Can Bad Towels Cause Bad Sleep Or Vice Versa
Written By Microbiome Plus+

Can Bad Towels Cause Bad Sleep Or Vice Versa

A bad night sleep packs quite a wallop not only on our mental fitness but also on the health of other body systems. Included in these systems, the digestive system tops the list. In fact, we can say that sleep and digestive issues are frequent bed partners in many people.

Bad bowels can interfere with sleep. After all, almost every one of us has had those nights when tummy trouble from ingesting the wrong food kept us awake all night long.

Likewise, poor sleep can also provoke or worsen bowel problems, as manifested in a person with IBS.

IBS Is Associated With Poor Sleep

Poor sleep is also often related to the hypersensitive bowels of IBS. Research shows that poor sleep is the most common symptom (occurring outside the gut) of IBS, which can wreak havoc on your life’s quality. [1] [2] A sleep study carried out in people with IBS showed features of a disrupted, non-restful sleep, such as diminished deep sleep, frequent arousals from sleep, and longer time to fall asleep after hitting the sack. [3]

While it may be difficult for you to fall sleep with the IBS flare-up at night, it isn’t always the irritable bowels per se that disrupt your sleep. Sleep disturbances can strike regardless of the presence or absence of tummy trouble at night. Poor sleep may then not only aggravate the next day-bowel symptoms, but the turmoil may also extend beyond the bowel,resulting in low mood and greater body pains in IBS. [2]

You may consider this as a chicken and egg situation: it’s hard to tell if bad bowels cause bad sleep or poor sleep incites the bowel disturbances.

Other GI Diseases Linked To Poor Sleep

In addition to IBS, GI ailments like acid reflux disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have also been linked to poor sleep.

Individuals with acid reflux disease are in a vicious loop. They most often experience bothersome symptoms like heartburn and reflux at night, which interferes with their sleep. Then, the lack of quality-sleep further worsens their acid reflux symptoms. The effects of poor sleep in these people can be as risky as esophageal cancer. [4]

Similarly, people with IBD are at risk for altered sleep patterns, or the other way around, sleep deprivation can cause their disease to flare up. [4]

A Sleep Aid Can Benefit Bowel Diseases

An additional fact to support the sleep and gut connection is the use of melatonin—a popular sleep aid—for addressing the bowel complaints in IBS and IBD.

Experts say that a good quality sleep can have a positive impact on the bowel symptoms in IBS. In a study, IBS patients reported a remarkable improvement in their abdominal symptoms following two weeks of melatonin treatment. [5]

More surprising is the seldom-noted improvement in IBD symptoms after melatonin supplementation in people with a disturbed circadian rhythm and sleep onset. [6]

Poor Sleep Promotes Gut Inflammation

One of the most studied factors that link poor sleep to bowel diseases is the release of inflammatory substances in response to sleep deprivation. These substances can cause silent bowel diseases to flare up, further underscoring the sleep and gut connection. [4]

Probiotics May Kill Two Birds With One Stone

We know that bowel diseases like IBS and IBD stem from unhealthy gut flora. What most of us don’t know is that sleep issues also bear a relation to dysbiosis (altered gut bacterial composition), possibly due to a messed up-clock gene in the gut. [7] Supplementing probiotics in such cases may help address both the bowel and sleep disruptions.


  1. Luscombe FA. Health-related quality of life and associated psychosocial factors in irritable bowel syndrome: a review. Qual Life Res. 2000;9(2):161-76.
  2. Patel A, Hasak S, Cassell B, et al. Effects of Disturbed Sleep on Gastrointestinal and Somatic Pain Symptoms in IBS. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics. 2016;44(3):246-258. doi:10.1111/apt.13677.
  3. Rotem AY, Sperber AD, Krugliak P, Freidman B, Tal A, Tarasiuk A. Polysomnographic and actigraphic evidence of sleep fragmentation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Sleep. 2003;26(6):747-52.
  4. Khanijow V, Prakash P, Emsellem HA, Borum ML, Doman DB. Sleep Dysfunction and Gastrointestinal Diseases. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2015;11(12):817-825.
  5. Elsenbruch S. Melatonin: a novel treatment for IBS? Gut. 2005;54(10):1353-1354. doi:10.1136/gut.2005.074377.
  6. Swanson GR, Burgess HJ, Keshavarzian A. Sleep disturbances and inflammatory bowel disease: a potential trigger for disease flare? Expert review of clinical immunology. 2011;7(1):29-36. doi:10.1586/eci.10.83.
  7. Konturek PC, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ. Gut clock: implication of circadian rhythms in the gastrointestinal tract. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011;62(2):139-50.
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