There can be a lot of negative effects of daylight savings time for anyone. Even more, if you’re struggling with IBS. What does the time change and your sleep have to do with your IBS symptoms? Turns out – a lot!
How much we sleep, if our sleep is restful and our patterns of when we sleep and wake up all influence how we feel during the day. And when our sleep patterns get jostled by a sudden time change, not only do we feel jostled by the change in time, we may experience flares in our IBS symptoms.
What can we do about it?
What are circadian rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are the natural cycles of hormones that take place in your body throughout the day and night, including the sleep and wake cycle (1). Just like the rhythms of a flower opening up to absorb sunlight and closing to rest at night, the circadian rhythm helps you to feel your best, when you’re in sync.
Have you ever had a late-night snack….and then regretted it later? There is a reason for that: we aren’t eating in sync with our natural rhythms of when your body prefers to do the work of digestion and absorption.
The circadian rhythm influences a lot of how we feel, including our digestion. If our cycles are out of whack, our IBS symptoms can flare-up. Ugh – that late-night watching Netflix and drinking wine can really make you feel crummy the next day – and not just because of the hours of sleep. Screens and alcohol influence how deeply you sleep, which we’ll talk about in just a bit.
So what happens when the time we wake up is artificially changed because of the time change? We might not feel so great – especially those of us with IBS.
How does the time change make IBS worse?
Your circadian rhythms are controlled by your brain and your brain is highly sensitive to light. If we suddenly change when we’re waking up and going to sleep, relative to our exposure to artificial and natural light, we feel disjointed and poorly rested.
And if we are not able to do our regular recharging at night and feel fully rested, we feel crummy during the day. Our sleep is important for our body to be able to regulate blood sugar, mood and boost our immune system. And for all of us with IBS, we are especially interested in the benefit of our gut slowing down at night to focus on repair. This helps us to feel fewer symptoms during the day!
We aren’t just resting at night – the ability to repair and recharge is incredibly important to our health during the day, every single day. If your gut is unable to get it’s night work done, either because you’re not sleeping enough or the quality of your sleep stinks – your digestion slows down and your symptoms flare up – ugh!
Circadian Health Optimization – How to Feel Better, Faster.
The time change is going to happen twice a year – we can’t change that. So how can we feel better, faster, during the time change?
Turn off screens, sooner.
At least an hour before bed, turn off the TV, computer, iPad and phone and enjoy activities that do not involve a screen. The screens are releasing blue light that makes it harder for your body to know that it is time for sleep and to make melatonin.
Instead, enjoy a puzzle, draw a bath, dive into a book, listen to music, light a candle and enjoy a cozy evening. Consider using a red lamp to further reduce the blue light that your eyes are exposed to.
Reduce light in your bedroom
Your eyes are sensitive to any and all light, even the tiny lights on your phone charger and alarm clock. Consider swapping out your bright alarm clock for a travel alarm clock with no backlighting or use your phone to wake up (charge it away from your bedside table to reduce the temptation to scroll through your phone before you go to bed and as you wake up. )
Use electrical tape to cover up any tiny lights on chargers. You might also sleep better with blacklight curtains.
Stop caffeine earlier in the day
Most of us do enjoy our coffee and tea as part of our morning routine. Continuing to drink caffeine late in the day may make it harder for you to fall asleep and to sleep well.
Instead, try a soothing herbal tea. Some even help to promote sleep, such as chamomile.
Tart cherry juice
Tart cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin and is actually able to help you to sleep faster and more deeply (2).
As the name implies, it is quite tart. You might enjoy a mug of herbal tea with a few ounces of tart cherry juice and a bit of honey as a drink to wind down, relax and help you to sleep.
Turn on a fan
You might be able to sleep more deeply if you have a fan on, both for the circulation of fresh air as well as to dampen the disruption of outside noises.
You can also try sound machines or download a sound machine app. The app is especially handy for when you’re traveling!
Spend time outdoors
Our rhythms are incredibly tuned into natural light. The more you can spend time outside and away from screens can be helpful to feeling on track, especially to minimize the negative effects of daylight savings time.
Wake with the sun, go for a long hike outdoors, minimize your exposure to screens and even consider a camping trip.
Eat dinner earlier
Our body feels best when we’re in a natural rhythm of burning carbohydrates during the day and fat overnight. And when this rhythm is in play, our body weight is in a healthier range and our blood sugars are better controlled.
Just like some of us are early birds and others of us our night owls, we have times of the day where we naturally shine best. Our gut has a strong preference for when it wants to digest and absorb food: during daylight hours. When we eat later in the evening, we may disrupt the circadian rhythm. This means that if you eat your dinner earlier, you have an easier time getting into the natural rhythm of when your gut does it work best.
Not only can a lower temperature at night save you money on your heating bill, it can also help you to sleep more quickly and more deeply.
Melatonin for IBS
Melatonin, an over the counter supplement, may improve sleep quality at night and reduce IBS pain. There is actually more melatonin in the gut tissue than is circulating in our bloodstream.
Most studies look at the effects of 3mg of melatonin at night and see promising results, without many side effects (3).
And IBS bonus: did you know that melatonin has also been studied for reflux and motility, in addition to being helpful for promoting restful sleep? This supplement might be a match made in heaven for those of us with IBS.
Note: in the US, please be sure to look for supplements that are 3rd party verified for quality before purchasing. We can help you to identify high-quality supplements.
Your choices of what you eat, and when, have a huge impact on your IBS symptoms. But they’re not the only thing! Having a regular sleep schedule is very important in the management of IBS, too.
If you’re ready for relief – let us help!