I have trouble sleeping and I feel very tired during the day. Is this related to IBS?
Dr. Farhadi: Yes. There are several studies that demonstrated a close relationship between sleep and gastrointestinal symptoms. The research team at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently performed a study on the role of sleep in both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. The data showed that IBS subjects reported significant sleep problems in comparison with those without IBS. The findings have been accepted for publication and will be soon published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Let me share an excerpt of these finding with you. IBS subjects had on average 6.0 ± 0.3 hours of sleep each night which was less than healthy subjects (6.7 ± 0.2 hours). It took on average 50.4 ± 10 minutes for IBS subject to fall asleep, compared to the 11.6 ± 2 minutes it took healthy subjects on average to fall sleep. Overall 67% of IBS subjects reported that on one or more nights per week they took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. This stands in sharp contrast to the 13% of healthy subjects who reported this problem. Sense of worry and anxiety about their disease was one of the major reasons for trouble sleeping in 29% of IBS.Eighty-eight percent of IBS subjects complained of repeated awakenings more than once or twice per night whereas only 40% of healthy subjects reported such awakenings. Repeated awakenings were most commonly attributed to abdominal pain (71%), need to use the bathroom (87%), breathing difficulty and snoring (50%), feeling too cold (61%), feeling too hot (71%) or having bad dreams (67%). Most often, subjects attributed their frequent awakenings to several of these problems. Overall, only less than 10% of IBS subjects indicated that they had slept well compared to 60% of healthy subjects. Furthermore, 54% of IBS subjects had to use a sleeping pill for sleep disturbances in the last month, while none of the healthy subjects used a sleeping pill. These data shed light on the extent of problem with sleep in IBS. Poor sleep not only is considered a source of stress, it can disturb the coping ability of patients and therefore affect the experience of symptoms including abdominal pain and fatigue. It also, could directly impact quality of life in a population that already experiences significant impairment in daily functioning, relationships and occupation. Thus, I have no doubt that poor sleep affect IBS and its symptoms. The true question is whether corrective approach toward managing sleep disturbances could change the course of IBS. I am optimistic that future research will address this question more clearly.