms for taking out the trash in a previous blog. In that blog, we discussed a paper showing how how circadian rhythms regulate the process of autophagy in the liver.
During the active period, autophagy increases in the cytosol. Consequently, autophagy in the mitochondria happens during the resting period (Nighttime in humans).
But inflammation causes problems in this system. Rather than the circadian balance mentioned above, inflammation causes autophagy to remain in the mitochondria. As a result, junk can accumulate in the cytosol.
How to improve sleep: Fix your gut!
In the paper mentioned above, researchers induced inflammation by exposing the liver to lipopolysaccharide(LPS). Frequent readers of the blog are familiar with LPS, a component of cell membrane of gram-negative bacteria.
During leaky gut, LPS enters the circulation and causes system-wide inflammation. Furthermore, based on the data mentioned above, it may cause junk to build up in the cytoplasm and disturb circadian rhythms.
An interesting side note: all of the conditions associated with mitochondrial dysfunction mentioned above, including aging, present with increases intestinal permeability. In other words, leaky gut.
This is one of the reasons we prioritize resolving leaky gut early in the process of optimizing circadian rhythms. No matter how hard you work on light exposure and time-restricted eating, chronic inflammation due to leaky gut will thwart your efforts.