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Probiotics may help improve sleep

January 26th, 2009

Some evidence shows that probiotics may promote better sleep.

There are already plenty of benefits ascribed to probiotic supplements, but helping you sleep isn’t usually one of them.  That’s what’s so surprising about what researchers at Osaka University, Japan, recently discovered about one type of probiotic organism.

In the form of yogurt and other fermented foods, consuming friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria has been associated with positive health effects for centuries. In the form of supplements, probiotics have been around a long time too. Probiotics are recommended in a very wide-range of circumstances; for general or short-term immune support, for various types of digestive disorders, for certain skin problems and even bad breath.

Now there’s evidence that at least one type of probiotic organism may improve sleep, especially in the elderly.  Sleep problems are common and often hard-to-treat in elderly patients, so anything that helps, especially a non-pharmaceutical option like a probiotic, is very valuable.

Recent research from Japan found that a probiotic supplement, in the form of a  fermented milk drink, improved several sleep and quality-of-life parameters in elderly test subjects when compared with placebo.

In their randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 29 healthy elderly (aged 60 to 81)  subjects took either 100 g/d of the fermented milk drink or a placebo drink in the first supplementary period before switching to the other drink in the second supplementary period.

Researchers measured sleep quality and assessed changes in the subject’s quality-of-life perception.

Results weren’t earth-shattering but showed a significant improvement in sleep quality after intake of fermented milk, whereas no significant changes were observed for the placebo.  Although the difference between fermented milk and placebo was not statistically significant for all of the sleep or QOL parameters, fermented milk produced slightly greater mean values in many cases.

It’s not yet clear how far the sleep-promoting benefits of probiotics extend, or what the mechanisms are. But given their superb safety-profile and the already established-benefits to using them – such as immune support and digestive health – research like this is helping to re-define probiotics as supplements people can use for total health support in almost any circumstances.

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