On average humans spend a third of their life sleeping, yet 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep on a weekly basis (1). Aside from feeling groggy and grumpy when feeling tired, sleep deprivation puts us at greater risk of obesity, heart disease and even diabetes.
The benefits of sleep
So why should we give our body the ZZZs it needs? Sleep is when our body repairs, recovers and consolidates memories. Therefore sufficient sleep is crucial for a sharper brain, better mood, immunity, blood sugar, a healthier heart and even appetite control.
The link between our gut and sleep
Researchers are now raising the possibility that the secret to a good night’s sleep may lie within the gut. Our gut comprises of trillions of bacteria, in fact, they outnumber human cells by 10-1 and weigh around 2kg which is the same weight as a large bag of potatoes! Collectively, this bacterium is known as our gut microbiota.
Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation may negatively alter the composition of the gut microbiota (2), and disrupted sleep patterns such as jet lag and shift work may result in dysbiosis (an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut) (3). Dysbiosis is known to be associated with conditions such as diabetes (4), fat storage, as well as a reduced cognitive performance via the gut-brain axis (5).
The gut has its own circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm and the gut
We all have a circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour internal body clock regulating our sleep-wake cycle. When our circadian rhythm is aligned it can support good restorative sleep, yet when disrupted, sleep problems such as insomnia can occur. It appears that 10% of our gut bacteria have a 24-hour circadian rhythm of their own, where the abundance of certain types of bacteria increases in the morning and decrease at night.
Disruptions to our circadian rhythm such as jet-lagged can also disrupt our gut bacteria’s circadian rhythm. This is one way that sleep disruption such as nightshift work may negatively impact the gut microbiota, which may have consequences to overall health (6).
What can we do about it?
Exciting preclinical research suggests that prebiotics may improve the quality of sleep and realign circadian rhythm disruptions. Prebiotics are potent fibres that feed specific types of stress-protective gut bacteria, helping them to flourish and grow. As a result, metabolites are produced that influence our brain and behaviour (7). Prebiotic fibre has been shown to improve restorative non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, which is responsible for restful deep sleep. They also increase time spent in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep after exposure to acute and chronic stress. REM sleep is believed to be critical for promoting recovery from stress (8, 9). Furthermore, a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria in the gut is positively correlated with an increase in sleep efficiency and total sleep time.
Therefore, it appears that our gut bacteria may modulate stress physiology and sleep! By using prebiotic fibre to promote the growth of stress-protective gut bacteria along with their metabolites, there’s the potential to have greater resilience to circadian rhythm disruptions (e.g. jet lag, irregular work schedules) and realign our sleep-wake cycle more quickly.
Asparagus is one of several accessible prebiotics
Where to find prebiotic fibre
A diet rich in a diverse range of prebiotic foods can help to cultivate a more diverse array of beneficial gut bacteria. Unripe bananas, garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks, legumes, beans and Jerusalem Artichoke are particularly rich sources of prebiotics.
Hello Day’s Sleep Rest + Prebio, takes a holistic approach by providing an amazing blend of plant extracts, amino acids and prebiotic fibre to support a better night’s sleep.
Sleep is crucial for a sharper brain, better mood, immunity, blood sugar, a healthier heart and even appetite control.
Our circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal body clock regulating our sleep-wake cycle.
10% of our gut bacteria have a circadian rhythm of their own, increasing and decreasing in quantity based on whether it’s morning or night.
By using prebiotic fibre to promote the growth of stress-protective gut bacteria along with their metabolites, there’s the potential to have greater resilience to circadian rhythm disruptions (e.g. jet lag, irregular work schedules) and realign our sleep-wake cycle more quickly.
Preclinical research has shown that prebiotics improves restorative deep sleep (NREM sleep) and REM sleep, which promotes recovery from stress.
Thank you to Lily Soutter - Resident nutritionist at Hello Day for this contribution