Sleep became hugely undervalued in Western society in recent years with many people believing or being led to believe that time spent sleeping was time wasted. Throw in the 24/7 connectivity most of us now have thanks to smartphones and you have a real recipe for disaster. A poor night’s sleep, or worse, days or weeks of poor sleep can really wreak havoc on your minds and bodies…and your guts.

Research is highlighting more and more how adequate sleep is vital not only for our lifespan but also for our ‘health-span’, that is, the number of years of healthy life that we should all enjoy. We should look on getting adequate sleep as being an investment in our health, not a cost to our productivity.

Sleeping. Dreams. Woman portrait. Afro American girl in pajama is hugging a pillow, on a yellow background

Our bodies normally go through some pretty amazing, necessary processes whilst we sleep. It helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, regulates our immune system and function, controls our metabolism, manages mood, enables knowledge retention, and aids memory – impressive. It is like an overnight mental help therapy and a nocturnal soothing balm.

People with IBS also more commonly report poor sleep as being a problem. This can lead to increased anxiety, fatigue and even lack of clear thought or poor cognitive function, particularly if occurring over successive days This can all lead to a worsening of gut symptoms as the Gut-Brain vicious cycle kicks in. Therefore, it’s important that we try to optimise our sleep and our so-called sleep hygiene.


The Gut Experts’ Sleep Tips

  • Experts suggest that we should set a ‘to-bed’ alarm as well as a wake-up alarm
  • Most adults need 7-8 hours a night. Try to increase your ‘sleep opportunity’ by allowing yourself enough time in bed to get this target of sleep
  • Avoid using blue light devices e.g. smartphones or tablets an hour before bedtime. If you must use these devices, consider blue light blocking glasses.
  • Allow yourself 60-90 minutes to wind down before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day (coffee, tea or dark chocolate). If you’re having trouble sleeping it may be helpful to avoid caffeine after 4pm
  • Avoid eating two hours before bedtime
  • Alcohol reduces sleep quality and should be kept to a minimum
  • Try guided sleep meditations – there are lots of good apps now available

If despite all these measures and doing all the ‘right’ things, you are still having trouble sleeping, then you really should discuss this with your GP/ family doctor.

There are some excellent resources available to advise and educate about sleep and insomnia. We suggest that you check out our Useful Links section, or for more tips have a look at our Instagram Sleep Stories highlights.

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