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These prebiotic foods naturally help with sleep

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Foods that naturally help with sleep

Eating certain foods with prebiotics are shown in a new study to help with sleep. The good news is there are no supplements or prescriptions needed for getting enough sleep that in turn can protect from chronic diseases and more.


A new study shows certain foods promote so-called good gut bacteria that can help us sleep after a stressful event. The good news is eating is a natural way to promote a good night's sleep.

The study, published in the journal Fontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience analyzed the effect of probiotics for restful sleep, finding these probiotic foods release chemicals that send signals to the brain to alleviate sleep problems:

  • Onions
  • Raw garlic
  • Leeks
  • Chickory
  • Artichokes

Asparagus, garlic, chickory root and foods that contain prebiotic fibers help digestion and nourish good bacteria in the gut.

Studies have shown there is a connection between the gut and the brain that is important for disease prevention and mental health.

Healthy gut, healthy mind and body connection

There is also evidence that healthy gut bacteria can help us feel happier overall, supporting the notion that prebiotics added to the diet could be an imporant natural sleep aid.

"Given that sufficient NREM [non-rapid eye movement] 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," the authors wrote.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder tested the benefits of prebiotic food for a good night's sleep in rats that were exposed to stress and compared the results to rats not given the sleep promoting foods.

Rats given foods that promote sleep spent more time in a restful, restorative NREM sleep than their counterparts not given prebiotics.

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The rodents also got more REM sleep after being stressed, which is essential for ecovery from stressful events.

The study authors also say stress can mean more unhealthy bacteria is produced in the gut, making it important for understanding the ensuing cycle of poor health related to stress and lack of sleep.

Other ways to get better sleep include:

  • Avoiding the vicious cycle of stimulants and sleeping pills
  • Turning down the lights at dusk
  • Setting a routine before sleep - such as meditation or taking a warm bath or reading a book
  • Turning off the TV and other technology at least thirty minutes before bedtime

According to the CDC adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Children and teens need 9 to 10 hours a night.

Lack of sleep can lead to a variety of health problems including insulin resistance, weight gain, depression, immune system problems, high blood pressure and accidents, poor learning and memory and decreased quality of life.

Not getting enough sleep can also affect your sex life.

The researchers note more studies are needed before recommendations can be made for taking prebiotic supplements, but eating probiotic foods for better sleep is natural and easy.

Monika Fleshner, a professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology suggests “...loading up on healthy prebiotic fiber from food for better sleep. "It can't hurt and it might help," she said in a media release.

"Gut–brain link grabs neuroscientists"

More on prebiotics:
Prebiotics, Probiotics May Help Celiac Disease