How Sleep Deprivation Affects Digestion – Backed by Research

If you’ve suffered insomnia, then you decipher the adverse effects associated with the phenomenon. If you’re wondering how sleep deprivation affects digestion and other body functions, then read on!

Sleep deprivation will lead to lethargy, confusion, and an overall sluggish mood.

While all these effects may appear short-lived, lack of adequate sleep can have severe long-term effects on your health. This article examines how sleep deprivation affects digestion and causes immense gastrointestinal disturbances.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

In today’s fast-paced world, you’ll opine that sleeping for long hours is relatively difficult. But just how much sleep is enough?

Well, sleep requirements may vary from person to person depending on factors such as age, health conditions, and occupations. For example, while adults require 7-9 hours of sleep, children may require 11-15 hours!

How Much Sleep Do You Need by Age 

Below is a table showing sleep requirements for different age groups:

AgeRecommendedNot Recommended
0-3 months 14-17 hours -Less than 11 hours


-More than 19 hours 

4-11 months 12-15 hours-Less than 10 hours


-More than 18 hours

1-2 years 11-14 hours-Less than 9 hours


-More than 16 hours

3-5 years 10-13 hours-Less than 8 hours


-More than 14 hours

6-13 years9-11 hours -Less than 7 hours


-More than 12 hours

14-17 years8-10 hours-Less than 7 hours


-More than 11 hours 

18-25 years7-9 hours-Less than 6 hours


-More than 11 hours

26-64 years7-9 hours-Less than 6 hours


-More than 10 hours 

65 years and above7-8 hours -Less than 5 hours


-More than 9 hours 

Source: National Sleep Foundation 

As evident from the data, children require more sleep than adults. This is due to rapid mental and physical development in children.

On the other hand, elderly people (above 65 years) require significantly less sleeping time. As people age, their bodies produce less melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep). As a result, the elderly’s desire to sleep reduces. 

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Digestion – Research-Based Analysis

What is the link between sleep deprivation and digestion?

Well, according to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, sleep deprivation/abnormality is associated with several digestive problems. It postulates that people with insomnia report more cases of gastrointestinal disturbances compared to people having adequate sleep.

Approximately 33.6% of people with insomnia suffer from gastrointestinal disorders compared to only 9.2% of GI disturbances cases originating from individuals who get adequate sleep. 

While scientists have not established which one between insomnia and GI disorders comes first, there is an obvious link between the conditions. 

As such, you should ensure that you get adequate sleep to prevent GI problems which can easily escalate to a life-threatening condition 

What Happens to the Digestive System When Asleep?

Digestion is a crucial physiological process that ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it requires to function optimally.

When you’re asleep, all your body processes slow down to give the body time to rest. During this time, body tissues repair and rejuvenate to ensure optimum functionality.

As such, if you fail to sleep adequately, you will overwork your body’s physiological systems and deny them a chance to rejuvenate.

As a result, you’ll have problems with your gut. The digestion and absorption processes will be impaired leading to insufficient nutrients in your body. Additionally, the intestinal tissues could easily be worn out leading to irritable bowel syndrome among other conditions. 

The link between inadequate sleep and digestive problems

Why You Should Avoid Eating Dinner Late

While it’s certain that life’s demands have increased with the rise of living conditions, it’s always crucial that you never ignore the question of how sleep deprivation affects digestion. You should always do all you can to ensure optimum gut health. 

In the modern busy world, eating dinner and sleeping early are always sacrificed when your life becomes overwhelmingly busy, right?

Well, these sacrifices may not be worth it in the long run!

Your digestive system needs enough rest. When you have your dinner late into the night, you’ll keep your digestive system busy even when it’s supposed to be resting.

Ideally, the digestion process slows down when you sleep to allow the growth, repair, and regeneration of the tissues that line the gut.

However, when you take your dinner late and sleep immediately, digestion continues even during sleep. As a result, you’re likely to experience the following digestive tract problems:

  • Gastroesophageal Disease (GERD). Have you ever woken up with a bitter taste in the mouth? Well, the bitterness is caused by a phenomenon where the stomach contents rise through the gullet to the mouth cavity. When this happens continuously, you’re likely to develop gut complications in the future which may include the development of polyps, hoarseness of voice, and difficulty in swallowing
  • Heartburn. This condition is characterized by a burning sensation on the chest. It is caused by temporary regurgitation. As a result, the highly acidic stomach content burns the tissues lining the digestive system and consequently leading to discomfort. This can easily be eliminated by using antacids. However, if the heartburn persists, you should talk to a gastroenterologist before it escalates to a bigger problem

What happens when you get heartburn? Well, most people will quickly get an antacid or even have DIY home remedies solutions.

But did you know that all these can be eliminated by eating your dinner early? Research findings published in the Journal of Nutrition in Clinical Practice showed that lifestyle and diet is the best approach to treat GERD and other intestinal conditions. 

What Happens When You Fail to Treat Gerd?

One of the surest methods to treat GERD is to sleep early and avoid having a late dinner. If you fail to address this, your intestinal disturbances could develop into fatal conditions including:

  • Esophagitis. This is a natural mechanism of defense that involves inflammation. Consistent tissue irritation leads to inflammation and ulceration. As a result, you will have voice hoarseness and experience difficulty swallowing
  • Esophageal Cancer. When your esophagus is constantly exposed to the high acidity of stomach content, it will get destroyed. At that point, an endoscopy will, most likely, display excessive redness, presence of polyps, and overall tissue destruction. These radical changes can lead to cell mutations and consequently result in cancer if not adequately addressed in time
  • Narrowing of the Oesophagus. When your esophagus is injured, the body initiates the process of healing. As a result, the esophagus develops scars that may narrow the pipe. As a result, you will have difficulty swallowing and drinking

As it is evident, sleep deprivation can potentially lead to immense complications. As such, you should always strive to achieve the recommended sleep hours as well as eat your dinner in time!

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Digestion

How to Improve Digestion While Sleeping 

Since you now know how sleep deprivation affects digestion, you should work on ways to improve digestion during sleep. This is essential, especially if you want to maintain perfect health of your digestive system. 

First, you should ensure that you take your dinner early enough to give your gut enough time for digestion. Additionally, you should ensure that you avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol just before bed. 

To make it even better, here is a list of foods that you should never lack in your kitchen if you want to improve your sleeping health. 

Best Foods to Have Before Bed

Since the question of how sleep deprivation affects digestion is answered, it is time to look at the foods that you can take to improve your sleeping patterns. They include:

  • Almonds. These tree nuts are rich in phosphorus, manganese, and riboflavin. Additionally, it offers plenty of antioxidants, which ensures that you’re relaxed. This way, you’ll be able to beat anxiety and sleep well. You can also consider walnuts.
  • Turkey. This meal is rich in selenium, riboflavin, vitamins, and phosphorus. Additionally, it is rich in Tryptophan Amino Acid, which helps in production of melatonin (sleeping hormone).

Read here on how you can use Nuwave Oven to make tasty turkeys 

  • Herbal Tea. Taking chamomile herbal tea offers numerous flavones and other antioxidants which help in reducing inflammation and promoting sleep. 
  • Kiwi Fruit. These low-calorie fruits are rich in vitamin C, K, carotenoids, and fiber. As such, eating it will help to improve peristaltic movements and enhance the overall health of your gut. 
  • Fatty Fish. Seafood, such as trout, salmon, mackerel, and tuna are super rich in Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. This boosts the production of serotonin which improves the brain health and makes sleeping easier. 
  • White Rice. This food has a relatively high glycemic acid, which makes it easily digestible. Eating it one hour before bed can improve your sleeping patterns significantly. 

To achieve a well cooked rice meal, you should consider using a rice cooker. Read here for more details. 

You can also consider eating bananas, oatmeal, and dairy products a few hours before bed. 

Best Natural Supplements to Boost Sleep

If you want to boost sleep, you should ensure that you choose a supplement rich in melatonin and vitamin D. The best 3 include:

These products contain natural melatonin that helps in boosting your sleeping patterns in the most natural ways. We recommend that you start with a small dose taken 30-40 minutes before sleep and observe how your body reacts. Only increase it when there is an absolute need. 

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Digestion – Bottom Line

If you were wondering how sleep deprivation affects digestion, then this article is an eye-opener!

Undeniably, there is a link between sleep deprivation and poor gut health. Enough sleep enables your body to grow and rejuvenate. If this does not happen, you can be certain that you will have health problems, some of which can escalate into life-threatening maladies!

Also, eating your dinner at the right time will complement enough sleep to ensure that you have holistic health. This article has provided well-evidenced arguments that you should read and implement!

Now that you know how sleep deprivation affects digestion, I challenge you to change your lifestyle and diet and observe as your overall gut health improves significantly.


Leave a Comment