The gut-sleep-brain axis: Non-pharmaceutical approaches to promote healthy ageing

Sleep problems are linked to both dementia and overall lower quality of life. This project builds on existing known interactions between sleep, gut health, and brain functions and aims to develop low-cost, individually tailored, and accessible alternatives to current treatments. These interventions are informed by home-based objective sleep assessment and involve non-pharmaceutical methods such as enhanced sleep education (e.g. behavioural techniques and mindfulness), dietary supplements targeting sleep quality, and gut health improvement in older people.


Catalyst R2

Lead Organisation

University of East Anglia


East of England


Managing Complaints of Ageing

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About the project

The gut-sleep-brain axis: Targeting the gut microbiota and sleep quality by individualized non-pharmaceutical approaches to promote healthy ageing

We live in an ageing society struck by cognitive decline and high prevalence of dementia. With the numbers continuously increasing, it is estimated that dementia will triple by 2035. Besides its detrimental impact on healthy longevity and quality of life, this will lead to substantial economic and societal burden. To make matters worse, one third of the UK adult population presents disordered sleep and the prevalence further increases with ageing.

This is alarming provided the amounting evidence establishing sleep problems as causal predictors of age dependent cognitive impairment and dementia. Unfortunately, sleep problems in ageing are complex, often with multiple causes in an individual with no one-size-fits-all treatment approach. Thus, there is a lack of effective treatments of sleep problems. The available pharmaceutical means have significant side effects, can be used for a limited time only and the cognitive benefits of drug induced sleep are minimal or lacking. Furthermore, sleep problems are commonly overlooked and/or ineffectively addressed in both the primary and secondary healthcare system.

The potential solution requires a range of options to support individually tailored interventions addressing the specific needs. Our proposal builds on emerging evidence showing a reciprocal relationship between gut health, sleep and brain functions. We aim to develop effective, low cost, individually tailored and broadly accessible intervention alternatives with no side effects using a range of innovative non-pharmaceutical methods including brief behaviour therapy, auditory closed loop stimulation of deep sleep and dietary supplements to improve sleep quality, brain function and gut health in older people.


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