Our experiences in fermenting microbes as yogurt and other foods are opening up many new experiences to us, including never-before-made-observations with sleep.

Personally, I am—was–a chronic insomniac. For decades, I struggled to go to sleep and, once I did sleep, it was fragmented and easily disrupted. Part of the problem was my work as a cardiologist, having to take phone calls at all hours, go to the emergency room or cath lab in the middle of the night, sometimes never getting back to bed but going straight to the office or hospital. So I felt like I had to be on constant alert, rarely enjoying deep, restorative, uninterrupted sleep. Even after I stopped taking such calls, the pattern of fragmented sleep continued. There were times when I took as much as 15 mg of melatonin to force myself to sleep, but leaving me “hungover” for many hours into the next day.

Until I restored Lactobacillus reuteri. Recall that the original source of this microbe was the BioGaia Gastrus product made for babies, thereby providing very low-doses of the microbe, 100 million of each of two strains, the ATCC PTA 6475 and the DSM 17938. 100 million seems like a lot but, in microbes, it’s a trivial dose. That was my motivation for fermenting as yogurt—of course, it is not yogurt, but just a vehicle for increasing microbial counts a thousand-fold. But it required different methods than conventional yogurt making. Conventional efforts to make yogurt are about just obtaining a palatable result. My efforts were focused on increasing microbial counts to obtain more powerful biological effects. This is why I fermented for 36 hours, not the usual 6-12 hours, and adding a prebiotic fiber to “feed” the microbes. And, analysis via flow cytometry of the yogurts revealed that we obtained around 300 billion microbes per 1/2-cup serving, far more than the original tablets. (When I called the people at BioGaia in Sweden to discuss, I encountered indifference, virtually no interest. They told me that making “yogurt” with L. reuteri was impossible. At the time, I had made dozens of batches. But I think they did not believe me.)

Consuming the yogurt myself led to an increase in muscle mass of 13 pounds over 3 weeks, a 50% increase in strength (I was doing lat pulldowns, for instance, of 130 pounds for 10 repetitions that promptly increased to 200 pounds for 10 repetitions), indifference to snacking (a reduction in so-called “hedonic” eating or eating only for pleasure), an increase in the desire for socializing, and—incredibly for someone with chronic insomnia—deep, prolonged, restorative sleep. With L. reuteri, I now typically sleep 9 hours straight through without awakenings, nights filled with vivid colorful dreams, awakening fully restored. No melatonin, no other sleep aids, just L. reuteri.

I then added Lactobacillus casei Shirota, marketed as the Yakult product found in the refrigerator section of stores such as Meijer, Walmart, and Asian groceries. I fermented it for the immune system boost it provides, but I found that I was enjoying profound, even deeper sleep, but sleeping 12 hours or more per night. I stopped it because I have things to do and do not want to sleep 12 hours a night. But it was an illustration of the profound sleep that can be obtained with this microbe. Some members of my DrDavisInfiniteHealth.com Inner Circle also reported deep sleep by fermenting Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. I tried it and, once again, found myself sleeping too much, so I stopped it.

My point in sharing all this is to highlight emerging insights into the role that gastrointestinal (GI) microbes play in sleep. The sleep effects vary from individual to individual for unclear reasons, but we have stumbled on a profound insight that nobody has ever made before: the influence of the GI microbiome on sleep. If restoring microbes to the GI tract can have such an important effect on sleep, can we also obtain effects on mood, memory, our internal dialogues, and behavior? I believe that we can. And, because we are fermenting to such high bacterial counts, we are experiencing effects never before recognized. Before my L. reuteri yogurt experience, nobody knew that this microbial species had potential for such profound sleep effects. We are therefore embarking on effects never before appreciated by anyone, learning new lessons at breakneck speed.