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Digestive Problems May Lead to Insomnia

Review on April 03, 2009

Restless nights lead to dull and dreary days. Drinking loads of coffee to compensate, suffering stomachaches and leaden limbs: it's a cycle that can go on and on for what seems like forever. Is this what hell is like? Possibly. However, there is a way out that many people don't realize. A bevy of recent studies have linked digestive problems with sleep disorders such as insomnia. From irritable bowel syndrome to acid reflux, there is a host of digestive problems that can wreak havoc with sleep patterns.

digestive problems insomnia

Of digestive problems, one appears to cause insomnia more than the others. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, has been linked in numerous studies to a poor night of sleep. In a widespread survey conducted by the Mayo Clinic, other digestive problems such as a sensitive stomach or heartburn also seemed to be linked to sleep disturbances.

In a study specifically related to heartburn conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, a number of patients diagnosed with acid reflux or heartburn were monitored for eight weeks. At the commencement of the study, an extremely low 11% of the patients reported experiencing a normal night of sleep. After being given medication for their digestive problems, by the end of the study almost half of the patients reported receiving a normal night of sleep. More research is necessary however, as this study only worked with a small sample and the next step would be to involve a placebo group as well.

While the exact reason for this link is not known at the moment, scientists and researchers speculate that it has something to do with neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is released in the bowel. Serotonin is also a major factor in the sleep cycle as well as mood regulation. It follows that if a neurotransmitter such as serotonin is unbalanced in the body, it could lead both to digestive problems as well as insomnia.

  • Edwards, Dr. Charmaine. "Digestive disorders are more prevalent in women". North County Journal.
  • Shin, Fukudo. "Role of corticotropin-releasing hormone in irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation". Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007, Tokyo, Japan.
  • "Digestive Problems". Aim for Health.