Sleep Your Way to Better IBS Symptom Management
Last updated: September 2021
While the “S” in “IBS” may not stand for “sleep,” it’s a factor that can significantly influence disease management. But restorative sleep goes beyond reaching a minimum number of hours. Here is why you need to rest to better digest and avoid distress!
Sleep and IBS
According to the International Foundation of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), approximately 40 percent of people with IBS experience sleep disturbances.1 Symptoms associated with IBS, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloating, at times can wake people up better than an alarm clock. Although it may not affect the total number of hours of rest, symptoms can prevent falling into the deep sleep associated with rejuvenation. But, as the saying goes, quality is better than quantity.
After a restless night, life tends to be a s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e. With the brain on snooze, it can be challenging to think clearly, ultimately leading to increased stress levels. Being in a frequent state of stress can worsen symptoms, which then cycles back to yet another sleepless night. Know there are steps you can take to get better sleep—and yes, it’s possible. Good sleep and IBS management go hand and hand.
How to improve sleep quality with IBS
Quit counting sheep and check out these tips to enable a more restorative sleep.2
Turn off technology
The artificial light that emits from our beloved cell phones, tablets, and television is a primary culprit for decreased sleep quality. While you may adore watching your favorite series on repeat, it’s best to transition to a screen-free bedroom for more restorative sleep. Wind down with a warm bath or read a relaxing book! Switch to a more traditional alarm clock with dimmed lights instead of relying on your cell phone alarm. The temptation to check email or read online can be strong and cause a delay in getting the sleep you need. If the thought of leaving your phone outside of your bedroom puts you in a cold sweat, put on a dresser that’s not in arms reach.
Say no to noise
Whether you have a snoring partner, partying neighbor, or live on a busy street, a noise-filled night can negatively impact your sleep quality. The constant wakeups can prevent falling into a deep sleep, ultimately contributing to chronic fatigue. Eliminate unwanted sounds by investing in a white noise machine or earplugs to get some well-needed zzz’s.
Go to the dark side
Create an environment that fosters better sleep quality by eliminating light that can contribute to unwanted wakeups. Close the door fully. Use black-out shades. Cover the light emitting from outlets or fire detectors. Every little bit counts!
Embrace a sun salutation
The brain has a “master clock” that regulates sleep cycles through environmental cues, such as light. This is why people get energized at sunrise and feel tired after dark. But daily exposure to high levels of natural light can increase both sleep quality and quantity. Get outside to get a good night’s rest!
Sleep aids that can help IBS
While there are strategies to get a better night’s rest, sometimes it’s simply not enough! When all else fails, experiment with these remedies to improve sleep quality to better IBS symptom management.
While it’s not recommended to consume daily, melatonin can help you fall asleep if you’ve tried everything else. Start with 1mg or less consumed 30-60 minutes before bed and increase to 3mg if necessary.
Use flower power to decrease stress and help improve symptoms of IBS. It can be used as an oil mist sprayed on your pillow or lightly inhaled to get a more restful night's sleep.
This water soluble-amino acid naturally occurs in some mushrooms and black and green tea can have a calming effect, helping you fall asleep faster. A common dose is 50mg.3
Always remember to talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian who specializes in supplements to get a safe brand that does not interfere with any medication or medical conditions. If you are struggling to master your slumber to better your IBS symptom management, work with a health professional for a more individualized approach.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?