Most diet plans caution against eating a large meal or spicy food before bed because you may experience digestive disturbances, such as heartburn, indigestion and nausea. But is there really a connection between sleep and digestion? Does what you eat matter? And does it work vice versa, so that the quality and amount of sleep you get affect your digestion? The answer is yes: There is a strong connection between sleep and digestion, and digestion and sleep.
If you have any form of irritable bowel syndrome or experience food sensitivity, then you may have noticed that after a poor night’s sleep your symptoms are worse in the morning. This is because digestive processing requires a great deal of energy that we get from sleep. When the sleep process is interrupted, the digestive process is also interrupted. Getting a good amount of quality sleep ensures that your digestive system has time to rest and repair between meals and digestive cycles.
A lack of quality and quantity of sleep leads to stress, which exacerbates digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Lack of sleep also makes the body crave a simple solution to restore energy, such as imbibing sugar and caffeine. Sugar and caffeine are harmful to the digestive system, especially in large quantities because they can cause irritation and further disruption in the sleep cycle. Rather than relying on temporary energy boosts from sugar and caffeine, try to break the cycle of poor sleep that leads to heartburn, nausea, anxiety and stress.
Follow good sleep habits in order to enjoy better digestion. Allow at least two hours between your last meal and going to bed to ensure that your stomach is not still working on that midnight snack, which can lead to heartburn. A heavy dose of sugar can interrupt your sleep, much like caffeine. Avoid loading up on sugar before bed to avoid a crash in blood sugar levels, which can keep you up at night. Low blood sugar occurs naturally during the time you are sleeping, but if it gets too low it can lead to an interruption in your sleep cycle. Instead, try to maintain level blood sugar throughout the day by small snacks rather than large meals that can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Try to create a relaxing before bed routine to help reduce stress and thought patterns that keep you awake at night. Enjoying a cup of herbal tea, such as chamomile, along with other relaxing things like gentle stretching, a warm bath, reading a book can also help.
If you suffer from acid reflux, it can be helpful to sleep with your head in an elevated position. Sleeping on the left side of your body has also been found to be beneficial in reducing acid reflux during the night and preventing heartburn. It is most important not to sleep on your stomach, which is the worst position for those that suffer from digestive issues.