Sleep quality and the treatment of intestinal microbiota imbalance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A pilot study

Sleep Sci. 2015 Nov;8(3):124-33. doi: 10.1016/j.slsci.2015.10.001. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a multisystem illness, which may be associated with imbalances in gut microbiota. This study builds on recent evidence that sleep may be influenced by gut microbiota, by assessing whether changes to microbiota in a clinical population known to have both poor sleep and high rates of colonization with gram-positive faecal Streptococcus, can improve sleep. Twenty-one CFS participants completed a 22- day open label trial. Faecal microbiota analysis was performed at baseline and at the end of the trial. Participants were administered erythromycin 400 mg b.d. for 6 days. Actigraphy and questionnaires were used to monitor sleep, symptoms and mood. Changes in patients who showed a clinically significant change in faecal Streptococcus after treatment (responders; defined as post-therapy distribution<6%) were compared to participants who did not respond to treatment. In the seven responders, there was a significant increase in actigraphic total sleep time (p=0.028) from baseline to follow up, compared with non-responders. Improved vigour scores were associated with a lower Streptococcus count (ρ=-0.90, p=0.037). For both the responders and the whole group, poorer mood was associated with higher Lactobacillus. Short term antibiotic treatment appears to be insufficient to effect sustainable changes in the gut ecosystem in most CFS participants. Some improvement in objective sleep parameters and mood were found in participants with reduced levels of gram-positive gut microbiota after antibiotic treatment, which is encouraging. Further study of possible links between gut microorganisms and sleep and mood disturbances is warranted.

Keywords: Actigraphy; CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; CNS, central nervous system; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; FMA, faecal microbiota analysis; HPA, hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal; Intestinal dysbiosis; MALDI-TOF MS, matrix assisted laser desorption ionization – time of flight mass spectrometry.; Mood; POMS, Profile of Mood States; SFI, sleep fragmentation index; SOL, sleep onset latency; Sleep; TST, total sleep time; WASO, wake after sleep onset.