Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your good health. Apart from your body’s very obvious need for physical rest — anywhere from 7-10 hours depending on how old you are — to help you function throughout the day, the list of benefits is long.

For example, sleep gives your body a break that allows the brain, blood vessels and heart to do some much-needed maintenance.

But, if your sleep hygiene is poor or you don’t get enough of it, your chances of stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease increase, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

A healthy amount of sleep also helps you maintain the proper balance of hormones that govern your hunger: Ghrelin increases your appetite while leptin makes you feel full. Messing up your sleep wreaks havoc with those hormones, causing you to feel hungrier while increasing your obesity risks.

When not managed properly, jet lag from airplane traveling and shift work can harm, not only your sleep and waistline, but your gut health too, which explains why some experts have recommended probiotics as a protective measure.

Not only do probiotics play an important role in promoting better sleep, so do prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut — according to a recent study appearing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

The prebiotic sleep aid

To study the benefits of prebiotics, researchers at the University of Colorado fed two sets of three-week-old rats food that contained it or a control diet that didn’t, then monitored their body temperature, gut bacteria and sleep-wake cycles for four weeks.

Test animals that were fed a prebiotic-rich diet spent more time in a deeper, more restful state of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. Plus, when these prebiotic mice were exposed to unexpected stressors, they were better equpped to achieve rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, a critical tool for promoting relief from trauma.

Not surprisingly, those same mice maintained better gut bacteria diversity — higher levels of Lactobacillus rhamnosus — and normal body temperature fluctuations too.

Given these test results, University of Colorado scientists believe “a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health,” according to a press release.

How do you get prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a natural component of whole foods ranging from onions, leeks, artichokes, raw garlic, almonds and jicama to fruity fare like bananas and apples.

To ensure you get the right amount of prebiotics your body needs, the easiest way is to take a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria. EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior contain fructo-oliggosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic derived from plant sugars.

So, when you’re looking for ways to improve the quality of your sleep naturally, consider taking a probiotic that features a prebiotic as a key ingredient.