If you’ve had a disruption to your regular sleep schedule or a case of jet lag, do you reach for melatonin to help get yourself back on track? There’s another way to combat irregularities in your sleeping pattern, but you’ve got to think outside the box on this one!
The preliminary research comes to us from the University of Colorado Boulder as a precursor to the clinical trials now in progress. It sounds unlikely, but it’s worked for rats: taking prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut and makes the gut (and therefore your mind and body) more resilient to stress or changes in your normal schedule.
The research team believes that this can be used to help reset your internal clock after an event like traveling which causes jet lag because they simulated the effects of changing the light-dark cycle in the test subjects. Along with a control group who only at their normal diet, the other rats were fed prebiotics (a combination of polydextrose and galactooligosaccharides). Both groups’ environments were modified with the use or restriction of lights to simulate traveling forwards in time zones for what would be equal to flying twelve hours forward. They repeated this weekly for eight weeks.
The animals in the prebiotic group got their sleep schedule back on track better than the group who only ate their normal diet. They also experienced less change in the composition of gut bacteria overall (both good and the bad bacteria), suggesting that they were less susceptible to the effects of stress as seen on the gut microbiome level.
One of the strains of beneficial bacteria which has been identified in past studies to also help with the sleep-wake cycle is Ruminiclostridium 5, and this was a strain that grew with the use of the prebiotics. With this preliminary research, the team at the University of Colorado Boulder is interested in applying this information to humans and determining if prebiotics can be aimed towards the frequent traveler.
Robert S. Thompson, Michelle Gaffney, Shelby Hopkins, et al. Ruminiclostridium 5, Parabacteroides distasonis, and bile acid profile are modulated by prebiotic diet and associate with facilitated sleep/clock realignment after chronic disruption of rhythms. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2021; 97: 150 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2021.07.006