Insomnia and our Bowels

If you’ve found yourself constipated after a disturbed night, there may be a biological cause behind it, though perhaps not so well researched yet.

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In 1993, a co-relation was observed during a study, between quality of sleep and morning IBS symptoms, which seemed to rise and fall in close association with the quality of the previous night’s sleep. If you’re unaware, IBS is a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract the symptoms of which include abdominal pain, distention and changes in bowel habits.​1,2​

This observation was complemented by another study that found a co-relation between poor sleep and higher gastrointestinal symptoms the next day, in women with IBS.​3​

I’ve mentioned these two studies above to point out the possibility of a link between sleep and our bowels.

There’s this concept of rectal compliance, which refers to the capacity of the rectal wall to stretch under pressure, which may be one of the factors leading to constipation, as you can probably imagine. As per a study that analyzed the results of other studies, there was an tendency towards increased rectal compliance in sleep deprived individuals, therefore causing constipation.​4​

If you’re experiencing unexplained constipation or IBS symptoms, it might be a good idea to examine the quality of your sleep and try and improve it.


  1. 1.
    Goldsmith G, Levin JS. Effect of sleep quality on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Digest Dis Sci. Published online October 1993:1809-1814. doi:10.1007/bf01296103
  2. 2.
    Sinagra E, Morreale G, Mohammadian G, et al. New therapeutic perspectives in irritable bowel syndrome: Targeting low-grade inflammation, immuno-neuroendocrine axis, motility, secretion and beyond. World J Gastroenterol. 2017;23(36):6593-6627. doi:10.3748/wjg.v23.i36.6593
  3. 3.
    Jarrett M, Heitkemper M, Cain KC, Burr RL, Hertig V. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. Published online 2000:952-959. doi:10.1023/a:1005581226265
  4. 4.
    Gwee K-A. Disturbed Sleep and Disturbed Bowel Functions: Implications for Constipation in Healthy Individuals. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. Published online April 30, 2011:108-109. doi:10.5056/jnm.2011.17.2.108

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