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How Inflammatory Bowel Disease Can Impact Sleep

The Mighty logo The Mighty 7/30/2021 Julia Metraux
a woman lying on a bed: A woman with brown hair leaning over in bed © The Mighty A woman with brown hair leaning over in bed

Chronic illness can affect different parts of a person’s life, including how they sleep.

A new systematic review published in the Sleep Medicine Reviews journal looked at how living with  Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, impacted people’s sleep quality. Sleep quality, according to the researchers, “refers to a collection of subjective and objective sleep measures integrating aspects of sleep satisfaction, sleep initiation, sleep maintenance, and sleep quantity.”

42 studies were included in this review. The researchers found in the studies reviewed, 92 percent of patients with IBD had poor sleep quality, versus 88 percent of patients who did not have IBD in the control group. There was not a significant difference between sleep quality in people who have Crohn’s disease versus people who have ulcerative colitis. People with active IBD symptoms reported having more issues with sleep than people with inactive IBD symptoms.


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From the results of this review, insomnia and poor sleep quality could be seen as comorbidities of IBD. “In this meta-analysis we gathered evidence for moderate to large impairments in subjective sleep quality measures in individuals with IBD,” the researchers wrote. “Importantly, due to the cross-sectional nature of the included studies, we cannot draw any conclusions on the directionality of the relationship between sleep quality and IBD.”

Some reasons why people with IBD may experience poor sleep quality include the following, according to Crohn’s & Colitis UK:

Chronic pain Bloating Needing to use the toilet Needing to drink water at night Anxiety

Previous research has highlighted how insomnia can negatively impact Crohn’s disease, a form of IBD. An August 2020 study published in the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases journal found that poor sleep quality in Crohn’s disease is associated with worsened disease activity and increased risk of hospitalization. “Addressing sleep quality may be an opportunity to improve not only quality of life but also clinical outcomes,” the researchers of the August 2020 study wrote.

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