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The Connection between Sleep and IBS

IBS has a connection with a lot of body functions. Sleep is one of the most important functions that has a strong correlation with IBS. There are 36 widely known studies involving more than 60000 patients on the prevalence of sleep disorder in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A person with a sleep disorder is 50% more likely to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Let’s look at how sleep disorders can lead to the worsening of IBS –

Sleep leading to eating disorder

A lot of times sleeplessness can lead to people turning to comfort foods and eating at odd times. This phenomenon might alleviate the mood in the short run but all these habits trigger the digestive system. Foods filled with sugar worsen IBS symptoms. Eating late at night disrupts the circadian rhythm and also does not allow enough time for the food to be digested. All these lead to bloating and gastritis.


Chronic sleep disruption often causes reversible changes in the gut microbiota. Sleep quality assessed by the Pittsburgh sleep quality index was also found to be related to the composition of the gut microbiome in healthy older adults. Once the gut microbiome is impacted, the bad bacteria are more in abundance than the good bacteria. This condition is called dysbiosis and can result in worsening of the IBS symptoms

Body Systems

The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis can be inhibited by sleep and sleep disorder. This in results lead to increase in the secretion of cortisol. The release of cortisol adversely affects the gut microbiome

The viscous cycle

We have seen how bad sleep leads to IBS, IBS also in turns to sleep disorder

IBS related anxiety

Anxiety arising from IBS can increase the cortisol levels in the body. A high level of cortisols can disrupt sleep efficiency.

IBS Pain

Abdominal pain because of IBS can activate your sympathetic nervous system. This makes the body alert and prepared to act. This may divert resources of the brain that keep the sleep in check. This diversion of resources makes the sleep less efficient.

IBS Mood Disorder

IBS related mood disorders can affect how the movement of the brain muscles when in sleep, This can also create sleep disorders

How to manage both sleep disorder and IBS

1. Diet

Fixing diet is must to manage IBS. A lot of people consume foods that are unhealthy and could be triggering IBS symptoms. It is important to diagnose the foods that do not work for an individual and eliminate those. Individuals can be averse to lactose, gluten, fat and also might noe bconsuming ebough fiber, water. FODMAP diet works for a lot of people where carbs that are uneasy to digest are removed from the diet. Otherwise, these carbs fermented in the gut and release gas. However for evey individual trigger foods are different. It is important to seek help from a healthcare professional in figuring out the right diet for you.

Cutting out on tea and coffee can be very effective in managing both IBS and sleep disorders. Caffeine intake can disrupt the sleep cycle and can cause disturbances many times.

2. Exercise

Exercises like jogging, running, swimming and yoga are extremely beneficial in managing both sleep and IBS stress. Regular exercise is beneficial for overall health and can positively impact gut function. Engaging in physical activity helps stimulate digestion, improves bowel movements, and reduces stress levels.

Exercise increases the serotonin levels in the body which improves sleep efficiency.

Yoga has been shown to promote digestion, relieve bloating, and reduce stress levels, all of which contribute to better gut health. Some beneficial yoga poses include


  • Step 1 – Sit on your heels and then touch your toes to each other. Separate your knees to hip-width apart.
  • Step 2 – Exhale and place your upper body in between your thighs
  • Step 3 – Lay your hands down and stretch your arms with plans facing up
  • Step 4 – Push your shoulders towards the ground

Anand Balasana

  • Step 1 – Lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor
  • Step 2 – Pull your feet up with your hands with bent knees making a right angle with the floor
  • Step 3 – Grab your feet and pull the knees closer to the ground and if comfortable you can rock from side to side


  • Step 1 – Lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor
  • Step 2 – Lift your legs up with bent knees and bring them closer to the stomach
  • Step 3 – Bring your arms around your legs
  • Step 4 – Now move your neck towards your chest while bringing your legs with bent knees closer to the chest as well

Supta Matseyndrasan

  • Step 1 – Lie flat on your back with legs extended
  • Step 2 – Pull your right know on your chest while keeping the left leg as it is
  • Step 3 – Now get the right knee to cross the chest and place it on your left side with the knee touching the floors
  • Step 4 – Place the right arm on the right side and turn your head to look over the right arm
  • Step 5 – Keep in this position for 5 minutes


  • Step 1 – Come in plank position and from here keep both knees on the floor
  • Step 2 – Take the right leg forward and look up in front of you with the left knee still touching the ground
  • Step 3 – Place your palms on the right thigh and widen the stance as much as you can
  • Step 4 – Keep in this position for around 5 minutes

Make mental healthy a priority

Mindfulness is of extreme importance for sleep disorders and IBS. The first step is acceptance followed by an attitude change towards IBS and sleep disorder. Realising that the issues can be managed by improving mental health and reducing any panic associated with it gives a good start.

Here are some strategies for stress management:

Mindfulness and meditation: Practising mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or guided imagery, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. These practices have been shown to positively influence gut function and alleviate digestive symptoms.

Regular relaxation: Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as taking warm baths, practising gentle stretching exercises, or pursuing hobbies that bring joy and calmness, can help reduce stress levels.

Counselling or therapy: In some cases, seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor can assist in addressing stress and anxiety that may contribute to gastric problems. Therapy can provide valuable tools and coping mechanisms to manage stress effectively.

It’s important to note that stress management techniques may vary for individuals. Finding what works best for you and incorporating it into your daily routine is vital to achieving long-term relief.


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