Sleep Tips for People With IBD

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 16, 2021
3 min read

Fatigue is common in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can make your symptoms worse and set you up for a relapse. Follow these tips to raise your chances of a good night’s rest.

Following a routine -- even during the day -- can make a big difference.

Here are a few ways to prepare your body for sleep:

  • No naps -- avoid sleeping during the day if you can.
  • Try to exercise every day, no more than 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, which will signal your brain to shut down and help with night sweats.
  • Stop watching TV, playing video games, or staring at your computer or smartphone at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Do a relaxing activity, like reading, about an hour before bedtime.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Track your sleep patterns and how they affect your symptoms in a journal to discuss with your doctor.

Watching what (and when) you eat and drink during the day can help your chances of sleeping well. Follow these tips to avoid getting an upset stomach before bedtime:

  • Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m.
  • Don’t eat or drink after 7 p.m., or try to stop at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bed.
  • Eat bigger meals earlier in the day and lighter ones in the evening.
  • Don’t eat heavy or hard-to-digest foods, like spicy or fried ones, at night.

There are several ways to treat the symptoms that keep you up at night, such as over-the-counter medications, supplements, and other methods. Always talk to your doctor about which ones may be best for you.

Here are a few of the safest solutions to common nightly IBD issues:

Acetaminophen. Try this pain reliever for stomach pain. But avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen or ibuprofen. These can make your symptoms and condition worse.

Fiber supplement. It may help with some IBD symptoms. Start with a small amount and drink with plenty of water.

Loperamide. This medication may help if you have severe diarrhea. Ask your pharmacist about how to use it properly.

Make sure you keep up with your prescriptions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the right time to take them. Some drugs can make you drowsy and others can cause sleep problems, so they should be taken at bedtime or first thing in the morning.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you're taking, and ask if you should add one that helps with sleep.

Studies have shown that some of the sleep issues that affect people with IBD aren’t because of physical symptoms or treatment. Instead, psychological or emotional stress can lead to depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness or talk therapy may help. For some, this may mean praying or meditating before bed. Or you may prefer to do yoga, breathing exercises, or other relaxation techniques. Some research has found that insomnia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of talk therapy.