IBD: Reduce Inflammation With Better Sleep

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have sleep issues. The CDC has even gone as far as calling this a “public health problem” because people who don’t get enough good quality sleep are at risk for numerous chronic diseases and accidents, e.g., automobile or industrial.

If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and are one of the millions of Americans who don’t get a good night’s rest, check out these tips and talk with your own doctor.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is your body’s restorative process. It is necessary to help your brain function, to have proper emotional stability, and for your overall physical health. Your body repairs itself in numerous ways while you are sleeping.

People with IBD should also know that a study review published in October 2016 in Biological Psychiatry, “Sleep Disturbance, Sleep Duration, and Inflammation,” showed a link between sleep deprivation or poor sleep and an increase in inflammatory markers within the body. C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were all seen at increased levels in the sleep-deprived and are signs of systemic inflammation.

If you are already dealing with an inflammatory condition, the last thing you need is to add more inflammation by not sleeping properly. In fact, a previous 2007 study in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, “Impact of Sleep Disturbances in Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” found that the less sleep an IBD patient got, the higher they rated the severity of their disease. The researchers in both studies noted that sleep disturbances need to be addressed just as any other disease risk factor would be, because improving sleep is paramount to good health.

How to get a good night’s sleep

First check out the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation for the amount of sleep needed based on gender and age. It is important to have a good grasp on how much sleep you actually need. There are also several factors that may need to be addressed to get a good night’s sleep.

For many people the steps below can drastically improve their sleeping habits:

  • Be sure to have a set sleep and wake time every day. Getting into a schedule for sleeping can help you get quality sleep.

  • Exercise can help you get a better quality of sleep. Even as little as 10 minutes per day can improve a person’s sleep.

  • Be sure to get exposure to natural light during the day to establish good circadian rhythms

  • Limit any naps to 30 minutes or less

  • Limit stimulants like caffeine or nicotine before bed

  • Avoid foods (like heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks) that might trigger indigestion. If you have acid reflux, talk with your doctor about ways to treat it so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.

  • Avoid excessive alcohol before bedtime. While it might make you feel sleepy, alcohol is not conducive to good-quality sleep.

  • Put electronics away an hour or two before going to bed

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that promotes sleep and keep the sleep environment relaxing. Maintaining the proper temperature (between 60 and 67 degrees for most people) and using earplugs or white nose machines may help aid in promoting quality sleep.

If these tips do not help you to get a better night’s sleep or you have frequent snoring, symptoms of sleep apnea, or are frequently overtired despite getting enough rest, it is time to see your physician. He or she may want to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to your sleep issues and fatigue.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.