Insomnia is a disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep continuity and is associated with increased risks for physical and cognitive decline. Insomnia with short sleep duration is considered the most biologically severe phenotype of the disorder. Evidence suggests that short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the main byproducts of fiber fermentation in the gut, may affect sleep via gut–brain communications. This study explores associations between SCFAs and sleep continuity and compares SCFA concentrations in short vs. normal sleep insomnia phenotypes in older adults. Fifty-nine participants with insomnia symptoms (≥ 65 years), completed 2 weeks of objective sleep monitoring (actigraphy), and were divided into short and normal sleep duration phenotypes via cluster analysis. Sleep measures included total sleep time (TST), sleep onset latency (SOL), sleep efficiency (SE), and wake after sleep onset (WASO). Stool samples were collected and fecal SCFA concentrations were determined by gas-chromatography-mass-spectrometry (GCMS). Higher concentrations of acetate, butyrate, and propionate, and total SCFAs, were associated with lower SE and longer SOL after controlling for Body Mass Index (BMI). Concentrations were higher in the short sleep duration phenotype. Age, BMI, TST, and SOL explained 40.7% of the variance in total SCFAs. Findings contribute to understanding pathways along the gut–brain axis and may lead to the use of SCFAs as biomarkers of insomnia phenotypes.
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