Do Probiotics Help Older People With Sleep Problems?

Upset senior lady with sleep disorder lying in bed

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Have you ever wondered if probiotics could help older people with sleep problems? Probiotics, the “good bacteria” found in fermented foods and supplements, have gained popularity in recent years for their potential health benefits. With the increasing number of elderly individuals experiencing sleep disturbances, it’s crucial to explore various approaches to address this issue.

Research has indicated that probiotics may have positive effects on sleep quality in older individuals. For example, a study found that probiotic treatment enhanced cognitive function and sleep quality in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Although more research is needed in this area, these findings suggest that incorporating probiotics into a daily routine could be a promising solution to improve sleep in older individuals. So, if you or a loved one struggles with sleep disturbances, probiotics might be worth considering as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Probiotics and Sleep in Older Adults

Probiotics and the Gut Microbiome

As you age, your gut microbiome undergoes changes that can impact your overall health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. This balance is crucial for older adults, as it plays a role in various aspects of health, including sleep quality.

Effects on Sleep Quality

Several studies have explored the relationship between probiotics and sleep quality in older adults. One such study found that probiotic treatment enhanced cognitive function and sleep quality in older patients with mild cognitive impairment. Another study showed that perioperative probiotic treatment decreased the incidence of postoperative cognitive impairment in elderly patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery. This study also reported an improvement in sleep quality, as measured by a numeric rating scale.

Improving Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. An imbalance in the circadian rhythm can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. Probiotics may indirectly help improve circadian rhythm by modulating the gut microbiome. A balanced gut microbiome could potentially lead to better sleep quality. However, more research is needed to fully understand the connection between probiotics, the gut microbiome, and the circadian rhythm.

In summary, probiotics show promise in helping older adults improve their sleep quality. While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between probiotics and sleep, incorporating probiotics into your diet may be a natural way to enhance sleep in older adults.

Probiotic Types and Sources

In this section, we will explore two common types of probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, as well as the sources of these probiotics through foods and dietary supplements.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium Species

Probiotics consist of live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, can provide health benefits. Among these microorganisms, two prominent genera are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Lactobacillus species are known to produce lactic acid, which may help with digestion and gut health. Some Lactobacillus strains have been tested for their potential effects on sleep, such as Lactobacillus casei, though more research is needed to establish their efficacy in improving sleep quality in older individuals1.

Bifidobacterium species are known for maintaining a healthy gut environment and enhancing the immune system. Their potential effects on sleep have not been as extensively studied, but it is worth mentioning that maintaining a balanced gut microbiome could indirectly promote better sleep.

Food and Dietary Supplements

Probiotics can be found in a variety of foods and dietary supplements. Below are some common sources:

  • Fermented dairy products: Yogurt, kefir, and certain types of cheese, like blue cheese, are examples of fermented dairy products that can be rich sources of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium2.
  • Fermented vegetables: Sauerkraut and kimchi are examples of fermented vegetables that contain various beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus.
  • Supplements: If you cannot consume the required amount of probiotics through your diet, supplements can be an option. Probiotic supplements are available in the form of capsules, tablets, and powders, but it is essential to choose a trustworthy brand and consult with your healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regime.

Incorporating probiotics into your daily diet can help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, which is key to overall health, including sleep quality. For older individuals who are experiencing sleep problems, incorporating probiotic-rich foods and considering dietary supplements may be a step worth exploring. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.



Prebiotics and Sleep Improvement

The Role of Prebiotics

Prebiotics play a crucial role in promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn can have a positive effect on your sleep quality. They serve as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping them thrive and maintain a healthy balance. Research has shown that consuming prebiotics can lead to improved NREM sleep and enhanced REM sleep rebound, which is essential for older adults experiencing sleep problems.

Prebiotic Foods

To incorporate prebiotics into your diet, focus on consuming foods that are rich sources of these beneficial nutrients. Some prebiotic-rich foods you can easily add to your diet include:

  • Onions: This versatile vegetable is a great source of prebiotic fiber, promoting a healthy gut environment for beneficial bacteria.
  • Artichokes: Containing a high amount of inulin fiber, artichokes are an excellent addition to salads, pastas, or side dishes.
  • Garlic: Not only used for flavor, but garlic is also rich in prebiotics. Incorporating it into your meals can boost your gut health and possibly improve sleep quality.
  • Asparagus: Full of prebiotic fiber, asparagus can be served in a variety of dishes, and its gut health benefits may have a positive effect on sleep.
  • Leeks: These onion-like vegetables are another source of prebiotic fiber, and can easily be used in soups or sautéed as a side dish.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains such as oats, barley, and whole wheat are rich in prebiotic fiber, helping to improve your gut health and potentially leading to better sleep quality.

By adding these prebiotic foods to your diet, you can support a healthy gut microbiome, which can positively impact sleep problems commonly experienced by older adults.

The Microbiome and Mental Health

The Gut-Brain Connection

The human microbiome plays an essential role in your overall health, including your mental well-being. It is often referred to as the “second brain” due to the presence of the enteric nervous system (ENS), which contains millions of neurons residing in your gut. The ENS communicates with your brain through the vagus nerve, establishing a crucial connection between the gut and the brain known as the gut-brain axis.

This connection influences your mental health, including anxiety and depression, by regulating the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that govern your mood, stress response, and other cognitive functions. Maintaining a healthy microbiome can have a positive impact on these processes, potentially improving sleep quality and mental wellbeing in older adults.

Probiotics and Mental Health Disorders

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that, when consumed, can have positive effects on your gut microbiome, and in turn, on your mental health. Studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders by modulating the gut-brain axis.

For instance, a study found that spore-forming bacteria from the gut had positive effects on mental health in humans, while another research observed improvements in sleep quality and a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms after taking a specific probiotic strain.

Incorporating probiotics into your diet, either through food or supplements, might contribute to supporting mental health and better sleep in older adults. However, further research is needed to determine the optimal probiotic strains and dosage for specific mental health conditions and sleep problems.

Sleep Disorders and Probiotic Interventions

Addressing Insomnia and Sleep Deprivation

As you age, sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep deprivation can become more prevalent. This can have significant impacts on your overall health and quality of life. One potential approach to addressing these sleep issues is through the introduction of probiotics. Research suggests that probiotics may help improve sleep quality in individuals with sleep disorders.

A study on postmenopausal women found that probiotic supplementation had a positive effect on both mood and sleep quality. Additionally, probiotic interventions in older adults with mild cognitive impairment showed improvements in several neural behaviors, including sleep disturbances.

To optimize the potential benefits of probiotics, consider the following:

  • Choose the right probiotic: Select a high-quality, well-researched probiotic with strains that have been shown to support sleep health.
  • Consistency is key: For the best results, incorporate probiotics into your daily routine and maintain this habit over time.

Working with a Doctor

It’s important to consult with your doctor before making any significant changes to your sleep-health routine. Your doctor can help you evaluate your sleep issues and determine if probiotics may be an appropriate intervention for you.

When discussing your sleep concerns with a doctor, be prepared to:

  • Discuss your symptoms: Provide details about your sleep disturbances, including the frequency, intensity, and duration of your insomnia or sleep deprivation.
  • Review your medical history: Inform your doctor about any medications or prescription drugs you are taking, as well as any medical conditions that may be contributing to your sleep issues.
  • Discuss potential side effects: Your doctor can help you understand the possible side effects associated with probiotics and weigh the potential benefits and risks.

Remember, while probiotics may offer a natural solution for some individuals with sleep disorders, it’s always crucial to work with your doctor to develop a comprehensive sleep health plan that addresses your unique needs.

Additional Health Benefits and Considerations

Probiotics can offer various health benefits for older people, beyond potentially improving sleep quality. This section will discuss three key aspects: Immune System Boosting, Managing Side Effects, and Interactions.

Immune System Boosting

As you age, your immune system may become weaker, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and illnesses. Probiotics can play a role in supporting your immune health by maintaining a balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This balance can help strengthen your immune system, making it more resilient in combating pathogens and reducing the risk of infections1.

Managing Side Effects

While probiotics can have positive effects on your health, it is essential to consider possible side effects. Some individuals may experience minor side effects such as gas, bloating, or an upset stomach2. These symptoms usually subside after a brief adjustment period.

In rare cases, people with a weakened immune system, severe allergies, or lactose intolerance3 may experience more severe reactions to probiotics. If you fall into any of these categories, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning a probiotic regimen.


Probiotics may interact with certain medications, particularly antibiotics. Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of intestinal bacteria, potentially reducing the effectiveness of probiotics. If you are on antibiotics or have recently completed a course, discuss with your doctor the appropriate timing and dosage for incorporating probiotics into your regimen4.

Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or concerns. By taking these considerations into account, you can make an informed decision about using probiotics for your sleep and overall well-being.


  1. Fermented foods, the gut and mental health : a mechanistic overview with implications for depression and anxiety
  2. Probiotic food supplement reduces stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms in volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial
  3. Functional food products in Japan: A review
  4. Effects of Supplementation with Lactobacillus Probiotics on Insomnia Treatment

About Us

Our goal is to empower you with concise probiotic guidance for a healthier gut. With expert advice, we provide the knowledge to improve your well-being and navigate the world of probiotics efficiently, ensuring you achieve optimal gut health.


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