Recent studies have explored how consumers’ diets can help improve their sleeping habits, but researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder say that consumers struggling to sleep at night should seriously consider taking a prebiotic.
The dietary fiber supplement was found to promote better sleep and protect consumers against the negative side effects that commonly accompany stress.
“The biggest takeaway here is that this type of fiber is not just there to bulk up the stool and pass through the digestive system,” said researcher Robert Thompson. “It is feeding the bugs that live in our gut and creating a symbiotic relationship with us that has powerful effects on our brain and behavior.”
The researchers conducted their study on rats to determine how a change in their prebiotic intake affected their stress response and their sleeping habits.
The rats were divided into two groups: those given normal food and those given food supplemented with prebiotics. The researchers observed their sleeping habits on these diets and also assessed their biological responses to stress.
Ultimately, the team learned that the prebiotic diets affected the rats very differently than the typical diet. They found that the rats on the prebiotic diet were getting deeper, better sleep, particularly following stressful events. Moreover, the researchers noted that this group had better physiological responses to stress than the group without the prebiotics added to their food.
For example, the rats that didn’t get a boost of prebiotics were more likely to experience drastic changes to their body temperature after a stressful event, which didn’t happen to the group that had received the prebiotics.
“We know that this combination of dietary fibers helps promote stress robustness and good sleep and protects the gut microbiome from disruption,” said researcher Monika Fleshner.
The fight against insomnia
As of right now, the researchers warn consumers against taking over-the-counter prebiotic supplements, as there’s no way to know how the body will react. It’s also unclear whether eating foods high in dietary fiber will lead to better sleep.
However, the researchers say they will continue to explore this area of research, and they’re hopeful that a supplement will soon be on shelves that can help ease nighttime stress.
“Armed with this information, we might be able to develop a targeted therapeutic that boosts the molecules that buffer against stress and tamps down the ones that seem to disrupt sleep,” said Fleshner. “It’s exciting to think about.”