By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas
New research suggests a two-way relationship between sleep and the human gut microbiome.i Exactly how this works is still a mystery. Several species of human gut bacteria produce a postbiotic metabolite named gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep. Some researchers theorize that the brain-gut-microbiome axis (BGMA) is the connection between the microbiome and sleep. ii
Other researchers have discovered that certain components of bacterial cell walls induce slow-wave sleep in mammals. Two experiments with mice support the hypothesis that gut bacteria influence sleep. When mice were given a combination of antibiotics that depletes their gut microbiome, they show increased activity and reduced nocturnal sleep. Also, germ-free mice born without a gut microbiome elicit elevated motor activity and a reduction in sleep behavior compared to mice with a healthy microbiome.iii
Antibiotics may also cause insomnia. Since they can deplete the microbiome, they may substantially reduce bacteria-derived compounds that promote sleep. Antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed medicines, and often serve a vital function of preventing infection. But they may be contributing, along with a poor diet and disrupted beneficial gut bacteria, to the epidemic of insomnia and other sleep disorders affecting an estimated 50-70 million Americans.
Gut microbiome diversity also plays an important role in regulating sleep. iv These studies suggest that microbiome diversity is directly related to increased sleep efficiency and whole sleep time as well as fewer occurrences of waking after sleep onset.
While sleep disruptions and poor sleep/wake functions are not considered gastrointestinal diseases, these recent studies suggest a significant association between the gut microbiome and sleep.
Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics ® is an excellent product to help create and promote gut microbiome diversity because it contains a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and over 500 postbiotic metabolites.
Farre N and Gozal D. Sleep and the Microbiome: A Two-Way Relationship. Arch Bronconeumol. 2019 Jan;55(1):7-8.
Strandwitz P, et al. GABA-modulating bacteria of the human gut microbiota.Nat Microbiol. 2019;4(3):396.
Smith RP, et al. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLOS ONE. 2019 Oct 7;14(10):e0222394.