The lack of sleep was something I dealt with regularly while suffering from Crohn’s. High doses of immunosuppressant drugs such as prednisone, sulfasalazine, and many others caused side effects, irritations, irritability and additional stress on my body. Along with this, like many of you that suffer from GI issues, you spend a lot of time in the bathroom. My colon never seemed to care that it was 3 AM when it decided to wake me up to use the restroom.
The Vicious Cycle
A typical night would entail going to bed around 9:30 PM, laying there with my stomach growling, cramping at times, incredible amounts of gas (sorry honey). I felt exhausted every day throughout the day and when I laid down, I wanted to go right to sleep but couldn’t, or would and my body would wake me for multiple trips to the “john”.
Your body needs sleep to heal. Sleeping is one way that your body recovers from damage and protects itself against illness. Interrupting this rhythm of the sleep cycle causes stress on the body and healing the body becomes less efficient. Finding ways to deal with keeping a restful sleep cycle is crucial to your journey of healing.
Disrupting the sleep cycle interrupts the circadian rhythm which may result in various gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or peptic ulcer disease. 
Whether it is work, family a new baby, illness, food, when cortisol levels rise and fall dramatically, the body experiences what’s called adrenal fatigue. It’s not a medically recognized term yet but it is commonly associated with mental, physical or emotional stress. When you suffer from Crohn’s you’re experiencing all of these symptoms at once, not just one.
Steroids and Adrenal Glands
A healthy individual will feel good and energetic in the AM and gradually feel tired as the day grows older. If you have issues falling asleep easy, staying asleep, or wake up tired, this is your body telling you it is under stress. Your adrenal glands are working overtime. This is called adrenal stress.
It doesn’t help that we’re prescribed steroids to suppress the immune system either. When taking a corticosteroid such as prednisone or hydrocortisone, it mimics the effects of hormones your body produces naturally in your adrenal glands. If the dosage amount is higher than what your adrenal glands generate normally, the adrenal glands shut down. This is why we have to taper slowly to hopefully kickstart the adrenal glands again and prevent long-term damage.
Steroid usage, depending on the dosage, causes peaks and valleys with your cortisol levels. If cortisol levels frequently peak and valley throughout the day, this could indicate your adrenal glands aren’t communicating efficiently with the brain.
This was the cause of a lot of sleepless nights for me and most likely you as well.
Circadian Rhythm and the Gut
A healthy gut and a restful sleep may not seem like they have much in common, the reality is that your body’s ability to get rest are dependent on several factors, all of which depend directly on you having a healthy GI (or gastrointestinal tract). A great article from Pubmed describes it in detail here.
How the Gut and Stress Relate
When the gut is inflamed, infected, or not functioning properly, this is a major stressor on adrenal function and can potentially overwork and exhaust the immune system. A large mass of lymphoid tissue sits just beneath the gastrointestinal wall and is in constant dialogue with the
other elements of the gut mucosal barrier, such beneficial microflora. The network of immune cells and the gastrointestinal tract are both systems in the body that are extraordinarily sensitive to each other and work in close proximity to one another.
It is important to note that a large percentage of people with gut permeability never actually manifest gastrointestinal symptoms; signs of an excited immune system and inflammation will arise elsewhere in the body.
Prolonged inflammation anywhere in the body is a good indicator to investigate adrenal stress. Additionally, unidentified food sensitivities, which may not even manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms, can trigger an immune response and also stress the adrenal glands.
5 Steps to Improve Your Sleep
- Remove inflammatory foods.
- Remove bad fats and replace with good healthy fats.
- Avoid overexerting the body with too much exercise.
- Stop eating sugary foods and remove caffeine – Especially before bed.
- Get a good night’s sleep – Yes, it seems like a major “duh”, but lack of sleep and adrenal stress can be a vicious cycle.
Supplement with Probiotics
Most American’s are deficient in probiotics from natural food sources. This is partly due to diet but mostly because of the high amounts of processed food available on store shelves. Processing foods remove the very sources of good bacteria found naturally in food.
Supplement a healthy diet low in sugar and gluten with probiotic supplements. Assisting the body with enzymes and good bacteria is imperative to healing a permeable gut. This will not only improve gut health, but will cool down inflammation, decrease the aging process, improve mental clarity, and sustain energy throughout the day. Try implementing my suggested leaky gut healing foods and supplements to restore the integrity of the digestive tract. 
The gut actually makes 90% of the neurotransmitters in your body. A part of working with a neurotransmitter deficiency is making sure that the digestive tract is functioning properly. Enzymes and probiotic foods such as homemade Bone Broth are the places to start. Any kind of inflammation in the digestive tract, which is common with a permeable or leaky gut, will compromise gut function.
- Vaarala O, Atkinson MA, Neu J (2008) ‘The “Perfect Storm” for Type 1 Diabetes The Complex Interplay Between Intestinal Microbiota, Gut Permeability, and Mucosal Immunity’, Diabetes Journal, (57)10(2555-2562).
- Scott, H et al. Scan J Gastroenterol. 1980, 15:81.