BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

Feeling Tired? Prebiotics May Help You Sleep Peacefully Every Night

Martha Carlin | Feb 02, 2023 | 6 minutes read

Waking up tired, dealing with persistent dark circles, or feeling sick or anxious can indicate poor sleep quality and affect your physical health. Getting a good night's sleep is essential to your well-being and gut health. As you sleep, your body rests and repairs, and when you don’t get enough good sleep, your brain function starts to suffer.  Prebiotics, aka fiber, has long been known as the hero that keeps tummy troubles away. But did you know that prebiotics may also be a factor in addressing sleep problems? Let's dive into what the latest research on sleep and prebiotics can tell us.


The connection between prebiotics, probiotics, and the microbiome-gut-brain axis

Your gut contains trillions of microbes and their genetic material that impact the quality of your health. Your gut bacteria and brain direct your circadian rhythm — your body clock — based on exposure to light and the timing of your meals. 

There are different ways in which your gut and brain talk to each other, and the connection between the two is called the microbiome-gut-brain axis.

What are prebiotics and probiotics?

Beneficial bacteria and yeasts that have a beneficial effect on your health are known as probiotics.

In contrast, prebiotics such as inulin are indigestible carbohydrates such as GOS (galactooligosaccharides) and FOS (fructooligosaccharides) that feed the probiotics in your gut and keep your digestive system healthy. A healthy and diverse gut bacteria may promote sleep and boost stress resilience. 

An imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut is known as dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis has been associated with inflammation and potentially sleep-disrupting metabolites (small bioactive molecules produced during food breakdown).

The gut-brain axis

Your gut microbiome and brain communicate with each other through the following gut-brain signaling pathways:

  • Immune system pathway
  • Endocrine system pathway
  • Nervous system pathway

Communication between your brain and gut can potentially influence your brain function, stress response, and sleep patterns.

Probiotics in your gut produce by-products called metabolites such as: 

  • Melatonin (makes you feel sleepy), 
  • GABA (makes you feel calm), 
  • Dopamine (feel good), serotonin (feel good), and 
  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate which have an anti inflammatory effect on your body.

These metabolites can interact with the previously mentioned gut brain signaling pathways and influence your health and well-being. 


Gut microbiome and circadian rhythm

Your body runs on a 24-hour clock known as the circadian rhythm. Body processes and your gut bacteria anticipate and prepare for changes in your natural environment.

Whether the sun is up or it's dark out, your body expects to run through a set course of time-appropriate actions depending on where it is in its sleep-wake cycle.

These actions involve digestion, nutrient absorption, excretion, repair, regeneration, etc. Your health and sleep quality depend on how well your circadian rhythm matches natural day and night. 

Light exposure and mealtimes are important triggers that help your body align with day and night. In a healthy environment, your gut follows this clock and responds by producing metabolites that strengthen your immune system and brain functions.

The gut-brain-axis is a two-way street — where a healthy gut can potentially improve your body’s stress response, strengthen your immunity, and maintain your circadian rhythm.

In contrast, a compromised gut microbiome may negatively affect your stress response, weaken your immunity, cause inflammation and disrupt your circadian rhythm.


Sleep, prebiotics, and your gut

It’s easy to lose sleep over the many stresses in your life. And it may seem equally daunting to lie in bed and hope to get sufficient sleep. If you’ve struggled to improve your stress resilience and sleep, you should consider giving prebiotics and probiotics a chance.

According to a University of Colorado Boulder research published in Scientific Reports, a prebiotic diet can potentially help you get some well-deserved rest.

Senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Monika Fleshner, director of the Stress Physiology Laboratory, says, "Our results reveal novel signals that come from gut microbes that may modulate stress physiology and sleep."

In this study, Fleshner and team found that adolescent male rats on a prebiotic diet spent more time in NREM sleep and showed increased stress robustness compared to the control group rats eating a standard chow diet.

The gut bacteria of rats fed a prebiotic diet produced more metabolites, such as fatty acids and steroids that may positively influence the brain. They also showed a lack of sleep-disrupting spikes due to stress, and maintained their body's natural temperature fluctuations compared to rats fed the standard chow.

A diet rich in prebiotics or supplemental probiotics with prebiotics included can potentially boost stress resilience and improve rapid eye movement (REM), and restorative non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep through metabolic activity (potent biologically active molecules).

Your gut health is positively related to total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and a lack of broken sleep.

Probiotics such as Simple Slumber have specific probiotic strains that can potentially help you improve sleep:

  • L. mesenteroides convert simple sugars into mannitol, a prebiotic. Mannitol can be further converted into SCFAs — butyrate and propionate –- anti-inflammatory metabolites.
  • B. longum can potentially improve mood and sleep duration.
  • B. plantarum is associated with improved mood, sleep, and duration.
  • L. casei, L. acidophilus, and B subtilis have been associated with maintaining healthy levels of metabolites that improve your body’s stress response.

Next steps for better sleep

Prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to have a multilayered effect on our physical and mental well-being. Whether you go the prebiotic and probiotic natural food route or choose a supplement with prebiotics to try to improve sleep, remember that it takes a while and consistency to feel the impact of an improved and healthier gut on your sleep and mood.

Want to add a great recipe for probiotic yogurt to your gut health repertoire? Check out this super gut probiotic yogurt recipe!


What happens when you start taking prebiotics?

Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. As your gut balance changes, you may experience some bloating or stomach discomfort for a few days. 

What is the best time to take a prebiotic?

Prebiotics or fiber generally can be taken before meals. If you're considering taking a probiotic for sleep such as Simple Slumber, then it's best to take it before bed.

Do prebiotics help you sleep better?

The latest research suggests that foods rich in prebiotics and prebiotic supplements may potentially improve sleep and sleep duration.

What foods are rich in natural prebiotic?

Foods high in prebiotics include milk, bananas, asparagus, onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, and chicory root.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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