Study: Irregular sleep patterns linked to harmful gut bacteria

A new study has associated irregular sleep patterns to “bad” gut bacteria.

The study conducted by researchers from King’s College London (KCL) and ZOE, the personalized nutrition company, is the first to discover several links between social jet lag, defined as “the shift in your internal body clock when your sleeping patterns change between workdays and free days,” and diet quality, dietary habits, inflammation and gut microbiome composition in a single cohort.

Details of the study were published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Earlier studies have revealed that working shifts disrupts the body clock and can increase the risk of weight gain, heart problems and diabetes in certain people.

However, not much is known about how human biological rhythms can be affected by smaller inconsistencies in sleeping patterns, such as when you wake up early with an alarm clock on workdays, compared to when you wake naturally on non-workdays, especially if you are working regular hours.

Major sleep disruptions can affect overall health negatively

Dr. Wendy Hall, a senior author from KCL, said major disruptions in sleep can significantly affect your health. The KCL and ZOE study is the first of its kind to show how even small differences in sleep schedules throughout the week can be linked to differences in gut bacterial species.

Hall said some of these associations were linked to dietary differences but data also suggests that other unknown factors may be involved. She added that conducting intervention trials will help researchers find out if improving sleep time consistency can offer beneficial changes in the gut microbiome and related health outcomes. (Related: Sleep deprivation linked to health issues like obesity and cognitive decline.)

The composition of the microbes in your gut microbiome may negatively or positively affect your health by producing toxins or beneficial metabolites. Certain species of microbes can correspond to someone’s risk of long-term health issues like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The microbiome is influenced by the food you eat, meaning you can improve the diversity of microbes in your gut.

In a cohort of 934 volunteers from the ZOE PREDICT study, the largest ongoing nutritional study of its kind, scientists analyzed blood, stool and gut microbiome samples.

The scientists also studied glucose measurements in volunteers with irregular sleep patterns compared to others who had a routine sleep schedule.

Previous research into the links between social jet lag and metabolic risk factors has been conducted in populations with obesity or diabetes, but the cohort included mainly lean and healthy people. Most of the volunteers get more than seven hours of sleep per night throughout the week.

Results revealed that there was only a 90-minute difference in the timing of the midpoint of sleep, which is the halfway point between sleep time and wake-up time, associated with differences in gut microbiome composition.

Having social jet lag was associated with lower overall diet quality, higher intakes of sugary beverages and lower intakes of fruits and nuts, which may directly affect the abundance of specific microbiota in the gut.

Researchers also reported that three out of the six microbiota species more abundant in the social jet lag group have “unfavorable” associations with health.

The microbes were linked to poor diet quality, indicators of obesity and cardiometabolic health and markers in the blood that are related to higher levels of inflammation and cardiovascular risk.

Kate Bermingham, the study’s first author from KCL and a senior nutrition scientist at ZOE, said sleep is “a key pillar of health.” She added that even a short 90-minute difference in the mid-point of sleep can encourage microbiota species that have “unfavorable associations” with your well-being.

Earlier studies have shown that social jetlag is linked to adverse health issues like chronic illness, weight gain and even mental fatigue.

Tips for improving sleep quality

Try the suggestions below if you need help maintaining regular sleep patterns and improving sleep quality:

Disconnect devices one hour before bed

Devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down for bed.

The blue light from your electronic devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. Try setting your phone aside for at least one hour or more before going to bed.

Invest in a quality mattress and bedding

If you can’t sleep because your mattress is uncomfortable and lumpy, invest in a quality mattress for your needs and preferences.

Buy a supportive mattress and pillow so your spine gets proper support. This will also help prevent various aches and pains.

Get sheets and blankets that feel comfortable to the touch and help you maintain a comfortable temperature during the night.

Block out light in your room

Too much light exposure can affect your sleep and circadian rhythm. Get blackout curtains for your windows or wear a sleep mask to block light and prevent it from interfering with your rest.

Minimize noise

If you cannot eliminate nearby sources of noise, try drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine.

Use earplugs or headphones to stop various sounds from preventing you from sleeping.

Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep

To ensure that you get the recommended amount of sleep each night, make an effort to build that time into your schedule.

Think of your desired wake-up time, then try to find the best bedtime that lets you get at least seven hours of sleep.

If possible, give yourself a couple of extra hours before bed so you can prepare before your bedtime.

Set your alarm for the same time every day

It can be hard for your body to get used to a healthy sleep routine if you keep waking up at different times.

Choose a wake-up time and follow it regularly, even on weekends or on days when you don’t have work.

Visit for more articles with tips on how to improve your sleep quality, gut health and overall well-being.

Watch the video below to learn how acai berries can support a healthy immune system and healthy sleep patterns.

This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

More related stories:

Beneficial enzymes in barley grass can boost gut health and protect against cancer.

Coffee nap: The brain benefits of combining caffeine with sleep.

3 Reasons why Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

Sources include:

Submit a correction >>

Get Our Free Email Newsletter
Get independent news alerts on natural cures, food lab tests, cannabis medicine, science, robotics, drones, privacy and more.
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

comments powered by Disqus

Get Our Free Email Newsletter
Get independent news alerts on natural cures, food lab tests, cannabis medicine, science, robotics, drones, privacy and more.
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.


Get the world's best independent media newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.