Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, or experiencing disturbed sleep which is often associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This in turn can lead to unwelcome symptoms such as irritability and fatigue during the day.
Sleep is critical for our bodies to repair and restore so losing sleep may also be detrimental to our general health, especially if an underlying issue exists.
For general information on sleeping issues, sleep disturbances or insomnia go to our Sleep Hub.
In Western society most people eat their largest meal of the day in the evening. If you experience IBS symptoms after the intake of food then it is likely that by the time you are ready for bed, your symptoms will have started to flare up.
During sleep your parasympathetic nervous system becomes more active. This part of the nervous system has been nicknamed the ‘rest and digest system’ because it controls a lot of unconscious bodily functions, including digestion.
So, during the night when we aren’t consciously controlling our bodies, digestion will be active and any issues associated with your digestive system may become more evident. Pain, discomfort or distinctive changes in bowel movements are all likely to disturb sleep.
There are a few simple steps you can take at home to try to sleep better at night:
Avoid caffeine: Caffeine releases adrenaline in the body, which puts our bodies into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This state can trigger pronounced physical responses such as sweating and heart palpitations - far from feeling relaxed! Try to avoid caffeinated drinks at least in the four hours leading up to bed time; use camomile tea as a soothing alternative
Get in a good bedtime routine: This includes actions or factors to help aid sleep which we call our sleep hygiene tips. A good example is having a hot bath in the lead up to bed time to help relax your muscles, add in some lavender bath oil which is known as a calming herb.
Exercise: There is some suggestion that exercise may help to encourage better sleep. The theories surrounding this advice suggest that as exercise helps to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, sleep quality improves. Exercise can also be a more direct, physical effect on the body – you will naturally be more tired and in need of restoration and repair after physical exertion.
There may be a few herbal remedies which can help to give you a better night of sleep.
Dormeasan: Dormeasan is a herbal sleep aid made from the herbs valerian and hops. It is especially useful in the relief of sleep disturbances caused by the symptoms of mild anxiety so may be especially useful for people experiencing both IBS and anxiety as well as poor sleep
Tormentil: If the bowel symptoms of IBS are the primary cause of the insomnia it may be useful to try and address this issue specifically, reducing interruptions to your night’s rest. Consider Tormentil which can be used to help calm the gut and maintain normal rhythmical contractions.
If home and herbal remedies fail to help you sleep better, a trip to your doctor may be necessary. This is especially important if you feel particularly anxious, depressed or suicidal.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-spasmodic drugs to help calm the gut. In addition, hypnotic or sedative drugs may be recommended but do be aware of potential side effects and the need to use these options only as short-term solutions.
Hello. My name is Alison Cullen and I am an experienced nutritional therapist with a clinic in Ayrshire, Scotland. I currently combine running my clinic with the role of Education Manager for A Vogel. I lecture, train and write extensively on health issues, which I find endlessly fascinating.
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