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How To Get A Good Night's Sleep With Crohn's Disease

Woman sitting on bed holding stomach, head bowed
Woman sitting on bed holding stomach, head bowed

By Karen Appold

Getting a good night's sleep may be good for your health, but when you have Crohn's disease, uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating can disturb your slumber. And, according to a study done by researchers at Rush University in Chicago, the lack of restorative sleep can occur even when Crohn's isn’t active and will have a ripple effect on your quality of life, your gastrointestinal symptoms and the severity of your disease, even increasing your risk for flare-ups.

Others have found similar links between sleep issues and bowel problems. Research on 3,173 people with inflammatory bowel disease, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that people who had disrupted sleep had an increased risk of their disease reoccurring in six months," says Millie D. Long, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a study co-author. "This could be due to their inflammatory bowel disease or to getting poor sleep. More studies are needed to understand the relationship between sleep and disease recurrence."

More from Everyday Health:
Anatomy Of A Crohn's Flare
Sleep And Eating: Fighting Insomnia With Food
How To Stick With Your Crohn's Disease Medication Schedule

Poor Sleep And Crohn's: Breaking The Pattern

Here are ways to counter symptoms that could be standing between you and the sleep you need to achieve better control over Crohn's. Try these tips for better sleep:

If You Have Night Sweats
Night sweats are common with active Crohn's disease. "Regardless of the temperature, if you have Crohn's disease, you may wake up one or more times a night sweating," says Maxwell Chait, MD, a gastroenterologist with Columbia Doctors Medical Group in Hartsdale, N.Y. For improving sleep, try wearing lightweight pajamas and consider taking a shower or bath before bedtime to help make you drowsy.

If You Have Pain
When your Crohn's is active, you may experience pain that wakes you up. Taking painkillers during a particularly tough episode may help with improving sleep. For joint pain, Dr. Chait suggests an over-the-counter drug, such as acetaminophen, that doesn’t cause digestive upsets. Also consider buying a body pillow, which may help you relax. In severe situations, talk to your doctor about whether taking a sleeping pill is a good idea.

If You Take Steroids
Although they can relieve symptoms, taking high doses of certain types of steroids -- such as 20 milligrams of prednisone a day -- can result in poor sleep. Splitting the daily dose between morning and evening may help. Make up your lost sleep with a 15-minute catnap during the day.

If You're Eating A Lot At Night
Poor sleep and Crohn's can be related to eating late in the evening. Your digestive tract works most efficiently in the morning, so try to eat larger meals earlier in the day to improve sleep at night and definitely avoid eating a large meal or even a large snack after 8 p.m. If you wake up with nausea during the night, a few bites of a cracker or a piece of bread may soothe you, Chait suggests.

If You Have Reflux
Gastric reflux is a common problem with Crohn's and a hindrance to getting good sleep. It worsens when you have a partial obstruction of the small intestine, which causes food to back up. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can reduce symptoms and improve sleep.

If You Get Diarrhea
Diarrhea will deprive you of sleep if you have to repeatedly get up to go to the bathroom through the night. "Don't eat right before bedtime," Chait says. Instead, try taking an anti-diarrhea medicine such as Imodium and remember to make the bathroom your last stop before bed.

If You Have Anxiety
If you're anxious or depressed about Crohn’s and its effects on your life, try developing some basic stress-management strategies, such as meditation skills, to restore a sense of calm.

If you continue to have difficulty sleeping, talk to your doctor about being tested for sinus problems, allergies or obstructive sleep apnea, all of which can rob you of restful sleep.

"How To Get A Good Night's Sleep With Crohn's Disease" originally appeared on Everyday Health.

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