Sleep Quality Indicative of Gut Microbiome Diversity, Study Shows

November 2, 2019
Matthew Gavidia
Matthew Gavidia

Gut microbiome composition, sleep physiology, the immune system, and cognition were found to be interlinked, indicating possible therapies of gut microbiome manipulation to improve sleep quality, according to study findings.

Gut microbiome composition, sleep physiology, the immune system, and cognition were found to be interlinked, indicating possible therapies of gut microbiome manipulation to improve sleep quality, according to a study published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

The human gut microbiome has been found to influence health through the brain-gut-microbiome axis, with growing evidence suggesting that it can also influence sleep quality. Prior studies have provided conflicting evidence of the association between the gut microbiome and sleep quality. Researchers sought to address the uncertainty surrounding the relationship through their own analysis:

  • Researchers used actigraphy to quantify sleep measures coupled with gut microbiome sampling to determine how it correlated with various measures of sleep physiology
  • Immune system biomarkers were measured, and neurobehavioral assessments were carried out due to their potential in modifying the relationship between the sleep and gut microbiome composition

Researchers found positive correlations between total microbiome diversity and a cytokine named interleukin-6 that has been previously noted for its effects on sleep. Further analysis of the microbiome composition showed a positive association between the interleukin-6 and abstract thinking, showing a relationship within the phyla richness of bacteroidetes and firmicutes with sleep efficiency. Researchers additionally found that several taxa (Lachnospiraceae, Corynebacterium, and Blautia) were negatively correlated with measures.

Study author Jaime Tartar, PhD, a professor and research director in Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Psychology, highlighted the strong connection between the gut-brain bidirectional communication and its subsequent impact on sleep quality and health. “We know that the deepest stages of sleep is when the brain ‘takes out the trash’ since the brain and gut communicate with each other. Quality sleep impacts so many other facets of human health,” said Tartar.

Tartar described sleep as the “Swiss army knife of health” which impacts a variety of other health outcomes. “Getting a good night’s sleep can lead to improved health, and a lack of sleep can have detrimental effects. We’ve all seen the reports that show not getting proper sleep can lead to short term (stress, psychosocial issues) and long-term (cardiovascular disease, cancer) health problems,” said Tartar.

In managing the gut microbiome, people can benefit their quality of sleep, but Robert Smith, PhD, an associate professor and research scientist at NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, stresses that multiple factors contribute to the diversity of one’s gut microbiome. Genetics are an influence as some people are more predisposed to have a more diverse microbiome, with diet also playing a part. Drugs, including medications like antibiotics, can have an impact as well.

Smith noted that the preliminary results are promising, but more research is needed to understand the relationship. “Eventually people may be able to take steps to manipulate their gut microbiome in order to help them get a good night’s sleep,” said Smith.

Reference

Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, et al. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS ONE. 14(10):e0222394.