People sleep less these days.
The average in the early 1900s was about 9 hours; today, fewer than 7 hours is the norm for much of the developed world.
Quick review: All life forms respond to the cycles of light and dark in one day in what is called “circadian rhythms.” Don’t mess with them. These rhythms set the beats for crucial biological mechanisms including temperature control, hormonal systems and many others. A master clock, a snippet of tissue in the front of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, synchronizes nerves, hormones and countless little clocks in the gut and beyond.
A 2012 review from Urs Albrecht at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland (of course) concludes:
“The interplay between the central neural and peripheral tissue clocks is not fully understood and remains a major challenge in determining how neurological and metabolic homeostasis is achieved across the sleep-wake cycle. Disturbances in the communication between the plethora of body clocks can desynchronize the circadian system, which is believed to contribute to the development of diseases such as obesity and neuropsychiatric disorders.”
Yet, the last century has robbed us of sleep. Screens along with artificial light made sleep less attractive. Sleep deprivation, especially in short sleepers who sleep for fewer than 6 hours most nights, leads to illness in the form of metabolic syndrome and mental disturbances.
And the probiotic connection is…
Japanese researchers recently asked if a strain of heat-killed Lactobacillus brevis would affect sleep and circadian rhythms.
Results of the 4 week experiment:
- Daily total activity increased in mice on the L. brevis
- Time spent in non-rapid eye movement sleep was reduced
- Awake time in latter part of night increased
- Daytime sleep increased
What does this mean?
Probiotics may have a role in fostering healthful sleep patterns, increasingly valuable as people sleep less and resort to sleeping pills and artificial means to get rested.
Meanwhile, give sleep time the respect it deserves. Running from meeting to meeting, airport to airport, fueled by caffeine is not a badge of modern-day courage. It can kill you, literally.