Intake of prebiotics – dietary fibres found naturally in foods like chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, leeks and onions – may help improve sleep and act as a buffer against the physiological impacts of stress, a study shows.
Prebiotics are certain types of non-digestible fibres that probiotic bacteria feed on, such as the fibres found in many plant sources like asparagus, oatmeal and legumes as well as in breast milk. When the beneficial bacteria end up digesting probiotic fibre, they do not just multiply and improve one’s health in the gut, they also release metabolic byproducts.
The findings showed that rats on the prebiotic diet spent more time in non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, which is restful and restorative and is dreamless, than those on the non-prebiotic diet. “Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health,” said Monika Fleshner, professor at University of Colorado – Boulder.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the team fed three-week-old male rats a diet of either standard chow or chow that included prebiotics. They then monitored the rats’ body temperature, gut bacteria and sleep-wake cycles — using EEG, or brain activity testing — over time.