What Happens to Your Digestive System During Sleep? 8 Tips for Sleeping Better Update 06/2024

Good health requires adequate sleep. The body and brain are in a period of self-healing and learning consolidation. People who do not get enough sleep are more prone to suffer from conditions like heart disease and obesity. Does your digestive system suffer from a lack of sleep? It’s also worth considering: How can improper digestion affect your sleep? Digestive health and sleep are intertwined, and this article provides tips on how to improve your gut health so that you can get some shut-eye at night.

What Happens to Your Digestive System During Sleep?

Even while you’re sleeping, digestion is still taking place. Due to a lack of nutrients and fluids from your body, things move much more slowly when you’re unconscious. When it comes to healing and rebuilding the tissues in this part of the body, it’s also happening right now. Glucose ingested during the day powers these actions. If you eat a large meal before going to bed, your digestive system will continue to function while you sleep, which is not a good idea. This could have a number of unwelcome, sleep-disturbing adverse effects.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Digestion

Vulnerable to Inflammation

Inflammation in the intestines is a common cause of digestive issues. This umbrella includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. An immune response may set off an inflammatory flare-up in the body if the body doesn’t like or recognize what a person consumes or drinks. In order to maintain a healthy immune system, you must get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation causes an overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which leads to even greater inflammation. A classic “chicken and the egg” situation. You may have trouble sleeping if you have digestive problems. In addition, if you are unable to sleep, your digestive system may suffer as well.

Crave More Sugary Foods

It’s a well-known fact that being sleep-deprived increases one’s appetite. It’s not all in your head. A biological response has been discovered to be the cause of this phenomenon. In a nutshell, a hormonal imbalance is brought on by a lack of sleep. Leptin’s role in the body’s composition is overtaken by ghrelin. It makes sense to get an extra Snickers after lunch when you consider how sleep deprivation affects your judgment.

Predisposed to Stress

Stress can be exacerbated by sleep deprivation, especially if it was a concern that kept them up all night. The digestive system, on the other hand, is thrown into a loop while under stress. A negative reaction is more likely when you’re in a state of “fight or flight,” which your body goes into when you’re stressed. The majority of your blood and energy is flowing to your limbs and some parts of your brain. Both diarrhea and constipation are symptoms of digestion that have stalled.

Affects Neurochemicals

The body maintains a precise balance of hormones and other substances throughout the day. Cortisol and melatonin play key roles in the regulation of sleep. The body’s production of melatonin increases in the evening as it prepares to go to sleep. between 1 and 4 in the morning, there is a significant spike in traffic Eventually Cortisol (a stress hormone) takes over, replacing adrenaline. When you get up in the morning, your cortisol levels require a boost. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is converted to melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, throughout this cycle. Because it is mostly found in the intestines, it can interfere with the conversion of serotonin to melatonin and hence disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation begins when melatonin production declines and cortisol levels rise.

Stomach Problems that Cause Sleep Difficulties


Indigestion is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, from heartburn to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (GERD). A bad case of indigestion can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep, if not impossible. You may have to get up numerous times during the night to go to the bathroom, so finding a good sleeping position may be a challenge.


If you suffer from both congestion and insomnia, the symptoms may be related. If you’re getting adequate fiber in your diet, it’s conceivable that your symptoms are neurological or stress-related. Dehydration is another factor that contributes to constipation. It can be tough to get to sleep if you don’t drink enough water because your digestive system may be sluggish.


Heartburn can be debilitating when you’re trying to get some shut-eye. Heartburn is a common sign of acid reflux into the esophagus. Doctors used to think that the disease stemmed from an overabundance of acid in the body. In fact, they’ve since learned that this isn’t the case at all! Heartburn occurs when the digestive system is unable to produce adequate acid. It is because of this that the body doesn’t know how to shut off a certain valve. Thus, when enough digestive juice is flowing through the valve to break down the food, the valve closes. A result of this is that the valve is frequently left open, allowing the stomach to be filled with acid. Your symptoms worsen when you try to sleep by lying down.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

One in every ten to one in every twenty Americans suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes heartburn and acid reflux. A person who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may wake up in the middle of the night coughing or choking.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, more often known as IBS, is associated with difficulty sleeping. Aside from stomach problems, patients report that sleep deprivation is their most pressing health issue. Having a sleepless night increases the likelihood of an awful IBS day for someone with IBS.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the colon and rectum. This is a terrifying predicament. Because of their strict diets, many people suffer from cramping. When you have diarrhea that comes and goes without warning, it’s tough to plan social events. A circadian rhythm that is out of sync could lead to ulcerative colitis, despite the fact that the study is ongoing. Inflammatory cytokines are found in the blood of patients with UC, which shows that the immune system is involved.

Crohn’s Disease

Every person with Crohn’s Disease should prioritize getting adequate sleep to maintain their overall health. Without adequate sleep, even those in remission run the danger of relapsing.

Sleep Tips for Better Gut Health

Avoid Big Meals Before Bedtime

Don’t eat too much right before going to bed to give your digestive system a chance to rest. A piece of avocado toast or an apple with nut butter are good late-night snacks. Before you go to sleep, eat as many calories as possible during the day so that your body has time to rest and recuperate.

Check Your Sleep Position

When you’re attempting to get some shut-eye, avoid the stomach position. Internal organs of the digestive system are compressed as a result. When lying on your back, a wedge pillow can be utilized to raise your head. On the other hand, studies show that sleeping on your left side can enhance blood flow and digestion.


Try to unwind and have fun at night. Time to relax in the tub or have an intimate talk with the person you care about the most. Instead of being drawn into the world of television, social media, or work emails, consider reading a book. When you’re calm and relaxed before going to bed, you’re more likely to have a good night’s sleep.

Herbal Supplements

Natural solutions for stomach problems can help you sleep better. It’s important to look for businesses that employ only all-natural substances so that your body can heal itself. This can potentially make the condition worse in the long run if you use a lot of chemicals in your treatments.

Follow a Bedtime Routine

You’ll have an easier time falling asleep at night if you stick to a regular bedtime routine. Getting your brain to associate sleepiness with the end of the day is easy if you do the same routine every night. Take a bath or meditate to relax, or do something as simple as wash your face and brush your teeth to relieve stress.

Prepare for Nighttime Disruptions

If you have a long-term digestive disorder, you should know that it is quite rare for it to go on its own. In the middle of the night, there are bound to be some noises. While you’re out and about, don’t stress about not getting enough sleep. The more you worry, the worse it gets.

Pay Attention to Your Diet

Food allergies are common in people with gastrointestinal disorders like GERD, Crohn’s disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Keep a tight eye on your diet and stay away from anything that causes an allergic reaction in your body.

Reduce Stress

Anxiety is not always a bad thing. Unless you’re running out of time or being chased by a tiger, it’s not worth the effort. Tension should not be dealt with in the privacy of one’s own bed. You may take a few moments to slow down, breathe, and unwind at any time of the day or night. Many people find it difficult to sleep when they are under a great deal of stress. As you undoubtedly know, a lack of sleep raises your risk of developing digestive problems.

Digestion benefits and left-side sleeping

Sleeping on one’s backside is a common recommendation by advocates of digestive health. Regardless of whether you sleep on your front, side, or back, the most important thing is to use supportive pillows and a firm mattress.

  • There’s no way to verify that one side of the bed is better for your gut health than the other. On the other hand, the stomach’s position is a hint. This is where the stomach is supposed to be located so that it can properly digest food. Gravity is required to empty your small intestine of waste.
  • You may find relief from your heartburn if you sleep on your left side, as it relaxes those muscles that connect your stomach to your esophagus. Acid reflux can be lessened by contracting these muscles. According to a study by Trusted Source, acid reflux is more prevalent when you sleep on your right side.

Is a healthy diet the solution?

Here are some common-sense suggestions to help you sleep better while simultaneously improving your digestive system. Because your body is interrelated, it’s not unexpected that a healthy diet might improve your sleep. Processed meals, sugary snacks, and fast food should be avoided on a gut-friendly eating plan. As opposed to being vegan in 2020, focus on introducing more fiber-rich and fermented foods into your diet on a daily basis. It’s also a good idea to eat more berries, dark chocolate, almonds, and colorful plant-based meals in order to expand your nutritional horizons. It’s advisable to avoid consuming anything heavy in calories for two to three hours before going to bed in order to have a decent night’s rest. Instead, have a healthy dinner and allow yourself time to digest before going to bed. “Kill two birds with one stone, go for a stroll after supper, it may increase the quality of sleep and digestion,” says Atlas’ qualified dietitian and nutritionist Maria Kadarkova.

Foods and tips for your gut:

  • It is beneficial to consume organic food because pesticides can wreak havoc on the good bacteria in our digestive tracts. Aside from fruit and vegetable foods, grains, lentils, and dairy products are also commonplace.
  • Digestive health is improved by eating a wide variety of colored fruits and vegetables. A wide variety of plants, not only apples and bananas, are needed in our diets in order to ensure a wide variety of beneficial bacteria.
  • In your gastrointestinal tract, prebiotic meals supply energy to the millions of microorganisms that need it to survive and thrive. Apples, asparagus, artichokes, onions, and garlic are just a few of the fiber-rich vegetables that contain prebiotics.
  • Your sleep quality improves when you exercise regularly, as does your body’s ability to combat chronic inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can insomnia and sleep apnea cause digestive problems?

Yes, both of these conditions can have an impact on the digestive system. It is common for people with insomnia and sleep apnea to be sleep deprived since their bodies aren’t given enough time to rest and recuperate. As a result, sleep deprivation can exacerbate existing health problems while also increasing the risk of developing new ones.

What causes nighttime bowel movements?

Having a bowel movement in the middle of the night could be a sign that your digestive system isn’t working properly. Despite your best efforts, the problems we’ve been addressing will not go away just because you go to sleep. Normal digestion slows down and restores itself as you sleep, but a disturbed digestive system may require you to get out of bed multiple times during the night to stop it from churning.

How can I digest food at night?

Even at night and while you sleep, your digestive system continues to function normally. Make the process as simple as possible for you. You may speed things up and make it easier by following these tips:

  • Every day, consume at least 64 ounces of water.
  • Consume a diet high in natural, unprocessed foods.
  • Eat slowly, chew your food fully, and take a rest while you’re doing so.
  • Eat-in moderation and avoid overindulging.
  • Keep your late-night suppers to a bare minimum.

Can anxiety cause gas pain?

A fight-or-flight reaction in the body causes digestion to be halted temporarily. Unprocessed meals might cause gas and other symptoms in the stomach.


To learn that digestion is influenced by sleep is surprising, but it makes sense when you think about it. There are two divisions of the nervous system: the parasympathetic (commonly known as “rest and digest”), and the sympathetic (also known as “fight or flight”). An unbalanced neural system has an impact on all aspects of health, including sleep and digestion. You may now add digestive health to the list if you’re not getting enough sleep.

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