Eat More Prebiotics To Reduce Stress-induced Sleep Problems

Probably all consumers know about the potential benefits of prebiotics pertaining to our health, especially our digestive health. Now a new study has revealed yet another positive effect of eating foods with prebiotics and that is healthy sleep restoration post a stressful event.

Prebiotics are the microorganisms that probiotics feed on. These essentially non-digestible fibers can be found in foods like asparagus, oatmeal, and legumes. Apart from these plant sources, these fibers can also be found in breast milk. Prebiotics are known to promote advantageous gut bacteria.

The recently released study found that prebiotic food can help people deal with stress-induced sleep problems, and sleep more soundly.

Scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, carried out an experiment on lab rats to investigate whether eating prebiotic food may help someone sleep after experiencing stressful events.

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. . . We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events,” said Dr. Agnieszka Mika, MS, a postdoctoral fellow and one of the authors of the study.

The scientists gave rodents prebiotic diets for several weeks prior to making them stressed out by administering shocks to their tails. These rats were then compared with control rats that did not receive the prebiotic-enriched diet prior to the stressful test condition .

Scientists found, rodents that ate prebiotics did not experience stress-induced disruptions to their gut microbiota and regained healthier sleep patterns sooner than their counterparts that didn’t receive the prebiotic diet.

Although the study results are quite impressive but the researchers can not affirm that these results relevant for humans. More research is needed to see exactly how bacteria in humans gut and their sleep patterns get affected when prebiotics are given after trauma, they affirm.

“The stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful episode for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one,” says Dr. Robert S. Thompson, lead author of the study. “A next set of studies will be looking exactly at that question — can prebiotics help humans to protect and restore their gut microflora and recover normal sleep patterns after a traumatic event?”

The study results are published in the online journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.