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Babies' gut bacteria are linked to their sleep

Interactions between gut bacteria and sleep are no secret in adults. However, a Swiss study also identified such interactions for the very first time in infants after three months of age.

The importance of a diverse intestinal flora

The intestinal microbiota is the subject of much research. Recently, a study established, for example, a link between bacteria in the intestines and cognitive decline. According to a statement from the Swiss National Science Foundation on December 23, 2021, gut bacteria also interact with babies' sleep. Salome Kurth and Sarah Schoch from the universities of Friborg and Zurich have indeed demonstrated that infants who sleep more during the day have less diversity in their gut microbiota. However, the fragmentation of nocturnal sleep (sleep quality) would be linked to the type of bacteria that we find in the intestines. For scientists, this is a real breakthrough since these interactions were until now known only in adults .

The study also shows a parallel evolution of both gut bacteria and brain activity during the child's first year of life. This work also suggests that infants with a different gut microbiota also show divergences in nocturnal brain activity . However, the strongest bonds are present around the age of three months, a sensitive period according to the researchers.

Intervene on the intestinal flora

The study involved 162 infants observed at home at the ages of three, six and twelve months thanks to a motion sensor fitted to the child's ankle. The objective was to follow their sleep for ten days. Parents also had to keep a diary regarding bedtimes, waking up, crying and mealtimes. The researchers also took stool samples. Another part of the study consisted in recording the nocturnal sleep over the first hours of about thirty six-month-old children using an electroencephalogram .

For those responsible for the study, the results are promising. Thanks to the link observed between sleep and the diversity of their intestinal microbiota, scientists believe that it is possible to act on the developmental problems of babies. Indeed, it is possible to solve sleep quality concerns by intervening on the intestinal flora thanks to food in addition to specific support from parents. Nevertheless, other clinical trials will be necessary in order to generalize the results and develop new therapies.