This comes from my March 2010 newsletter.
Sleep & Digestion
It makes sense that digestive disturbances, such as heartburn, indigestion, and nausea, can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. But did you know that the amount and quality of your sleep can also affect your digestion? In fact, studies have shown that many patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and “sensitive stomachs” experience increased symptoms the morning after a restless night.
Why? In part it’s because digestion, absorption, and assimilation of our food is a process that requires a great deal of energy. Adequate, restful sleep ensures that your digestive organs have time for rest and repair. Lack of sleep also makes us more susceptible to stress, which can significantly influence digestive symptoms. Daytime fatigue also tends to cause cravings for sugar and caffeine, which do provide a temporary energy boost but also irritate the digestive tract and lead to increased sleep disturbances.
What can you do? The best way to break the cycle is to resolve or reduce the underlying issues that are causing the sleep disturbances, such as heartburn, nausea, anxiety, or stress.
5 Steps to Better Sleep
Just like digestion, sleeping habits vary from person to person. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
- Skip the Midnight Snack: Digestion requires a great deal of energy. If bedtime rolls around and your body is still working hard to digest your food, sleep is often compromised. Avoid heavy foods in the evening and give yourself at least 2 hours between eating and laying down.
- Balance Your Blood Sugar: You know that caffeine can interfere with sleep, but did you know that sugar can do the same? For those with irregular digestion, nocturnal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar that occurs during the night) can contribute to disrupted sleep. To prevent swings in blood sugar, eat small, well-balanced meals every few hours and avoid concentrated sweets, like soda and candy. (For more information about proper diet and nutrition for gastroparesis, check out my Eating for Gastroparesis eBook.)
- Have a Cup of Tea: For many, chamomile tea offers a mild sedative effect, reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. It has also been shown to reduce nausea and indigestion. Note: those with ragweed allergies should not consume chamomile.
- Take Time to Unwind: Stress plays a significant role in both insomnia and digestive problems. Make it a point to do something relaxing before bed, such as gentle yoga, reading, journaling, or taking a warm bath. If you find your mind racing once you lie down, try writing your thoughts down in a notebook with the intention of addressing them in the morning.
- Prop Up or Roll Over: Reflux keeping you awake? Raise the head of your bed about six inches using blocks or risers. Sleeping on the left side has also been found to reduce heartburn and support overall digestion. Attention stomach sleepers: that’s considered the worst position for digestion.