Do Poor Sleeping Habits Affect Your Gut Microbiome?Published on Thursday, December 01, 2022 by
According to CDC statistics, approximately 1 in 3 American adults report what is known as short sleep duration, which is a fancy way to say sleeping less than 7 hours a night.
This data is probably largely unsurprising, but my interest in the topic of sleep was piqued when I realized in the course of writing my recent piece on dysbiosis that poor sleep was indeed considered a risk factor contributing to gut microbiome imbalance.
That brings us to today’s article, where my goal is to explore the state of the research in this area and to help quantify your understanding of how inadequate sleep may shape your gut microbiome.
I appreciate different outcomes motivate different people, and perhaps there may be some out there who, after reading this, are finally nudged toward more consistent sleeping patterns.
What a bonus that would be.
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
Exploring The Gut-Sleep Connection
Several human studies have been conducted exploring the relationship between sleep patterns and the human gut microbiome in the last several years.
In 2019 PLoS One published the results of a 26-participant study that explored the microbiome composition of participants relative to their total sleep time and sleep efficiency.
Sleep efficiency, for those who may be new to the term, is defined as the % of the time that a person intends to be sleeping that is actually spent sleeping.
If someone allotted 8 hours nightly to sleep, but for various reasons only spends 7 hours asleep, their sleep efficiency would be ~88% (7 divided by 8).
A minimum sleep efficiency of 80% is considered normal with 90%+ being considered desirable, for obvious reasons.
So here’s what this particular paper found:
- Total microbiome diversity is positively correlated with higher sleep efficiency and total sleep duration
- Total microbiome diversity is negatively associated with waking after falling asleep (one of several factors that may reduce sleep efficiency/duration)
Recall from my piece on dysbiosis that a decrease in microbiome diversity is a negative thing and one of the defining criteria of dysbiosis.
In a second study of a similar sample size, this time out of Sleep , researchers compared the reported sleeping habits of young, healthy adults [using the PSQI scale] to their microbiome composition.
As per the results of the first study mentioned, this particular paper also identified a correlation between sleep quality and microbiome diversity and other favorable changes to the gut microbiome including an increased presence of beneficial SCFA-producing bacteria.
If you’ve read my previous piece on fermented foods, you’ll recall how over a multi-month period the inclusion of these dietary components also contributed to improved microbiome diversity which is, once again, a favorable gut health outcome and a characteristic of a healthy, resilient microbiome.
A Brief Look Into Dreamland
Today’s post offers up a limited but initial glance into the relationship between human sleep quality and the gut microbiome.
There is obviously much more work to be done in this area but at a time when supplements and specialty products garner much attention for their role in gut health, perhaps this content is a useful reminder we would all be well served to not lose sight of the fact that fundamental daily activities like a decent night's sleep (which I appreciate is easier said than done to accomplish) has a potentially massive positive influence as well.
- Smith, R. P., Easson, C., Lyle, S. M., Kapoor, R., Donnelly, C. P., Davidson, E. J., Parikh, E., Lopez, J. V., & Tartar, J. L. (2019). Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PloS one, 14(10), e0222394. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222394
- Grosicki, G. J., Riemann, B. L., Flatt, A. A., Valentino, T., & Lustgarten, M. S. (2020). Self-reported sleep quality is associated with gut microbiome composition in young, healthy individuals: a pilot study. Sleep medicine, 73, 76–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2020.04.013
- Pittsburgh Sleep Quality index. Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pittsburgh-sleep-quality-index
Andy De SantisMPH, RD