How bad sleep harms your digestion

It’s no secret that sleep is important for wellbeing. In fact, a healthy night’s sleep also ensures better digestion. We’ll tell you how to get sleep and digestion in harmony.

In this article you will learn:

  • How your digestion relates to your sleep pattern
  • How to get your internal clock and thus your digestion in tune

Heartbeat, breathing or digestion: the vast majority of processes in the human body follow a natural rhythm that is controlled by an internal clockwork that is essentially coordinated by the alternation of day and night – and thus brightness and darkness. As long as this inner rhythm is in flux, we don’t worry about it – and that’s a good thing.

That changes suddenly, however, if, for example, digestion gets out of step and becomes sluggish. Sleep problems can make the symptoms of constipation even worse – which affects quality of life in two ways.

Disturbed digestion, disturbed sleep, disturbed everyday pleasures

The human body continuously produces various hormones and enzymes in accordance with the rhythm of the internal clock . The respective organs are also more or less active at different times – even at night. While the hormone leptin mediates satiety , ghrelin, as an antagonist , increases the need for food .

If sleep is disturbed, if we sleep too little or, as in shift work, very irregularly, the concentration of the appetite stimulant ghrelin is increased considerably, while the release of leptin is reduced. At the same time, the production of the sleep hormone melatonin is disrupted – and the cogs in the internal clock no longer mesh properly, which can have consequences for digestion .

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Disorders of the stomach and intestines are common among shift workers. And those affected by constipation can also tell you a thing or two about it: If they suffer from problems sleeping at night, they are often affected by more pronounced constipation – which has been shown to have an impact on the mood . What to do?

Getting your digestion back on track – reliable help for the sluggish bowel

If the digestion is out of sync and stalled, this means much more than just an irregular bowel movement problem for those affected, because constipation – and the hard, painful bowel movements associated with it and the feeling of being “bloated” – affects the quality of life. Untreated constipation can be linked to a shift in the gut microbiome as well as a risk of heart disease .

Timely, effective help is therefore required. The following active ingredients are available for the drug treatment of constipation: 

  • Bisacodyl
  • Sodium picosulfate
  • Macrogol
  • Anthrachinone
  • Sorbit
  • Glauber’s salt, Epsom salt
  • lubricant
  • Fiber

The active ingredients differ in terms of mode of action, onset of action, area of ​​application, dosage form, expert recommendation and proven effectiveness and tolerability. At the doctor and in the pharmacy there is the possibility of getting detailed advice on the different medicines. Together we can surely find the right preparation.

Bisacodyl, sodium picosulfate and anthraquinones are recommended to be taken in the evening so that the effect occurs the following morning – at a time when bowel movements are easiest. This makes use of the fact that when you wake up, the intestinal activity is also stimulated and thus has a natural peak in the morning. 

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Another stimulus can be set by breakfast: When the esophagus and stomach are irritated by food or drinks in the morning , the large intestine reacts with contractions – and ultimately defecation. Scientists speak of the gastrocolic reflex in this context. The goal: a carefree start to the day without having to worry about digestion.

Back to the natural sleep rhythm

What else can you do to get the natural rhythm of your internal clocks back on track? Experts recommend plenty of light during the day and complete darkness at night for good quality sleep and consequently positive digestion. Anyone who also uses the active times of the digestive organs and the natural rhythm of the hormones involved in the metabolism – z. B. through regular meals – is on the right track.

Stress can also keep you up at night: this is how you combat stress-related sleep disorders.

The evening meal should not be too difficult to allow the digestive organs to regenerate during the night . And you can also do something to help you sleep: with as complete darkness as possible in the bedroom – this supports the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Shift workers or night workers have a harder time. They have significantly less influence on external conditions and thus on keeping the rhythm of their internal clock in harmony.

The consideration of internal factors, e.g. B. when planning working hours , but can have positive effects in many areas. Work plans in which the shift change takes place in a clockwise direction, i.e. from day to evening to night shift, are therefore favorable.

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  • Andresen V et al. S2k guideline chronic constipation: definition, pathophysiology, diagnosis and therapy; Common guideline of the DGNM and DGVS. 2013; AWMF registration number: 021/019
  • Angerer P, Petru R. Shift work in modern industrial society and health consequences. Somnology 2010; 14: 88-97
  • Eberlin M et al. Cardiovascular risks in chronic constipation: a look at current data. PZ Prisma 2017; 24: 180-182
  • Eberlin M et al. News from the enteral microbiome. PZ Originalia 2017; 7th
  • Enck P et al. Prevalence of constipation in the German population – a representative survey (GECCO). United European Gastroenterol J 2016; 4: 429–437
  • Jiang Y et al. Influence of sleep disorders on somatic symptoms, mental health and quality of life in patients with chronic constipation. Medicine 2017; 96: e6093
  • Mueller-Lissner S et al. Bisacodyl and sodium picosulfate improve bowel function and quality of life in patients with chronic constipation – analysis of pooled data from two randomized controlled trials. Open Journal of Gastroenterology 2017; 7: 32–43
  • Patient guide of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM). Sleep problems when working shifts. 2011

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