Yesterday, we talked about one simple (and delicious) way you can boost your gut microbiome for better health. And today, I want to talk about one of the more meaningful—and surprising—health benefits that a rich and diverse bacterial population can offer: Better sleep quality.
Let’s dive right in…
Bacteria and your “second brain”
I don’t usually pay much attention to animal studies—they just don’t tell us as much as human clinical trials do. But I occasionally make an exception when I think the message is important enough. And needless to say, this recent research fits the bill…
Japanese researchers performed a simple experiment: They administered a strong cocktail of antibiotics to one group of mice for four weeks, effectively wiping out their microbiome population. Then, they compared their bacterial composition to the guts of mice who received the same diet, but no antibiotics.
Unsurprisingly, they uncovered some key differences. More specifically, they identified more than 200 metabolite differences between the groups. (Metabolites are the byproducts that bacteria generate when they digest food.) In addition, 60 key metabolites were completely missing—while others were unbalanced in quantity.
Researchers then examined the roles of these altered and missing metabolites. And here’s what they found: The metabolites most affected by the antibiotic treatment were the ones with key roles in generating neurotransmitters—the signaling factors that allow your brain cells to communicate with each other.
In fact, the scientists discovered that the tryptophan-serotonin pathway was almost entirely shut down in the bacteria-depleted mice. These mice had more tryptophan than controls—but almost no serotonin, which is one of our body’s “happy” chemicals.
Of course, tryptophan is an important precursor to serotonin. But clearly, without the right gut bacteria, your body simply can’t use it properly. (This is important, because as I’ve mentioned here before, your gut is basically a second brain. In fact, it produces more serotonin than your brain does.)
But that’s not all. The researchers also found that the bacteria-depleted mice were deficient in vitamin B6 metabolites—which play a key role in producing both serotonin and dopamine, another key “happy” chemical.
Circadian rhythms in crisis
Now, here’s where things get really interesting…
These scientists continued by examining the sleep quality of the mice, using EEGs to observe brain activity. And they found that the bacteria-depleted mice showed more REM and non-REM activity at night—when mice are supposed to be wide awake—and less during the day, when they should be fast asleep.
In other words, the alterations in gut bacteria appeared to completely reverse the natural circadian rhythms that dictate sleep patterns (and a whole lot more).
The research team speculates that the lack of serotonin is the main factor behind these sleep alterations—although they can’t say exactly how or why it happens just yet. But I certainly can’t say that I’m the least bit surprised by the finding. And there’s a good reason I’m sharing it with you today…
It’s hard to believe, but daylight savings is just over a week away. And the fact is, even that one hour of lost sleep can send your body and brain into a pretty serious tailspin.
That’s why I have always recommended probiotics to help keep your mood on track. But this latest research is a good reminder that there are a lot of moving parts where your health is concerned—and your microbiome is one of the most essential factors that keeps everything running smoothly.
So in addition to keeping your kitchen stocked with avocados, don’t forget to take a high-quality probiotic every single day, too—especially as we approach a new seasonal time change.
But that’s not the only thing you can do to keep your circadian rhythms on track. I talked about these springtime threats to your brain’s balance—and outlined a simple strategy to safely navigate them—in the March 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“The new SAD: The shocking rise of springtime depression”). Subscribers have access to that article—and a whole lot more—in my archives. So if you haven’t yet, as always, consider signing up today.
“Gut microbes: a key to normal sleep.” Science Daily, 11/30/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201130113532.htm)