Sleep problems are linked to gut bacteria

Irregular sleep habits are linked to gut bacteria.


Sleep is an important component of health. Physical activity, sleep, and diet are becoming modifiable health factors. Modern lifestyles disrupt sleep patterns due to electric lights, blue-light screens and work schedules. Over 40% of the population suffers from social jetlag, a sleep pattern, and wake times adjusted to workdays. They can improve your health by influencing your gut microbiota.

A single cohort of participants from a personalized nutrition company found multiple associations between social jet lag, a shift in the internal body clock that occurs when sleeping patterns change between workdays and free days, diet quality, diet habits, inflammation, and gut microbiome composition.

In previous research, it has been found that working shifts disrupt the body clock and can lead to weight gain, heart problems, and diabetes. There is, however, less awareness that more minor inconsistencies in sleep patterns can affect our biological rhythms, such as waking early with an alarm clock on a workday and naturally on a non-workday.

The study found that even small differences in sleep timings across the week seem to be linked to differences in gut bacterial species. It has been found that some of these associations may be related to dietary differences. However, other factors, as yet unknown, may also be involved. Intervention trials are needed to determine whether improving sleep time consistency can improve gut microbiome and related health outcomes.

The composition of the microbes in your gut (microbiome) may negatively or positively affect your health by producing toxins or beneficial metabolites. A person’s microbiome is influenced by their diet, making it possible to adjust the diversity of their gut microbes. They can adjust your gut’s diversity based on your microbiome through your diet.

In the ZOE PREDICT study, Researchers analyzed blood, stool, and gut microbiome samples, as well as glucose levels, in those whose sleep was irregular and those with a regular sleep schedule in a cohort of 934 persons. 

Most of the participants in this cohort were small and healthy, sleeping an average of more than seven hours each night throughout the week, in contrast to earlier research that examined the relationship between social jet lag and metabolic risk factors in populations with obesity or diabetes.

They discovered that even little variations in the timing of the midpoint of sleep, which occurs halfway between sleep and wakefulness, might affect the composition of the microbiota in the gut.

Social jet lag was linked to lower overall food quality, higher use of sugar-sweetened beverages, and lower consumption of fruits and nuts, all of which may impact the abundance of certain bacteria in your gut. Three of the six microbiota species that were more abundant in the social jet lag group have ‘unfavorable’ associations with health, such as poor diet quality, indicators of obesity and cardiometabolic health, and markers in your blood related to higher levels of inflammation and cardiovascular risk.

Dr. Sarah Berry from King’s College London and chief scientist at ZOE added: “Maintaining regular sleep patterns, so when we go to bed and when we wake each day, is an easily adjustable lifestyle behavior we can all do, that may impact your health via your gut microbiome for the better.”

This study highlights the importance of maintaining normal sleep patterns as a lifestyle change due to growing interest in circadian rhythms and gut microbiome.

The conclusion shows that Novel connections between SJL and a more harmful gut microbiome in a group of mostly sufficient sleepers highlight the possible health implications of SJL.

Journal Reference:

  1. Bermingham, K.M., Stensrud, S., Asnicar, F. et al. Exploring the relationship between social jetlag with gut microbial composition, diet, and cardiometabolic health in the ZOE PREDICT 1 cohort. European Journal of Nutrition. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-023-03204-x
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