Research: balanced gut microbiome helps improve insomnia

2021-09-07

Sleep accounts for one third of a person’s entire life. Sleep is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing, yet many of us take it for granted; some people have sleep disorders and don’t get the rest that they sorely need. Studies have shown that gut bacteria may influence normal sleep patterns by helping create important chemical messengers in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. Once the gut microbiota is out of balance, it can affect the metabolism of the intestine as well as the brain’s ability to regulate our sleep patterns and other physiological processes.

Getting good quality and quantity of sleep is key to aging well and protecting our mental and physical health. Chronic insomnia weakens the immune system which can lead to cardiovascular disease and emotional disorders. While getting enough sleep is important for building memory, enhancing learning and creativity, and improving effectiveness of immune cells, many urbanites suffer from sleep problems: excessive daytime sleepiness and trouble sleeping at night.

Our body has a biological clock that produces circadian rhythms and regulate their timing. This clock helps control your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Disrupting this clock could increase the risk of sleep disorders. Many previous studies have revealed that gut microbes (including bacteria, viruses, and fungi) can affect brain cognition, mental health, and the circadian rhythm.

A study by the University of Tsukuba in Japan showed the effects of gut microbiota on sleep regulation. A group of laboratory mice was treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics for 4 weeks to deplete their gut microbiota, alongside a control group of mice drinking normal water. Researchers observed the mice's brain activities of the mice in both groups and the electroencephalogram (EEG) and electromyogram (EMG) signals were recorded. Analysis revealed that mice with depleted gut microbiota experienced more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during the day and night, while spending more time in non-REM during the day. Compared with the control group, mice with imbalanced gut bacteria switch between sleep and wakefulness more frequently.

Researchers believe that sleep disorders may be related to low levels of serotonin, and gut bacteria help the brain produce important brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. This study is believed to bring new hope to patients who suffer from sleep-related problems such as insomnia, chronic fatigue and brain fog, i.e., difficulty in concentration, forgetfulness, and so on.

Furthermore, studies have indicated that in addition to probiotics, prebiotics that provide nutrition for healthy intestinal flora can help improve sleep quality. Dietary prebiotics may be effective against stress-induced insomnia.

 

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Reference:

Ogawa, Y., Miyoshi, C., Obana, N. et al. Gut microbiota depletion by chronic antibiotic treatment alters the sleep/wake architecture and sleep EEG power spectra in mice. Sci Rep 10, 19554 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-76562-9

Lu, J., Synowiec, S., Lu, L., Yu, Y., Bretherick, T., Takada, S., Yarnykh, V., Caplan, J., Caplan, M., Claud, E. C., & Drobyshevsky, A. (2018). Microbiota influence the development of the brain and behaviors in C57BL/6J mice. PloS one, 13(8), e0201829. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201829

Nishida, K., Sawada, D., Kawai, T., Kuwano, Y., Fujiwara, S., & Rokutan, K. (2017). Para-psychobiotic Lactobacillus gasseri CP2305 ameliorates stress-related symptoms and sleep quality. Journal of applied microbiology, 123(6), 1561–1570. https://doi.org/10.1111/jam.13594