Problems's Sleeping? Look To Your Gut

May 02, 2018

Problems's Sleeping? Look To Your Gut

How magical would it be to have a continuous, deep sleep in the comfort of your own bed after a long day of work and responsibilities? If you're reading this and thinking, "Well, of course, that's normal!" then read no further. You're one of the lucky ones. However, you would also be the exception to most to experience periods of interrupted sleep, insomnia, or whom have simply been light sleepers their entire lives.

Unfortunately, many of us suffer from some degree of insomnia that interrupts and deprives us of our total hours of sleep. And that, of course, exerts more stress on us during the day with negative effects on our health. Lack of quality sleep over time causes health disturbances such as anxiety, depression and lessened cognitive abilities, resulting in being unable to concentrate and be productive.

The good news is that there is an increasing concern in the health industry around natural remedies to optimize sleep that actually steer away from hypnotics and chemical drugs, which often leave patients with profound and unwanted side-effects.

Within the realm of sleep therapy, scientists have started to see a relationship between our gut health and quality of sleep. Upon closer examination, it's no surprise that there is a strong link between gut health and sleep. Poor sleep affects our gut in different ways often causing weight gain, mood swings, insulin resistance, and even a bad complexion .

In our article, we'll take a closer look at what science says about the gut-sleep relationship and one of the natural remedies available.

What is the possible link between gut health and sleep?

A study investigating antibiotics administered to rats showed that modulation of gut bacteria can affect their sleep. It was found that there is a unique existence of what is called "The sleep-inducing substance Factor S" (FS) among sleep molecules in the candidates, where bacterial origin, as it is derived from the bacterial cell wall and focused in the brain and body fluids.

So to investigate the possibility of whether the gastrointestinal tract bacteria are the source of FS, the rat was placed on an antibiotic regimen targeting gut bacteria. Results showed that there is a significant reduction in depth of sleep as well as an increase in sleep latency in the rat after this manipulation of gut bacteria.

In was concluded in this study that as FS can't be made by mammalian cells, it is likely that the source of FS is the bacterial pool within the host that consists predominantly of flora in the gastrointestinal tract. This is the reason why there was a dramatic decrease in sleep times which accompanied the decrease in bacterial colony numbers due to antibiotic administration. (1)

Another study supported the previous results and reaffirmed a link between the gut microbiota and nocturnal sleep as it was found that antibiotics may be insomnogenic due to their ability to decrease gut-derived bacterial somnogens. And what is interesting about this study is that it focuses on the possible implications of antibiotic use, which is among the most prescribed drugs in human medicine, especially for clinical disturbances such as insomnia, idiopathic sleep-wake and circadian-rhythm disorders that affect at least 50-70 million people in the united states alone (2).

More research needs to be conducted with humans to confirm these results, however they do provide an insight into the strong possibility that our gut microbiota has an effect on our sleep quality and consistency.

So, how can we improve our gut health?

There is a general consensus in the medical community that what we eat invevitably affects our gut microbiota, so eating healthy can have profound effects on keeping our gut healthly.

Primarily our gut microbiota can be affected by certain foods and supplements such as what are known as probiotics, prebiotics, and amino acids.

Probiotics are defined as microbial food supplements that beneficially affect the host by improving the intestinal microbial balance, and that have been used to modulate the content of colonic microbiota. By contrast, prebiotics are defined as nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacterial species already resident in the colon, and thus attempting to improve our health. Nondigestible food like oligosaccharides have been shown to increase the growth of bifidobacteria, that exert health-promoting effects.

Additionally, one of the most critical amino acids proven to have its effects on microbiota and sleep health specifically is glycine, which is most abundant in gelatin. In several studies, it was found that glycine ingestion has improved subjective sleep quality in humans. Where patients have experienced continuous unsatisfactory sleep, it was found that glycine ingestion before bedtime improved sleep quality as it increases the deep sleep stage and shortened sleep latency without any changes in sleep architecture. This is unique regarding its mechanism of action, as traditional hypnotics alter sleep architecture, which means that they affect the proportions of each sleep stage and our daytime arousal causing acute sleepiness irrespective of the time of day hypnotics were administered. The study concluded that glycine ingestion during daytime does not produce acute sleepiness and that one of the most valuable natural sources of the glycine amino acid is grass-fed beef gelatin. (3)

Another very valuable ingredient worth mentioning that supports gut microbiota is kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that was originally popular in China. It contains organic acids that lower the pH of beverages, which confer health benefits on the gut microbial pool and thus positively affect sleep health as well. Kombucha has become increasingly popular in recent years and is found in cafes & restaurants all over North America.

Finally, we can conclude from previous studies that there are numerous ways to optimize sleep by way of improving our gut health through optimized nutrition.

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Article References:

1. Brown, R., Price, R., King, M. and Husband, A. (1990). Are antibiotic effects on sleep behavior in the rat due to modulation of gut bacteria?. Physiology & Behavior, 48(4), pp.561-565.

2. Poroyko, V., Carreras, A., Khalyfa, A., Khalyfa, A., Leone, V., Peris, E., Almendros, I., Gileles-Hillel, A., Qiao, Z., Hubert, N., Farré, R., Chang, E. and Gozal, D. (2016). Chronic Sleep Disruption Alters Gut Microbiota, Induces Systemic and Adipose Tissue Inflammation and Insulin Resistance in Mice. Scientific Reports, 6.

3. YAMADERA, W., INAGAWA, K., CHIBA, S., BANNAI, M., TAKAHASHI, M. and NAKAYAMA, K. (2007). Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5, pp.126-131





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