Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Sleep on IBS
Sleep. It’s one of those things that we often give low priority, yet sleep is so incredibly important for our ability to function each day. It’s only when you’re not getting enough sleep that it really hits home how much sleep sustains you.
Lack of sleep and IBS
I’ve always known that sleep was important to me. As someone who has battled at times with anxiety, lack of sleep is something I’ve experienced more times than I care to remember. Yet while an occasional night of anxiety-affected sleep would set off my IBS, it’s something I’d usually recover from after a couple of days.
But lately, for some reason that I don't understand, my body has decided that getting up before dawn makes sense. So instead of waking up after 7 AM, I’m now suddenly waking up before 5 AM. This might be okay if I was going to sleep earlier, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, my overly tired body is still choosing to get up early, even though more sleep is needed. So for the last couple of weeks, I’ve slowly been accumulating a sleep deficit of 2-3 hours per night.
At first, it wasn’t such a huge deal. A little bit of tiredness doesn’t have that much impact for a day or so. But the continued loss of sleep is wearing me down and affecting my resilience. And that’s affecting my IBS. But the effects on my symptoms aren’t consistent either, although maybe that’s because I have a mixed form of IBS.
So why does lack of sleep affect my IBS?
For me personally, it’s mostly because I end up with a more heightened feeling of stress. There’s nothing specific that I’m stressing about though. It’s more that I’m feeling like I have to get lots of things done, perhaps because I want to justify the extra time I’ve gained from being forced out of bed. Or maybe it’s that once the stress starts, the adrenaline rush keeps my attention in a forward-focused motion and always looking for the next thing.
Regardless, this continual stress on my mind and body is aggravating for my IBS. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious how it’s affecting me. But there are more subtle effects occurring too. For instance, foods that I usually tolerate well aren’t always sitting so well in my tummy. That’s what I meant by my resilience being affected. The things I can usually handle are now a bit of a problem.
How I’m surviving with less sleep than normal
The only thing that’s sustaining me at the moment is my morning walks. Getting out of the house for about an hour, walking along the tracks in the park, with fresh air and the joy of being outside. While it may seem like such a long walk would tire me out, it actually energizes me and helps me to keep pushing on. And I’m sure it’s good for my IBS too, because gentle exercise always helps things to be more stable.
In the meantime though, I need to remind myself that slowing down is okay to do. That I don’t have to get everything done today or tomorrow, even if I have more waking hours in the day. And maybe realizing that will help me to sleep better and wake up later. Which of course will then help the IBS to settle back down too.
Which time of day is worse for your IBS symptoms?