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Can’t Fall Asleep? Probiotics Can Help

OptiBac - Fall Asleep Probiotics

The internal microbes in our gut are influenced by disruptions to our sleep patterns, but scientists are beginning to realise that it could also be the other way around: An unhealthy gut can affect the quality and duration of our sleep.

Our gut influences our body

We already know that our gut has an impact on, or is influenced by, a variety of neurological functions including:

  • Mood – an imbalance of gut microbes has been linked to anxiety and depression.
  • Pain – an unhealthy gut has been linked with an increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Stress – feelings of stress have been shown to lead to dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

Sleep influences our gut

We also know that disruptions to our sleep can cause health issues such as:

  • Obesity – sleep deprivation is known to affect the way we control our food intake. Not enough sleep can lead to a decrease in leptin (the ‘feel full’ hormone) and an increase in ghrelin (the ‘still hungry’ hormone), which encourages us to go on eating.
  • Sleep apnea – a prolonged pattern of disrupted breathing, such as that experienced by sufferers of OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea), has been shown in mice to result in major changes to the gut’s microbiota.
  • Leaky gut – poor sleep due to a melatonin deficiency (an essential sleep hormone) has been linked to an increased permeability of the gut, which is associated with several diseases.

So does our gut influence sleep?

Based on the relationship between sleep and the gut, researchers are beginning to ask, does the gut have a direct influence on our sleep? Studies suggest the answer is likely to be yes.

Researchers at the University of Colorado found that rats fed with prebiotics (a food source for bacteria) experienced an increase in good gut bacteria after just one month, and were sleeping better than the control rats. This suggests that the improvement in gut heath led to an improvement in their sleep as well.

In a recent BBC television documentary, Dr Michael Mosley then tested this theory by taking prebiotics for five days. He saw an improvement in his sleep as a result, with his ‘awake time’ down to just 8% from 21%.

While these experiments are far from conclusive, they do suggest a link between gut health and sleep health, and with more research undertaken every day, these suspicions could soon be confirmed.

The role of prebiotics and probiotics

Scientists already know that the way to achieve a healthy gut is through the use of prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are indigestible fibres which gut bacteria love to eat. They are found in plant-based foods such as lentils, chickpeas, green peas, artichokes, apples, oats, asparagus, honey and avocados, and by increasing our intake of these foods, we can help to grow healthy bacteria in our gut.

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are introduced into the gut in the form of supplements. These also encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. Probiotics also produce and regulate various hormones which have an impact on our sleep, including Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA and Cortisol.

There are probiotics to suit every type of person and situation.OptiBac Probiotics for example, produce a complete range of gut health products including probiotics that reduce bloating and diarrhea, boost immunity against colds and flu, reverse the imbalance created by antibiotics and maintain overall intestinal health.

So, while the jury is out regarding the link between gut health and sleep health, creating a healthy gut through a combination of prebiotics and probiotics would seem to be a beneficial course of action.

Other ways to improve sleep

We can also help to improve our sleep by other means such as:

  • Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day to stabilise your Circadian rhythm.
  • Avoiding alcohol, which is known to disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool, as some research has suggested that a drop in temperature can improve sleep quality.
  • Removing all electronic equipment (TVs, phones, tablets etc) from your bedroom to reduce exposure to light and help you wind down before sleep.
  • Avoiding late night snacking, particularly anything high in sugar content.
  • Relaxing before bedtime by going for a walk, cooking or listening to music – or doing anything that reduces stress.

While the results of studies into a relationship between gut health and sleep health are promising, more large-scale research on humans needs to be undertaken for a significant link to be proven.

But in the meantime, eating the right foods, avoiding stress and taking a regular probiotic supplement will keep your gut healthy, and perhaps come with the silver lining of a good night’s sleep.