Our diet can affect how we feel during the day, and how we sleep at night. Foods like chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine are proven to affect sleep quality if consumed late in the day. Plus, fatty foods can cause acid reflux, making it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. But what about gluten? Does it keep you awake at night too?
For most people, no. Gluten will not affect your ability to fall or stay asleep. BUT if you have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, then eating gluten can certainly affect your sleep quality and contribute to issues like insomnia or sleep apnea.
(If you’re struggling with insomnia that is not related to intolerance or other health condition, our team of certified sleep coaches would love to help.)
How Do I Know if I Have Gluten Intolerance?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 6% of the U.S. has gluten intolerance and 1% has Celiac Disease. It’s important to note that these conditions are very different, even though eating a gluten-free diet is the standard treatment for both. Celiac Disease triggers an autoimmune response in the body, meaning that your body reacts to gluten like it would a virus. People with an intolerance simply don’t absorb gluten properly which leads to feelings of sickness.
The most effective way to determine if you have gluten intolerance is to get tested by your doctor. Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Abdominal pain
If you experience these after eating foods containing gluten, it could be beneficial to speak with your doctor about getting tested for an allergy or sensitivity.
Gluten and Insomnia
A 2010 study showed that individuals with Celiac are more likely to struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders than healthy individuals, but their sleep problems continued even after starting a gluten-free diet. Since individuals with Celiac are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression, it is possible that psychological factors could be interfering with their sleep quality.
Regardless, if you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, removing gluten from your diet should help reduce symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue which can also interfere with a good night’s sleep. A more recent 2022 study shows dramatic improvement in sleep quality for children with Celiac after adopting a gluten-free diet.
Once you eliminate the physical discomfort that’s affecting your sleep, it’s easier to treat the psychological factors with something like cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
Gluten and Sleep Apnea
One common form of sleep apnea called obstructive sleep apnea is caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Enlarged lymph nodes often occur with Celiac, so a group of researchers decided to test whether a gluten-free diet would improve sleep apnea in children with Celiac. And it worked!
Though this research is not conclusive, it’s a good indication that a gluten-free diet can help improve sleep for people with Celiac.
What Should I Do if I Have Gluten Intolerance?
If you have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, the best way to improve your sleep quality is to avoid eating foods containing gluten. This includes wheat, barley, and rye. There are many delicious alternatives available these days that are completely free of gluten.
Eating a gluten-free diet can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies, however, so make sure to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and gluten-free whole grains.
And don’t forget to speak with your doctor about any sleep-related issues that you’re having. They may be able to help identify additional underlying health conditions or suggest other treatments for improving your sleep quality.
Other Ideas for Improving Sleep Quality
Once you address the underlying health conditions with your doctor, there are several additional strategies you can try to further improve your sleep quality.
- Firstly, establish a consistent sleep routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps to regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythm, allowing for better quality rest.
- Avoid technology before bed. Looking at the screens of your phone or computer can cause overstimulation and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Limit your caffeine intake and avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Both of these can further disrupt your sleep.
- Exercise regularly! Getting in some physical activity during the day helps to reduce stress hormones and improves your sleep quality.
- Implement relaxation techniques before bed. Meditation or deep breathing can help to reduce stress levels and prepare you for a cozy night of restful slumber.
- Talk to a certified sleep coach. Sleep coaching can help you get to the root of your sleep issue, especially if negative attitudes about sleep are a factor.
Ultimately, eating a gluten-free diet is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving your sleep. If you’d like to learn more about good sleep hygiene, grab our free guide on Creating a Healthy Bedtime Routine.
How Can Sleepably Help?
If a gluten-free diet alone isn’t improving your sleep, working with an adult sleep coach from Sleepably can help. We’ll create a custom plan that addresses the root of your sleep problem and helps you develop healthy sleep habits. if you’re ready to experience more healthy, restorative sleep in your life, schedule a free consultation today.