A little while ago we wrote about research that was undertaken regarding the affect beneficial bacteria in the gut has on sleep – the quality and amount that we manage to get.
The current turbulence in our world also has a big impact on our stress levels and sleep is one of the first things that suffer, which of course impacts on our mood during the day.
Previous research studies have suggested that stress can alter our gut bacteria and these changes interfere with the sleep/wake cycle (the circadian rhythm).
Researchers at the University of Colorado found that ‘Diets rich in prebiotics ……. impact the gut microbiota and may increase gut microbial species that reduce the impact of stress.’
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are not digested in the stomach but pass through the small intestine and end up in the colon where they act like a ‘fertiliser’ feeding the gut microbiome, in other words our beneficial bacteria.
During the research (which was carried out on rats), the scientists noticed that the rats supplemented with prebiotics had higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria – probiotics – particularly one species Lactabacillus Rhamnosus. This particular species helps to reduce anxiety and depressive behaviour in humans. It also helps to calm the ‘flight or fight’ response in the body that kicks in when we experience stress of one kind or another.
Where do we get prebiotics in our diet?
- Artichokes (especially Jerusalem)
- Garlic, onions and leeks
- Root vegetables
- Legumes and beans (lentils and dried lima beans are particularly good sources)
Studies in human beings have found that dietary prebiotics reduce the effects of exposure to stress as well as:
- Improving the environment of the gut microbiome helps to increase the variety of species
- Increasing compounds that help make the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain which helps to regulate relaxation in the brain thereby helping to explain its role in stress reduction)
- Improving body composition (reduction of body fat)
- Supporting healthy metabolism and may improve insulin sensitivity which is important in blood sugar management
A word of warning – for some individuals dietary prebiotics can be difficult to digest and can cause symptoms such as bloating and flatulence. Introduce these prebiotic-rich foods slowly and start with smaller portions.
Prebiotics are also available in supplement form – often added to probiotic supplements – many of which are available over the counter. They are generally safe to take but you should always consult a healthcare professional if you are taking medications or have a health condition.
What else can we do to improve sleep patterns:
- Be consistent with your bed time and routines.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature – not too hot!
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones from the bedroom and avoid using hand held devices in the hour before bed.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. Also be mindful how much water your drink in the evening as this may cause you to have to get up in the night.
- Get some exercise during the day, preferably outside. Research has shown how important it is to expose the eyes to daylight (especially in the hour after waking) to ‘reset’ our circadian rhythm and consequently help us to get to sleep the next night.
- Read our blog about mattresses! https://www.lucksyardclinic.com/are-you-sleeping-comfortably/