The early bird catches the best microbiota
The difference between night owls and early birds?
Their bedtime, of course! But that’s not all. Their biological clock is also reflected in their gut microbiota.
About this article
Some are morning people, others prefer the evening. But what makes us an early bird or a night owl? Recent scientific research suggests that bacteria in the gut may influence our biological clock, with early birds and night owls shown to have very different gut microbes.
Early to bed vs. late to bed: specific microbiota
An analysis of the gut microbiota of 91 individuals has shown a greater abundance of the bacterial genus Alistipes in the gut microbiota of early sleepers. These people generally have bowel movements in the morning, eat a healthy diet (rich in fruit, vegetables, and fiber), and drink water regularly.
On the other hand, night owls have a greater quantity of Lachnospira in their gut. They go to the toilet in the evening, following a day of unhealthy food (e.g. rich in sugars) washed down with soda. The bacteria in our digestive tract produce molecules that act on our own body. These molecules cause a set of chemical reactions (known as metabolic pathways) which lead to the production of certain compounds (e.g. glucose) and/or the degradation of others. Three metabolic pathways were found to be significantly more common in early sleepers.
The authors therefore propose that certain human metabolic pathways are activated by specific bacterial fatty acids involved in the regulation of our sleep. This may be the missing link between all these data: a given diet has a specific microbiota, which secretes molecules that influence the rhythm of the host’s sleep.
Improving night owls’ health
The scope of these observations is important, going beyond the mere issue of harmony in families with both early and late sleepers. Indeed, night owls are more likely to develop:
...and other chronic diseases.
This research suggests it may be possible to improve their health by altering their diet and, therefore, their gut microbiota. This may help the night owls go to bed with the early birds.