When humans sleep poorly, health suffers. Mental performance declines as risks of diseases including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s rise.
Thus the quest for a good night’s sleep brooks no limits; ergonomic mattresses, white noise machines and powerful drugs are just a few if not always fruitful fixes.
Growing evidence suggests that the gut microbiome can influence sleep quality. Previous studies that have examined sleep deprivation and the human gut microbiome have yielded conflicting results. Now new techniques may offer up further clues.
Researchers from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida employed actigraphy (noninvasive accelerometer) to quantify sleep measures along with gut microbiome sampling to determine correlations. They also measured immune system biomarkers and carried out a neurobehavioral assessment. Forty males participated in the study.
Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans appeared in PloS October 2019.
- Total microbiome diversity was positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time.
- Total microbiome diversity was negatively correlated with waking after sleep onset.
- Positive correlations existed between total microbiome diversity and interleukin-6, a cytokine previously noted for its effects on sleep.
- Microbiome analysis revealed richness of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were positively correlated with sleep efficiency, interleukin-6 concentrations and abstract thinking. Note: members of these phyla may modulate circadian rhythm which may impact sleep quality.
- Several taxa (Lachnospiraceae, Corynebacterium, and Blautia) were negatively correlated with sleep measures.
As only males were included, sleep loss effects on the microbiome in women aren’t certain. Nevertheless the researchers surmised that the effects may be greater as consequences of lost sleep accumulate more rapidly in women than men.
“… our results show a novel association between sleep health and gut microbiome diversity. Moreover, we found that IL-6 is as an important player in the sleep-gut microbiome relationship. Finally, we identified several specific phyla and taxa that are related to sleep health, which holds the promise for improved sleep via manipulation of the gut microbiome.”Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, Kapoor R, Donnelly CP, Davidson EJ, et al. (2019) Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0222394. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222394