person sleeping on a hammock attached to intestines

Can a good night sleep actually help your Crohn's Disease?

A good night sleep can be hard to find these days, with everything open 24/7 and the constant lure of our phones and streaming devices. With Crohn's or colitis, things can be even more tricky. We might be unlucky enough to spend evenings dashing in and out of the bathroom or lie awake staring at the ceiling because our fatigue has made our sleep cycles all over the place! But have you ever wondered about whether having Crohn's could make you more prone to having awful sleep and, in turn, if regularly not getting enough shuteye could make your Crohn's feel worse the next day?

Sleep and Crohn's disease

I've always been one of those people that NEEDED a lot of sleep. Anyone else? Looking back, I wonder if those days when I felt like a complete zombie if I only had 7 or 8 hours as a teenager were less about growth spurts and more about my Crohn's starting to develop. I could, and still can (when my baby will let me!), sleep forever and am proud that I've pretty much slept in any place possible (hospital waiting rooms? Check. Public transport? Check. On the toilet? Well, actually, no, but I've been tempted! and through any noise disturbance (thunderstorm? What thunderstorm!).

Yet, alongside this, I've also noticed that if I have a few days in a row that my sleep has been disturbed, such as jetlag or one of those super busy weeks, my Crohn's definitely seems to be worse. In turn, one of the powerful things I feel I can do for my Crohn's is getting an early night and switch off; and 9/10 times I'm lucky enough I do feel a little bit better the next day for doing so.

What do the studies say about sleep and Crohn's or ulcerative colitis?

I thought I'd share with you a study I read specifically about sleep disturbance and IBD, since I found it really fascinating and thought you might too! Firstly, it's proven that those of us with Crohn's disease do experience more sleep disturbances than others; and it's actually not just when we're flaring.1 50% of those in remission were shown to have disturbed sleep, rising to almost 80% when flaring. But why, might that be? Well, the types of things that might cause this are...

  • Fatigue might change our sleeping patterns
  • We might wake in the night with cramps and toilet trips
  • We're more likely to suffer from mental health issues; a marker of which can be things like insomnia or disturbed sleep.
  • The side effects of certain medication might affect our sleep; this makes sense since those on steroids and biologics were more likely to struggle with this.
  • The inflammatory cytokine TNF can change our sleep pattern and many of us have higher levels of this, hence taking 'anti-TNF' medications like Humira.

Can sleep actually make Crohn's or colitis feel better?

So, what about my thoughts that a good night sleep can make my Crohn's feel better in some way? Well, actually lack of sleep can impact our overall health and wellbeing; since we need it for good health. But, the scary part is that the study also found that those who were in remission but did have poor sleep were 10% more likely to flare up six months down the line. A scary thought for a new mom is probably facing another eighteen years of sleepless nights! Strangely, whilst those with ulcerative colitis did have poor sleep like those of us with Crohn's, there didn't seem to be a link between poor sleep and developing a UC flare-up. Meaning there are perhaps more and more developments to be done.

I think this is a really interesting topic and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this 'chicken or the egg scenario?' Is your Crohn's the reason you toss and turn or is your tossing and turning potentially the reason your IBD could worsen in the future? Have you noticed a connection? Let me know in the comments below...

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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