Association between the faecal short-chain fatty acid propionate and infant sleep

© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. The gut microbiota harvests energy from indigestible plant polysaccharides, forming short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are absorbed from the bowel. SCFAs provide energy—presumably after easily digested food components have been absorbed from the small intestine. Infant night waking is believed by many parents to be due to hunger. Our objective was to determine whether faecal SCFAs are associated with longer uninterrupted sleep in infants. Infants (n = 57) provided faecal samples for determining SCFAs (7 months of age), and questionnaire data for determining infant sleep (7 and 8 months). Linear regression determined associations between SCFAs—faecal acetate, propionate and butyrate—and sleep. For each 1% higher propionate at 7 months of age, the longest night sleep was 6 (95% CI: 1, 10) minutes longer at both 7 and 8 months. A higher proportion of total faecal SCFA as propionate was associated with longer uninterrupted infant sleep.