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IBS and Sleep

Six Intriguing Research Findings


Updated September 04, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

IBS and Sleep
Photo: Ray Kachatorian@Getty Images

Many IBS patients report a connection between the quality of their sleep and their IBS symptoms. Luckily, researchers have listened and turned their attention to the subject. It is hoped that a better understanding of the relationship between sleep and IBS will lead to a deeper insight into the underlying causes of the disorder. From the ongoing research, some preliminary findings have emerged:

1. Morning IBS symptoms appear to be related to the quality of your sleep the night before. The worse you sleep, the worse your symptoms will be. That bad night's sleep is also likely to affect how you are feeling at the end of the day.

2. Luckily, a bad IBS day does not seem to affect the quality of sleep at night.

3. Differences have been found in neuroendocrine (hormone) levels between patients who suffer from constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C) and those who suffer from diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D).

4. Differences in autonomic nervous system functioning, as measured by heart rate changes, have also been found among the various IBS sub-types.

5. IBS patients may misperceive how bad their night's sleep really was. Studies that objectively measure sleep quality using polysomnography found discrepancies between patient reports of poor sleep quality and the objective data.

6. Sleep disturbances tend to be more pronounced in IBS patients who also suffer from depression.

Taken all together, these findings provide more evidence that IBS is not all in your head!


Burr, R., et.al. "Catecholamine and cortisol levels during sleep in women with irritable bowel syndrome." Neurogastroenterology & Motility 2009 21: 1148-e97.

Goldsmith, G. & Levin, J. "Effect of sleep quality on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome" Digestive Diseases and Sciences 1993 38:1809-1814.

Jarrett, M., et.al. "Autonomic Nervous System Function During Sleep Among Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome" Digestive Diseases and Sciences 200853:694-703.

Jarrett, M., et.al. "Sleep Disturbance Influences Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome" Digestive Diseases and Sciences 2000 45:952-959.

Orr, W. "Sleep and Irritable Bowel Syndrome" International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Fact Sheet.

Robert, J., Eisenbruch, S. & Orr, W. "Sleep-related autonomic disturbances in symptom subgroups of women with irritable bowel syndrome." Digestive Diseases and Sciences 2006 51:2121-2127.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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