Studies tell us that too little sleep can cause changes in memory, mood and behavior, but a lack of sleep has also been linked to metabolic changes that may affect our health on a deeper level. Now, researchers in Sweden believe those changes may somehow be tied to our gut microbes.
Working with colleagues from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, they recruited a small group of healthy, normal-weight men and asked them to limit their nightly sleep schedule to about four hours a night for two days. Afterward, researchers examined the participants’ gut bacteria and found subtle changes similar to those seen in people with metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Among the changes observed were greater numbers of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes—bacterial species linked to obesity. Sleep loss was also tied to reduced insulin sensitivity, which may affect healthy blood sugar levels. Findings from the study were published in the journal Molecular Metabolism.
Study authors agree additional research is needed to fully understand how too little sleep affects the gut microbial community—and how the connection between the two may contribute to metabolic changes tied to poor health.