Beat the Heat, Sleep Sound: Summer Sleep Solutions for IBS
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Beat the Heat, Sleep Sound: Summer Sleep Solutions for IBS

Published on Tuesday, June 11, 2024
by
Emily Hamm

Low-FODMAP
IBS
Wellness

Summer Slumber: Sleep Solutions for IBS Under the Sun

Are you struggling with sleep during the summer months with IBS? You're not alone. This guide offers tips for creating a cool and comfortable sleep environment, establishing a calming routine, and managing nighttime symptoms for a restful summer sleep.

The Heat & IBS: Exploring the Summer Sleep Struggle

There are so many great things about summer, but the heat isn’t always one of them. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble sleeping when it’s too warm, especially in my house. If the heat isn’t enough, and you have struggled with managing symptoms of IBS, good quality sleep may seem almost impossible for you during the summer months.

recent meta-analysis found that the prevalence rate of sleep disorders in individuals with IBS is approximately 37%. Other studies have suggested that this prevalence rate could range from 7% to 74%. There is limited understanding of the direct link between disordered sleep and IBS, but in general, it is associated with lower sleep quality, reduced light sleep, and significant sleep disturbance. More specifically, symptoms like abdominal pain, bowel urgency, diarrhea, and constipation can make it challenging to get comfortable to fall asleep or can even make you so uncomfortable that it causes you to wake up frequently, impacting the quality of overall sleep you get. Researchers have suggested some form of connection with the gut-brain-microbiota axis, specifically, a possible relationship among sleep quality, composition of the gut microbiome, and cognitive flexibility, but more studies are needed to understand.

Furthermore, sleep apnea and mood disorders are two conditions that have been associated with IBS. People with sleep apnea were found to be more likely to suffer from IBS than people without sleep apnea. Furthermore, lack of quality sleep is a common trait of psychiatric and mood disorders, which are commonly associated with IBS. Pairing all of these potential factors with hot weather makes the perfect storm for imperfect sleep.

Creating a Cool & Comfortable Sleep Environment

Let's discuss easy steps to create a space that invites high-quality sleep and gives you the rest you need!

First, try to keep the thermostat down in your house during the evening and overnight. The Sleep Foundation recommends temperatures between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps promote good deep sleep but may vary a few degrees from person to person. Props like oscillating fans, cooling blankets, breathable mattresses, and pillows can also help create a cooler sleep setting.

A dark room is also important to help trigger the brain to produce higher amounts of melatonin. If you have a lot of light seeping in, invest in some room-darkening curtains or shades. They make them for all kinds of aesthetic styles (they aren’t just black curtains). Also, avoid sleeping in the same room as computers, TVs, phones, or any other device that creates blue light. This can cause you to be more awake. Opt to keep these devices in different rooms of the house.

If you wake up in the middle of the night because you’re thirsty or need to go to the bathroom, opt to use low light if you need light. The darker you can keep your room, the easier it is to go back to sleep. Keep a glass of water at your bedside table to avoid having to get out of bed altogether.

White noise can be helpful if sounds are a problem. If you live in a metropolitan area where traffic noises are common, white noise might be your saving grace! However, it shouldn’t be loud enough that you can’t relax. Generally, you don’t want the noise to be noisier than 70 decibels, as this may lead to hearing problems with continued exposure. If you don’t like the pitch of white noise, many noise machines have other relaxing sounds like rain, the sound of a creek or ocean, the sound of the dryer running, or even other pitches of noise like pink and brown noise. Explore this and see what works for you!

Consider aromatherapy – essential oils like lavender, bergamot, cedarwood, and chamomile help promote relaxation and calm you. There is even research to back these scents with improved sleep quality. This white noise/oil diffuser combo- might change your life!

Establishing a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Not only is your space important for promoting great sleep, but what you do leading up to bedtime can also make a huge difference! It’s also important to note that creating a routine is also suitable for managing anxiety, which could contribute to IBS severity and symptom management. Finding a good groove can really improve your quality of life!

Try to avoid eating at least 2-3 hours before lying down. This gives your body time to digest food and helps to reduce an upset stomach. In addition, avoid stimulants like caffeine or high amounts of concentrated sweets, as these can give you that boost of energy that will prevent you from relaxing. If you must have something to eat or drink, choose melatonin-boosting foods like tart-cherry juice, chamomile tea, or warm milk.

Consider the timing of certain activities like exercise. Some people like to work out in the evening as it is the only time they have during the day for self-care. If you can, opt to go as soon as you get off work or have the time, as exercise generally wakes you up; if able, try to fit your exercise routine in the morning. Some activities that help promote relaxation are reading a book and relaxing in a warm bath with Epsom salts and essential oils. Try to limit screen time to at least 30 minutes before bed to lower blue light exposure. This might be a great time to talk with family members or friends or practice mind-relaxing techniques such as meditation or prayer.

Here is a sample of an evening schedule or routine:

  • 5-6 pm Exercise after work
  • 6-7 pm Eat dinner
  • 7-9 pm Shower/bathe, read a book, spend time with family, or watch some TV (just try to turn this off by 8 pm if possible)
  • 9 pm- Lights out! Bedtime!

Managing IBS Discomfort While Sleeping

In addition to creating a calming space and a regular wind-down routine, it is important to manage your diet to keep IBS in check. Try to limit and omit foods that trigger symptoms, especially those specific foods before bedtime.

If you are new to your diagnosis of IBS and don’t know where to start, talk with a registered dietitian to help you figure out your specific food triggers. You might need to follow a diet like the Low FODMAP diet for IBS to figure out which foods/food groups you’re sensitive to. Once you know these, it will definitely be easier to manage your diet to limit and prevent symptoms.

Bonus Tips: Natural and Supplemental Sleep Aids for IBS

If you’ve already tried many of the tips mentioned above and still need a little extra help with getting to sleep, consider taking 1-5 mg of melatonin before bedtime. After a warm bath, you may even try some relaxing chamomile lavender tea or magnesium lotion. Other options are natural sleep aids like SleepCalm melt-away tablets by Boiron or the Sleepy Time herbal supplement by Earthley. Other supplements you can consider trying are glycine or oral magnesium glycinate. Always speak to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.

If you have any additional tips or tricks, please share them with the Foodguides community in the comments below!


  1. Anderson, J. R., Carroll, I. M., Azcárate-Peril, M. A., Rochette, A. D., Heinberg, L. J., Peat, C. M., Steffen, K. J., Manderino, L., Mitchell, J. E., & Gunstad, J. (2017). A preliminary examination of gut microbiota, sleep, and cognitive flexibility in healthy older adults. Sleep Medicine (Print), 38, 104–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2017.07.018
  2. Bryan, L., & Cotliar, D. (2023, November 8). Natural Sleep Aids. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-aids/natural-sleep-aids 
  3. IFFGDAdmin. (2023, November 4). Sleep and IBS - 40% of patients report issues - about IBS. About IBS. https://aboutibs.org/signs-and-symptoms/sleep-and-irritable-bowel-syndrome/
  4. Pacheco, D., & Rosen, D. (2024, March 7). Best temperature for sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/best-temperature-for-sleep
  5. Summer, J., & Singh, A. (2023, December 20). Melatonin dosage: How much melatonin should you take. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin/melatonin-dosage-how-much-should-you-take
  6. Summer, J. (2023, December 22). The best essential oils for sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-aids/best-essential-oils-for-sleep
  7. Summer, J., & Rehman, A. (2023, November 8). White noise. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/noise-and-sleep/white-noise
  8. Wang, B., Duan, R., & Duan, L. (2018). Prevalence of sleep disorder in irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology, 24(3), 141. https://doi.org/10.4103/sjg.sjg_603_17

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Emily Hamm

MS, RDN, CSO, LD

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