How Can Gut Health Affect Sleep?

How Can Gut Health Affect Sleep?


Your gut contains trillions of microbes, collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. As scientific research grows, it’s becoming more apparent that your microbial composition plays an important role in both your physical and mental health. In other words, what you eat can not only affect your body, but also how your brain functions. One of the critical areas it affects is the quality of your sleep. Below, we’ll explore how your microbiome can affect sleep quality, as well as provide examples of how the microbiome is related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea and sleep loss in those with Major Depressive Disorder. 

What is the Microbiome?

The gut microbiome is a collection of bacteria and microorganisms that reside inside your digestive system. This community is heavily influenced by your nutrition, diet, and lifestyle choices. It plays a critical role in regulating your body's overall health, influencing metabolism, immunity, inflammation levels, and even emotions and behaviors [1]. Research has shown that the composition of your microbiome can even impact sleep quality. Studies involving patients struggling with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and major depressive disorder (MDD) show a connection between a lack of microbiome diversity and reduced sleep quality [1,2]. Below, we will focus on how the microbiome can affect general sleep quality, and improve sleep in those dealing with OSA and MDD related insomnia. 

How Can Your Microbiome Affect Sleep Quality?

The microbiome produces many metabolites and signaling molecules that communicate with the brain along neural, hormonal, inflammatory, and metabolic pathways to influence circadian rhythm and sleep regulation [1]. For example, the microbiome interacts with serotonin, cytokines, short chain fatty acids, and the hypothalamic-pituitary axis – all regulators of sleep and wake cycles [1]. Specific bacteria like Corynebacterium can produce serotonin while others generate somnogenic substances like GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, which leads to better sleep quality [2]. Studies have shown positive correlation between Blautia and Ruminococcus and sleep quality, and an inverse relationship between sleep quality and the prevalence of Prevotella, Bacteroidetes, and Saccharibacteria [2]. This means that proper microbial diversity can result in and regulate the balance of the critical chemicals that help regulate sleep function and your circadian rhythm. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the Microbiome

Some studies have shown a correlation between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and microbial diversity in both animal and human trials. Studies in mice exposed to intermittent hypoxia (modeling OSA) demonstrated altered gut microbiome composition [1], and overall decreased microbial diversity [1]. Human studies also show variations in the gut microbiome of pediatric OSA patients, with decreased microbial richness and number of observed species and higher abundances of inflammatory bacterial strains compared to healthy controls. This variation consisted primarily of increased Bacteroides, Parabacteroides, and Alistipes and decreased Prevotella and Eggerthella [1]. This lends itself to the possibility that OSA and other sleep related diseases could be partially treated with a microbiome focused intervention with the goal of lowering inflammatory bacteria and increasing microbial diversity. 

Microbiome, Major Depressive Disorder, and Sleep

It is common for those with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) to also struggle with insomnia. Some human and animal studies demonstrate gut microbiome alterations in MDD and sleep quality [2]. One study found significant microbial differences in abundance between MDD patients and healthy controls [2]. Within MDD patients, decreased levels of Streptococcus, Dorea, Barnesiella correlated with both depression severity measured on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) and sleep quality scores measured by Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and both increased levels of Coprococcus and decreased levels of Intestinibacter showed a correlation with poor PSQI sleep scores, independent of HAM-D depression severity [2]. This suggests certain microbiome changes may uniquely contribute to sleep dysfunction in MDD separate from depression itself. 

Overall, the study showed distinct differences in the microbial make up of participants with MDD, those who had poor sleep scores, and healthy controls. This further shows the impact that the microbiome can have on mental health and overall sleep quality.


Increasing evidence highlights that the gut microbiome interacts with sleep physiology and plays a role in treating sleep-altering conditions like OSA and MDD. Microbiome analysis provides a window into your personal health, allowing deep individualized insight into your overall health. If you are interested in learning about what's in your microbiome visit our Shop to explore products that can help you learn about your gut health. Connect with GutChat, our dedicated gut-health AI ChatBot, or reach out directly to a team member at to get started on your gut health journey.


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