Prebiotics for Sleep: Feeding Your Bed Bugs for A Better Night's Rest

Did you know that there is a growing body of evidence to support prebiotics for sleep? Find out how and why they work!

As a personal trainer and exercise scientist, I have had the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life.  While many of these people may have a slightly different primary training focus, the vast majority still want to start looking and feeling better.

A valuable goal if I have ever heard one.

Now, I was always a firm believer that this could be achieved by focusing almost entirely on two key aspects of lifestyle: these being diet and exercise.

And I certainly wasn’t wrong.

For the vast majority of my clients, making smart dietary changes and implementing a solid exercise routine was enough to start causing real changes.  Muscle would grow, fat would be lost, and they would be feeling better in no time.

Then I met Jeff (just quickly — Jeff obviously isn’t his real name).

Jeff came to me wanting to lose fat, build some muscle, and ultimately look better naked (his words, not mine).

So, we started training the house down.  Three sessions of heavy weight training per week with me.  Then he would also sneak in a couple of extra cardio sessions whenever time would permit.  He also cleaned up his diet like you would not believe.

Related Reading: How to Improve Muscle Health [An Expert’s Guide] 

We stuck at it for 6 weeks — but for some reason, we saw very little change.

I was honestly stumped.

This had never happened before.

So, Jeff and I had a rather candid conversation about all the other aspects of his life.  

Now, I already knew that he was a busy man — but what I didn’t know until this chat was that he was only getting around 4 hours of sleep per night.

4 hours!  

This was obviously nowhere near enough to recover from the exercise regime he was putting himself through.

So, rather than change anything about our workout routine or his diet plan, I had him focus on just getting 6-8 hours of sleep every single night.  He limited his exposure to electronic screens before bed and made sure he actually gave himself enough time to get in a decent night’s sleep.

And the weight started to fall off.

It was quite ridiculous.

And it made me realize the importance of recovery and sleep in making true health changes — changing the way I have treated all my clients since.

Yes, we still focus on diet and exercise, but we also place a premium on sleep.  I now use proven strategies to improve the quality of all my clients’ sleep, and their results have increased tenfold.

And all this means that, since Jeff, I have spent a huge amount of time looking into new, effective, and simple ways of enhancing sleep quality — which is exactly why I want to talk to you about prebiotics.

Gut Bacteria and Sleep: What’s the Connection?

Did you know that your body is covered in little microorganisms?

These little organisms (a combination of bacteria, fungi, and viruses) are collectively known as your microbiota and have been shown to have an incredibly complex relationship with your body.  In fact, research has shown that the state of your microbiota can affect your digestive health, your immune system, and even your weight.

So, it should come as little surprise that there is reason to believe the state of your microbiota can also impact your sleep.

How, you might ask?

Well, it appears your gut bacteria influence four key factors which, in turn, influence your sleep.  

These factors are:

  • Stress
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) levels

Microbiota and Stress

Woman gazing out a window

Over the last few years, we have seen a growing body of research which clearly links your brain function to the health of bacteria found within your gut.

You see, the healthy organisms within your digestive system have the ability to produce hormones and neurotransmitters — both of which interact with the brain at a cellular level.  This means that the state of your microbiota can fundamentally impact the state of your mental health, influencing how you process emotions and stress.

Through this interaction, if your gut microbiota is out of whack, it can cause you to experience heightened feelings of stress.  And since stress is known to make it more challenging to fall asleep and reduce the amount high-quality sleep you get once you do doze off, your unhealthy gut bacteria can end up, indirectly, messing with your sleep.

Microbiota and Immunity

It may sound hard to believe — something out of a science fiction movie, really — but your microbiota also plays an extremely important role within your immune system: it acts as the first line of defense against invading microorganisms, stopping anything undesirable from entering your body through your gut.

When your microbiota is functioning well, it essentially reduces the load placed on the rest of the immune system.  This means that your immune system can prioritize protecting other areas of your body from disease and illness.

Basically, a healthy gut microbiota increases your global immunity.

And this, in turn, can influence how well you sleep because the healthier you are, the more likely you are to have high quality sleep at night!

Microbiota and Inflammation

Man rubbing his bandaged knee

Inflammation is a defense mechanism that your body uses to help fight against injury, flushing the site with fluids and nutrients to help stimulate tissue healing.

So, in an acute sense, inflammation is a good thing.

Long-term, however, inflammation can wreak absolute havoc with your body, increasing your risk of illness, contributing to the onset of various lifestyle diseases, and seriously altering your sleep for the worse.

Now, one of the most powerful triggers for an inflammatory response is the presence of nasty microorganisms where they do not belong.  And since, as I mentioned above, a healthy microbiota has the capacity to fight off these harmful invaders, your gut bacteria — if taken care of properly — have the potential to reduce inflammation and improve your sleep.

Microbiota and SCFAs

Did you know that the fiber you eat it is fermented by your gut bacteria?  Pretty crazy really!  You’re kind of like a walking, talking brewery!

Of course, rather than making alcohol, when your gut bacteria ferment fiber, they produce molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) instead.

Though perhaps less “fun” than alcohol, SCFAs are definitely a good deal better for your body!  

Once absorbed into your bloodstream, SCFAs can interact with your body’s cells, lowering inflammation, improving energy production, and enhancing the health of your heart.  

And importantly for us here, there is some amazing early animal evidence suggesting that SCFAs may help regulate sleep directly in your brain — further demonstrating the importance of a healthy microbiota for really getting a good night’s rest!

Can Prebiotics Help You Sleep?

Looking at the above section you should be able to see how keeping your microbiota healthy could impact your sleep.

But how do you keep your gut microbiota healthy?

Ah, well, this where prebiotics enter the discussion.

What are Prebiotics?

To keep it simple, a prebiotic is pretty much any molecule that boosts the health of your microbiota.  At the moment, pretty much all prebiotic compounds are derived from dietary fibers.  

Fiber molecules are large complexes of interlinked sugar molecules.  Funnily enough, your body cannot digest dietary fiber, so it travels completely intact through your stomach and into your gut.  

Once in your gut, your good gut bacteria break down the fiber (that fermenting process I mentioned before) to make SCFAs for you and energy for themselves.  This obviously helps boost the health and function of your microbiota — living organisms need food! — and causes global improvements in your health (and sleep!).

Do Prebiotics Help You Sleep?

The short answer here is: it is highly likely.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been any double-blind, randomized, controlled trials in humans looking specifically at sleep quality and prebiotics, yet.  

But the studies outlining the mechanisms I explored above are solid.

And we have positive early animal studies.

Preliminary research shows supplementing a normal diet with prebiotic fiber (specifically, lactoferrin and milk fat globule membrane) can indeed improve microbiota composition and regulate a normal sleep-wake cycle, just as you would predict!

What are the Best Prebiotics for Sleep?

Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for details. 

Taking all of the above into consideration, I wanted to give you three great prebiotic supplement options that you can pick up immediately to start down the road to better shut-eye asap!

3. Align Prebiotic + Probiotic Supplement

Align Prebiotic + Probiotic
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Align Prebiotic + Probiotic Supplement

Dosage

Supplement Form

Prebiotic Type

Supporting Research

5g per serving, once per day

Gummy form

Inulin

Holscher, 2015

Coming in at number three on our list, we have this great prebiotic supplement by Align.  

A prebiotic in gummy form, this high-quality supplement is not only simple to take at any time, but also tastes pretty darn good, too!

This great supplement provides a potent 5-gram dose of one of the most well-researched prebiotic compounds on the planet – inulin – so, you know it is effective.

And with over 60% of all consumers on Amazon giving this product a full 5-stars, you can definitely say that it has been well-received.  

2. Hyperbiotics Organic Prebiotic Powder

Hyperbiotics Prebiotic
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Hyperbiotics Organic Prebiotic Powder

Dosage

Supplement Form

Prebiotic Type

Supporting Research

7 g per serving, once per day.

Powder Form

Organic Acacia Fiber,

Organic Artichoke Fiber, Organic Green banana flour

Yang, 2012
Holscher, 2015
Birt, 2013

Hyperbiotics Organic Prebiotic Powder is another excellent prebiotic supplement option.  

Coming in powder form, this supplement can be added to water (or any other liquid, for that matter) first thing in the morning for a great prebiotic boost.

Something that I really like about this supplement is that it includes a blend of three very well researched prebiotic compounds: acacia fiber, artichoke fiber (inulin), and green banana flour.

This really does ensure that it covers all of your bases in regards to improving the composition of your microbiota.  

And with over 800 reviews on Amazon (of which more than 500 are 5-stars), you can be confident about its quality.

1. Bio Schwartz Advanced Prebiotic

Bio Schwartz Advanced Prebiotic
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Bio Schwartz Advanced Prebiotic

Dosage

Supplement Form

Prebiotic Type

Supporting Research

1000 mg per serving, once per day (2 gummies)

Capsule Form

Xylooligosaccharide

Lin, 2016
Yang, 2015

Finally, rolling into first place on our list is Bio Schwartz Advanced Prebiotic.  

Coming in a simple capsule form, this is hands down one of the most popular prebiotic supplements on the planet!  (Hello, over 80% 5-star ratings on Amazon!).

And for very good reason, too!

Providing an extremely potent dosage of 1000 mg of xylooligosaccharide prebiotic fiber per serving, this is a great option that has an abundance of research to demonstrate its capacity to improve your microbiota.

Trust me when I say it is effective!

Take Home Message

While in its early stages, there is growing evidence to suggest that prebiotics offer an excellent way to improve sleep.  By enhancing the state of your microbiota, they have the potential to cause vast improvements in your health.  Heck, they may even help you unlock your training potential!

So, what are you waiting for?

Read more articles from our Gut Health Series today!

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