Can Prebiotic Foods Improve Your Sleep?

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By Dr. Mercola

The bacteria living in your gut do more than help your body digest and metabolize the food you eat. A myriad of research studies demonstrate these bacteria are integral to your health and well-being, and may positively influence the activity of hundreds of your genes and your immune system.

When you add friendly bacteria to your intestinal tract they are called probiotics. Another way of impacting the friendly bacteria in your gut is to provide them with the nutrients they need to multiply. These nutrients are called prebiotics.

Prebiotics are found primarily in fiber-rich foods. Friendly bacteria thrive on indigestible fiber. Inulin is one type of water-soluble fiber found in onions, garlic, leeks and asparagus that help nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Now researchers have found dietary prebiotics have a significant effect on rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep cycles, which may positively affect your sleep quality.1

Prebiotics Study

Researchers studied the effect of prebiotics on gut health and REM sleep of young rats. The test animals were given a diet rich in prebiotics starting when they were 3 weeks old.2

The researchers noted that in previous studies, results suggested daily stress could alter your gut microbiome in a way that would alter your sleep-wake cycle. Their goal was to determine if using prebiotics might help improve sleep quality under stress.

The rats were fed a manufactured diet containing prebiotic fiber or a control diet for four weeks. After the first four weeks the researchers analyzed the excrement and found those eating prebiotics had an increase in beneficial gut bacteria, compared to the control group.3

As the friendly bacteria metabolize the prebiotic fiber, they not only grow and multiply but also excrete a metabolite beneficial to your brain health.4 Rats eating the diet rich in prebiotics also spent more time in restful and restorative NREM sleep than those eating the control diet. The researchers wrote:5

“Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health.”

The test group also benefited when stressed. Researchers found they spent more time in REM sleep after being stressed, which is…
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