Helpful Advice For Sleeping Problems


Many people living with celiac disease suffer from sleep disorders of one kind or another.  This can take various forms, from occasional sleep disturbances to sleep apnea, which is characterized by abnormally long pauses in breathing.  Many celiacs also suffer from depression and anxiety which can affect sleep cycles.

In addition, restless leg syndrome, which is experienced by some celiacs, has the effect of disturbing sleep.  In fact some people consider that sleep disorders are so common among celiacs that it could be considered as a symptom of celiac disease.

In a recent study carried out in Italy of 30 newly-diagnosed celiac adults and 30 adults who had been following a gluten-free diet for 6 years, the researchers compared the quality of sleep of the two groups.  They found that sleep disorders were directly related to depression, anxiety and fatigue.  They also found that sleep problems did not improve after 6 years of a gluten-free diet.  The researchers concluded that the lower the patients’ quality of life the more likely they were to suffer with sleep disorders.

Anyone who has ever received a piece of bad news and felt the corresponding lurch in their stomach is vaguely aware of the relationship between the brain and the gut.  However, few people are aware of the existence of a direct gut-brain connection.  The gut also has a ‘brain’ called the enteric nervous system, sometimes referred to as the body’s second brain.  The vagus nerve extends from the base of the brain right down into the abdomen, which accounts for phenomena such as ‘gut feelings’ and butterflies in the stomach, as well as why a late-night snack can give you nightmares.

Both the brain and the gut are subject to 90-minute sleep cycles

The enteric nervous system also contains millions of nerve cells, hormones and neurotransmitters just like the brain in your head.  The gut even secretes pain-relieving chemicals called benzodiazepines, similar to Valium, which are delivered to the brain when you experience pain.

See also
The Benefits of Eating Quinoa on a Gluten-Free Diet

Amazingly, both the brain and the gut are subject to 90-minute sleep cycles.  In the same way that slow wave sleep is interrupted by rapid-eye movement sleep, slow muscle movements in the gut are interspersed with short bursts of rapid muscle movements.

So what can you do to improve sleep?

  • Avoid eating just before going to bed and keep evening meals light.
  • Watch your consumption of caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Reduce fluid intake in the evenings, to avoid having to get up in the night to use the bathroom.
  • Watch your consumption of known digestive irritants for evening meals.
  • Keep a regular bedtime routine and go to bed by 10 o’clock to avoid getting a ‘second wind’ which can happen around midnight.
  • Don’t exercise just before bed as this can keep you awake.

Leave us a comment below if you have any other tips that help you get a restful nights sleep.

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  1. Thank you for this article. It’s the first I’ve seen to justify the correlation of severe morning headaches to food attempting to move unsuccessfully in my gut in the night. I’ve been following your recommendations for quite some time now and you’re absolutely correct. If I follow those rules, I don’t have a morning headache. Doctors haven’t had a clue to explain it before and now I’ve got your article for corroboration. Thank you so much! Marti

  2. My sleep pattern is not of the best, and I just found out that many medications contain things that Celiac sufferers cannot have.
    Check with your pharmacist, they are well informed.

  3. Thank you for this article at 65 yr.I was diagnosed as Celiac. I didn.’t know about the sleep disorder symptons and have spent a life time just knowing I am different concerning sleep
    Thanks again,useful info,

  4. I have Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma and other problems as well as Celiac. Let’s talk about sleep issues. Sometimes I don’t sleep for days, sometimes I do sleep for days at a time. Mostly, I have the times when I eventually get to sleep and wake up every twenty to thirty minutes all night and part of the day. I am always tired and brain fog is my natural state of no-mind. Someone always has a problem with the way I sleep. I get so tired of explaining my conditions. Of course their response is that I wouldn’t sleep so much if I was happier, had something to do, changed the hours I sleep. You CAN change and go to bed at 10:00pm and get up at 8:00am. If you get in the habit of doing it long enough your body will adjust. Yeah, like if I eat enough gluten my body will adjust? Because someone else doesn’t like it or understand it.
    I am so tired of people trying to fix me. Can’t they ever just accept me as who I am and just try to understand that I don’t choose the way I do things. I do the best I can with what I have to work with and I am doing a Damn good job. Just say, is there anything I can do? That would mean the most, because that says ” I know you’re struggling, hang in there.”. Acknowledge me, validate my efforts, and don’t judge. I AM ME.

  5. Wonderful article,i use sleepytime tea about 1 hour before bed also you can drink 8 oz.of tart cherrie juice 1hour before bed as that has natural melatonine in it.what ever you choose to do be very consistant if you want it to work.good luck

  6. I have found that if I wake up during the nite and can’t go back to sleep I eat a banana and that allows me to fall asleep again it works for me.

  7. I found this article on sleep patterns really interesting.

    I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease 3 months ago. I have been having some problems with sleeping for a while, but thought it was due to ageing – I am 74.

    Thank you for the suggestions on getting a good night’s sleep. I intend to follow them and see what happens!


  8. Thank you for this article. Do you have any more advice for restless leg and Celiac. I take clonzepam .5 mg for restless leg but would rather not take a narcotic for it.

  9. I completely understand you desire to avoid drugs whenever possible. Unfortunately that is all the information we have on restless leg.

  10. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do; exercise,what I eat, my work schedule & my hormone & thyroid medication, I always wake up tired & I seem to be tired all day long at work. Bags under my eyes & yawning all day. What can one do to change this ? I have a routine that I don’t eat before 8 a.m. And I don’t eat after 8 p.m. I don’t smoke or drink alcohol I don’t eat sugar breads rice or pastas no processed foods no sodas or fruit drinks & no coffee. Help.

  11. Not sure if this works with your hormone medication, or if this is already what you’re taking….You may want to ask your doctor about melatonin supplements, it’s a natural hormone in your body that regulates your sleep patterns. I use it frequently when I’m having problems sleeping, and it works brilliantly. You can get it at the drug store in the vitamin aisle, but because it comes in such a wide variety of concentrations (1mg – 10mg+), you really should see your doctor to discuss if this is right for you and what concentration would work best for you. Hope it helps!

  12. Just reading this now and I see the comment about Restless Leg. I used to experience it but extensive reading n self monitoring led me to look at neuro toxic substances. Moulds, mildew, many fermented items (beer) certian fungisides and herbicides all trigger RLS for me. Now for gut health fermented foods are recommended so I find including these in a noon meal preferable. Black tea and chun mei green are fermented. All peanuts carry a specific mould spoor that is problematic. B complex vitamins – I think sellenium is produced through a process of fermentation.

    Hope this helps. Yes, I have Fibro and c fatigue but have not used any meds to over come rather herbs n supps and diet – a long road but have enjoyed nearly 10 years of relatively very good health.

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