Sleep and the Microbiome

March 22nd, 2023 | Posted in Info

Sleep is a universal need in all animals and is essential for the maintenance and recovery of many body systems, including metabolic, immunological and neuro-behavioural functions (1).

Sleep deprivation is increasingly common in modern society due to jet lag, shift work, delayed bedtimes and the 24 hour society. Sleep disturbances are associated with many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, inflammation, and cognitive impairment. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome is also associated with these diseases (2).

Interest in how the gut microbiota is affected by sleep has led to investigations into whether disturbed sleep may alter the gut microbiome.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Both sleep fragmentation and short sleep duration are associated with gut dysbiosis. Metabolic disturbances associated with sleep loss may be mediated through the overgrowth of specific gut bacteria. Further, the end products of bacterial species which grow in response to sleep loss may induce fatigue (3).

Sleep Deprivation and Inflammation

Sleep deprivation can lead to the dysregulation of inflammatory responses and cognitive impairment. Emerging evidence suggests that the gut microbiota plays a critical role in the pathogenesis and development of inflammatory and psychiatric diseases, possibly via gut microbiota-brain interactions. Research has found that sleep deprivation induced gut dysbiosis, inflammatory responses, and cognitive impairment in humans. Findings also suggest that gut dysbiosis contributes to inflammatory processes and cognitive deficits that are induced by sleep deprivation. So the sleep, inflammation and the gut microbiome are all affecting each other (4)

Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis

The gut microbiota is essential for the maintenance of normal sleep and abnormal sleep patterns affect the composition, diversity and function of the gut microbiota through the brain-gut-microbiota axis (BGMA). Several underlying factors that may be involved in the BGMA and sleep include the immune system, the vagus nerve, the neuroendocrine system, and bacterial metabolites. Several interventions targeting the gut microbiome have proved to be beneficial for amelioration of sleep problems (1).

Sleep quality and duration may be an important target for supporting healthy gut microbiota composition and in turn the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome may support healthy sleep. Here are a few tips for improving both sleep and the gut microbiota:

Probiotics and Sleep

Probiotic supplementation has been found to improve sleep quality. (3).

Fermented Food and Sleep

Evidence indicates that human circadian rhythm is affected by the intestinal microbiota, and establishment of the circadian rhythm begins during foetal development.

Maternal intake of fermented food, especially miso, during pregnancy is associated with a reduced risk of poor sleep when the children reach 1 year old (5). This reduced risk of sleep deprivation has been shown to be in place when the children reach 3 years of age (6).

Diet and Sleep

There are positive associations with eating a healthy diet and sleep quality with high intakes of vegetables, fruit, fish, water, and fibre being beneficial. However, processed meat and milk intake were adversely associated with sleep and mental health (7).

For more tips on non-dietary factors that benefit the microbiome read the blog posts Exercise and the Microbiome and Meditation and the Microbiome.

  1. 1. Brain Res Bull. 2022 Mar;180:131-146. The interplay between sleep and gut microbiota. Mengqi Han et al.
  2. 2. 2020 Feb 12;5(1):e00914-19. Acute Sleep-Wake Cycle Shift Results in Community Alteration of Human Gut Microbiome. Zhi Liu et al.
  3. 3. Sleep Med Rev. 2020 Oct;53:101340. Sleep, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiota. Matenchuk BA et al.
  4. 4. Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Nov;26(11):6277-6292. Gut microbiota modulates the inflammatory response and cognitive impairment induced by sleep deprivation. Zhong Wang et al.
  5. 5. PLoS One. Association between maternal fermented food consumption and infant sleep duration: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study. Narumi Sugimori et al.
  6. 6. BMC Public Health. 2022 Aug 6;22(1):1504. Association between maternal fermented food consumption and child sleep duration at the age of 3 years: the Japan Environment and Children’s Study. Mariko Inoue et al.
  7. 7. 2021 Jul 27;13(8):2573. Diet, Sleep, and Mental Health: Insights from the UK Biobank Study. Piril Hepsomali et al.