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Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Sleepless Nights

Posted on November 06, 2019

Are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms disturbing your sleep? You’re not alone. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), sleep problems – and next-day fatigue - are common among people with IBS.

Members of myIBSteam confirm that pain, gas, cramps, indigestion, and the “urge to go” regularly robs them of a good night’s sleep. “IBS nausea kept me awake all night. I hate days like this!” said one sleepless member. “Been up since 2:30 a.m. with cramps and diarrhea. I’m now good friends with the toilet bowl,” shared another.

IBS Symptoms Worse at Night
“Accidents wake me in the middle of the night. I'm not getting any real sleep,” lamented one myIBSteam member. “I didn’t have symptoms until this evening, then raced to the bathroom for hours,” said another.

Severe pain and nausea can also make it hard to sleep. “The pain is unbearable. Cried myself to sleep and woke up in severe pain,” said one woman, sharing the experience of others.

Overeating, eating poorly – or having a late dinner – also has consequences. “I had a yucky flare up Monday night (all night!). Pain, nausea, gassy, poop pains. My own fault. I ate the wrong foods at dinner,” admitted one woman.

Another member regretted a night out with friends. “We had a blast, but boy did I suffer later. I woke up five times during the night with pain and nausea. The past few nights have been brutal. Super tired, drained, fatigued, and weak.”

MyIBSteam members with IBS-related constipation have trouble sleeping because they can’t evacuate their bowels. “It’s 2 a.m. and I’m awake with bad chest pain because I’m bloated and constipated,” shared one member. “I can't go back to sleep because I feel like stool is stuck in my colon and IBS medication isn't helping,” said another.

Night sweats, which are more typical of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are a problem for some members. “I've only had it with this current flare, but I'm wondering if it's IBS or something else?” questioned one woman. “I have them, but I can’t tell if it’s IBS or menopause!” remarked another.

Members’ remedies for IBS symptoms
In addition to prescription and over-the-counter medications for IBS-related diarrhea and constipation, myIBSteam members share remedies that calm their stomachs and help them sleep.

One woman eats Greek yogurt - which is packed with healthy bacteria. “I still have bloating and gas at night but ‘knock wood’ I haven't had pain and nausea for a couple weeks.” Another, who takes a probiotic supplement says, “My IBS is much better. No accidents over the past two weeks.” Cutting out wheat and gluten under a dietician’s guidance helped stop one member’s diarrhea.

For members with constipation, Metamucil (Psyllium fiber) – a natural laxative and bulking agent – in water before dinner or bedtime has been successful. Other members swear by celery juice. “I find it helps a lot with the IBS. Yucca and dandelion supplements also clean me out nicely when I’m stopped up,” shared one woman.

When IBS-related reflux acts up, one member raises the head of her bed to keep stomach acids at bay. Another uses special wedge pillows. “Elevating the head is a good suggestion. Also, try not to eat heavy before bed. ait a few hours before sleeping,” she recommended.

Check with your doctor before taking any alternative remedies for IBS or insomnia.

Good sleep habits
Getting quality rest is important for your overall well-being. IFFGD recommends several sleep hygiene guidelines to minimize disturbances, including relaxing before bed, avoiding caffeine for four hours before bedtime, and only using your bed for sleep or sexual activity.

Alert your health care provider to any IBS symptoms that keep you up at night. Treatment for sleep problems can improve overall quality of life with IBS.

On MyIBSTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with IBS, members talk about a range of personal experiences including insomnia and sleep disturbances.

Here are some questions-and-answers about insomnia and sleep disturbances:

Here are some conversations about insomnia and sleep disturbances:

Can you relate? Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to myIBSteam today and start – or join – a conversation. You'll be surprised how many others share similar stories.

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