Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bad Bellies and Sleep

I have previously touched on the affect that sleep patterns have on the digestive system, but what about the effect that the digestive system has on your ability to get a good night's sleep?

For the last 2-3 years, I have struggled to get a full night's sleep. I did actually get a full night's sleep on one night last week, but I don't remember the last time I slept through the night before that, and it has not happened since. I have experienced two main types of sleeping difficulties: tossing and turning all night, and waking up two or three times during the night. While I have gotten used to it over time, and can cope on only a few hours of sleep most days, I have noticed that it can have a negative effect on my energy levels. I believe this has actually been a factor in the fact that I have had two car crashes in the last 18 months – thankfully, I am fine, but I can’t say the same for the cars! Additionally, I have found that if I have several nights in a row where I have slept very badly, I will inevitably get sick, usually with some form of cold or the flu.

However, for a long time I have struggled to figure out why I have had difficulties with sleeping for so long. Of course there are some nights where it is obviously due to things like stress from work, a bad stomach ache from a flare-up, or as a result of other symptoms from having a cold, but on other nights there doesn't seem to be a logical explanation.

So, I have been doing some research. As it turns out, I am not alone - difficulty sleeping and insomnia are common complaints among people with fructose malabsorption. As discussed on this blog for example, people have trouble waking up during the night, and being unable to fall asleep. Although it focused on the link between fructose malabsorption and depression, and not the link with sleep, this study concluded that there is a tendency for those with fructose malabsorption to digest L-tryptophan. This is because high levels of fructose in the body can interfere with the absorption of L-tryptophan in the digestive tract. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is responsible for producing hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, among other things.  Melatonin helps control the body’s sleep cycle, and therefore with less L-tryptophan and as a result less melatonin, this means that those with fructose malabsorption can experience disruptions in their sleep patterns.

After reading this information, I have noticed in retrospect that when I have had a particularly bad belly day, I do seem to have more trouble with sleeping compared to other days. Additionally, the time when I started having sleep difficulties seems to correspond with when I first experienced symptoms to do with my fructose malabsorption. This is something I am going to focus on more moving forward, and perhaps through experimenting with my diet, I will be able to sleep through the night more often! I will share what I work out later on :)

Have you noticed that your sleeping patterns are connected to your diet and IBS? Please comment below.

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