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Sleep Disorders More Common Among the Gluten Free

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under News

My gluten free son has had sleep problems since we discovered his gluten issues. Sometimes they are mild, and sometimes they are debilitating. In fact, lately I’ve even been hanging out on a renown Sleep Disorder Center website considering making an appointment.

It’s no surprise then, that this Psychology Today article jumped out at me and may provide just one more puzzle piece to try to fit in this strange group of symptoms that gluten intolerance can cause.

“Are You G-Free and Sleep-Free? Sleep disorders found among those with gluten intolerance,” by Michael J. Breus, aka “The Sleep Doctor,” points to an August 2010 study that finds the people with celiac or those following a gluten free diet have more sleep disorders than those without.

Breus conjectures that this may be related to the fact that more depression exists among celiacs as do more “uncomfortable symptoms and signs of nutritional, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies.”

We do know that those following a gluten free diet are often suffering from other illnesses and issues that may affect quality of life, but I’d personally love to see these researchers look for physical reasons for the issue of sleep disorders among the gluten free instead of simplifying the guess to “depression and anxiety,” since, according to the study the sleep disorders often persist even after going gluten free and symptoms clear up.

“You wouldn’t think being sensitive to gluten would have any effect on sleep, but there is in fact a strong connection. A team of researchers recently found that people with this condition—even those following a gluten-free diet—commonly suffer from sleep disorders that are related to depression, anxiety, and fatigue. It is, to put it mildly, a vicious cycle:

  • When you’re tired and down, you’re not likely to sleep well, which can then play into digestive issues.
  • Add to that a sensitivity to an ingredient as ubiquitous as gluten and there’s bound to be trouble.
  • The reverse holds true as well: when your eating life is challenged by celiac, you run a higher risk of having physical ailments that hinder restful sleep.”

“Fatigue, depression, and anxiety are really just common denominators to myriad other conditions; in other words, they happen as a side-effect to enduring or living with other health problems.”

Read the entire Psychology Today article here.

Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Volume 32, Issue 8, pages 1031–1036, October 2010
Read the study abstract  free or pay for the study write-up.


9 Responses to “Sleep Disorders More Common Among the Gluten Free”
  1. Linda says:

    I am gluten intolerant but didn’t learn about it until around 2004. I had insomnia for 11 years following a hysterectomy in 1989. I had my mercury amalgams removed in 2001 and started sleeping 7-8 hours every night within one month. A couple of years ago, anxiety kept me from getting to sleep. Once there I was fine. Then I learned about the tapping on the face technique. I do it every night before going to sleep. I am usually asleep within 3-4 minutes after doing the tapping.

  2. Mark says:

    I was wondring what is “tapping on the face technique?” Which Linda mentioned in the comment above.

  3. Shari says:

    I went dairy-free 4 months after going gluten free. After going dairy-free, I sleep a good 7-8 restful hours. No trouble falling asleep & I stay asleep and feel rested in the morning.

  4. maria says:

    The tapping on the face technique was used by this hypnosis therapist i saw for fear of driving and anxiety i developed after being diagnosed, but never seemed to work for me, you tap between eyes and on the chin where some nerves are. when it comes to sleep,i feel if you do enough during the day you will sleep like a baby.

  5. Annie says:

    It sounds like the “tapping on the face” is EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. If this is correct let us know. This technique is supposed to relieve a lot of problems.

  6. Nell says:

    Ever since I was diagnosed as Celiac 2 months ago, and have been following a GF diet, I have been sleeping like crap. I awake so easily, I am never tired at night and I even take melatonin to sleep and that doesn’t help. I seriously thought we needed a new mattress or something because I toss and turn all night. Now that I know it could be related, any suggestions for staying asleep???

  7. Kevin says:

    Wow, I had never heard of this connection before, but the title immediately jumped out at me. I’ve been eating gluten free since I was in 7th grade (I’m now in college), and have been delving into the world of sleep research the last few years. In fact, I run a website about sleep at that I’ve been developing for a while with Stanford Sleep and Dreams. This could be a particularly personal topic to cover on there for me. Thanks for the great info!

  8. Nancy says:

    Here are some comments from our Facebook page on this article with some good ideas! Find the post here:!/posted.php?id=298726661598&share_id=124910714228997&comments=1#s124910714228997

    Sharon Powers Geyer Now I understand why I don’t sleep as good as I use to. Plus the other issues listed, a g.f. life kinda sucks!
    Wednesday at 6:25pm

    Stacey Werner-Patton Very interesting!
    Wednesday at 6:29pm

    Amanda Blue-Spencer I totally agree. I’ve had sleep problems for as long as I can remember.
    Wednesday at 6:30pm

    Alison Campbell Yep I have sleep issues 2
    Wednesday at 6:46pm

    Kimberly Ann I sleep much better since going gf. Go figure.
    Wednesday at 6:51pm

    Nova Tedford I’ve just recently learned that one of the reasons for this is because thats where some of our seratonin is made…in our large intestines…I think…and from the damage of the disease I believe is a corraltion. Most sleep disorders stem from lack of seratonin and seratonin distribution. I’ve been researching this and found the correlation. Hope this helps etleast one person understand. It helped me!!!!!!
    Wednesday at 6:52pm

    Jennifer Pittman Yah, so this article basically says there’s no known explanation other than the obvious cycle of sleep, diet, & depression all affecting each other. I could’ve told ya that. They did make a good point, that more research into the real connection should be made. But, then again, there are so many permutations w/ Celia, i.e. other health issues resulting from, that it would be a hard study. Especially when the medical industry is only beginning to understand this auto-immune disease.
    Wednesday at 6:52pm

    Trina Mitchell Eating a banana before you go to bed helps! It has the same ingredient that Turkey does.
    Wednesday at 6:52pm

    Patricia Meyer-Monroe I don’t sleep well at all! So how can we fix that?
    Wednesday at 6:52pm

    Mary Radig-Tanner I wish they would do more studies…I’d love to get a whole nights sleep.
    Wednesday at 7:01pm

    Jean Ruddell I have trouble going to sleep and so do my girls but my son is out like a light. It was worse before the diet. Part of my problem was a small hyperthyroid nodule that woke me up all night. Now I have 1/2 a thyroid with tiny nodules (they got smaller once I was GF). That is characteristic of Hashimotos thyroiditis which is more common in people with Celiac disease. I have a sister, cousin, aunt and grandmother with that.
    Wednesday at 7:01pm

    Ar Wkd I honestly found the original Psychology Today article this was commenting almost useless and way too dumbed down with regards to the symptoms of celiac disease. I know this is a relatively new disease in terms of research, but it would be nice to get a solution to the depression, anxiety and insomnia instead of just an acknowledgment that it exists. Although, in some ways, just the acknowledgment is very satisfying. Sometimes it gets very frustrating to have an invisible illness.
    Wednesday at 7:06pm

    Gail Lustig Since diagnosis and being GF my daughter has slept great. Her fatigue completely disappeared.
    Wednesday at 7:09pm

    Beth Blais Daigle My 6 year old son also does not sleep well. Very difficult when he doesn’t sleep because it feeds his other underlying issues.
    Wednesday at 7:14pm

    Jennifer Pittman The problem for many of us celiacs, is that it take the medical industry so long to recognize/diagnose it. By the time they do, you have all these other conditions/diseases because of it. So to treat the symptoms, such as insomnia, you have to not only treat the celiac, but also the vitamin deficiency, the hypothyroid, the depression (& many other variables many of us have) – to actual see those symptoms disappear. Often they never fully go away, just get reduced on some level.
    Wednesday at 7:27pm

    Sherrie Reece Goodell My 4 year old has insomnia. She has Fibromyalgia and moderate to severe insomnia is pretty common with that. We give her a dissolveable melatonin and it works wonders. 30 minutes after she takes it, she is in what we call the “melatonin haze”, stubbling and sleepy. That, along with a strict vitamin regiment has led to very peaceful nights.
    Wednesday at 7:35pm

    Noel Ochoa I never knew so many things came with celiac’s disease. I have never been officially diagnosed with it but have done my best to be on a gluten free diet for about five years and have felt extremely different and healthier without it.
    Wednesday at 7:39pm

    Jennifer Pittman Sherrie, I’m so glad to hear melatonin works for your little one. I have found it to be the only the thing that works for me. FYI, I have you ever find it not working quite enough down the road, I’ve found the spray version is far more effective than the tablet or liquid forms. But it’s not always stocked in that form in local stores, so you have to ask for it.
    Wednesday at 7:46pm

    Sherleen Rew Peter Gilliam’s Natural Vitality Natural CALM a relaxing magnesium supplement. Just make it into a tea and drink a cup nightly. It is called the anti stress drink and comes in several flavors. It has worked better than anything else I have found for peaceful sleep. You can find it in most health food stores.
    Wednesday at 7:55pm

    Sue Biallas Sauve that would be me…
    Wednesday at 8:29pm

    Joan Nauertz I sleep like a log every night, but my gf daughter has trouble sleeping. That is so sad. But it sure is better then life before we went gf. Life is sooooo much better now!!
    Wednesday at 9:39pm

    Kimberly Ann
    Thing is that you must work on healing your whole body. Eat lots of green veggies and berries for antioxidants value, good yogurt (raw) to help your digestive system heal, only use honey as a sweetener (also helps to heal damage), Omaga 3′s… or eat fatty fish three times per week, avocado, flax and/or olive oils. Stay completely away from transfats, and make sure you get enough saturated fat. The fats are great for the brain and will help it to heal. The Omegas help the nervous system, etc. Red meat will actually give you crucial enzymes for good brain function. Don’t forget vitamins, especially b’s and d. I went undiagnosed for 18 years. After being diagnosed 9 mos ago, I figured out that simply going gluten free was not good enough. I had to work to get rid of the toxins and to heal my whole body. I have done a lot of research and still working on some. I have consulted with nutritionists and learned a great deal while attending university. Remember that over processed foods are our enemy. Thee is a lot more to this but this is a good general guideline.See More
    Wednesday at 10:47pm

    Gloria Rightman Thank you for advice on sleep, I thought my husband snoring was my problem? Lol all day I dozed off and on! I thought I was losing my mind! God bless all my GF Friends!!
    Wednesday at 11:23pm

    Kari Clarose Wow…..this partly explains my sleep issues for the past 3 years! I am sick of not being able to sleep on my own….I love sleeping!
    Wednesday at 11:41pm

    Laurie Fischer
    ‎@Jean – how does the nodule affect your sleep? I have one as well and have been diagnosed w Hashimoto’s. I’ve had lifelong sleep issues and was diagnosed w Celiac 7 yrs ago. I still have insomnia but the related fatigue made me sleep bette…r because I was sooooo tired. I do find some relationship between carbohydrate consumption and my sleep as in if I eat starchy carbs throughout the day, I sleep better. However, if I eat the carbs, I would gain 50 lbs a year. This makes sense because there is a relationship between eating carbs and seratonin production, I just don’t know the magic formula.See More
    Wednesday at 11:58pm

    Nova Tedford Google seratonin deficiencies with Celieac and intestinal disorders…it talks about the lack of seratonin that is affecting sleep and mood. I recently have started taking an ‘all’ natural seratonin uptaker called ‘panicyl’ that was suggested to me.( So far so good. Thanks for everyones comments. Maybe if we all work together with our own personal research we can help eachother…:O)
    Yesterday at 3:06am

    Diane Englert Valarian has helped me sleep due to issues related to Celiacs. I have Fibromyalgia and I had problems fully waking up with Melatonin. Valarian also helps relax my stomach during the day with stressful events. My poor tummy has a stress reflex from all the years of pain before I went GF. It’s hard to teach your body new tricks, but Valarian has really helped in that area.
    Yesterday at 3:07am

    Karen Gomez Vega my sons have had sleep issues before going GF. try melatonin…natural and helps tons! i sleep better now so go figure….
    Yesterday at 3:58am

    Shari Regan I went dairy-free about 4 months after going gluten-free. After going dairy-free, I started sleeping normally for the first time EVER. I also take calcium & magnesium about a half hour before bedtime.
    Yesterday at 5:17am

    Sharyn Linsky Srednicki I used to have really bad insomnia and was up prowling around until 4 am most night. After going gf, I rarely have a restless night and wake up after 7-8 hours rested and ready to go. SOOOO nice
    Yesterday at 5:21am

    Ashley Pyne Odd I’ve been gf for almost a year now and I sleep much better than when I was a gluten person. To each is own. I feel a lot better being gf :)
    Yesterday at 6:05am

    Carol Miller Doctors always want to tell you that you are not sleeping well because you are depressed – when, I believe, the cause and effect can be just the opposite. If you are not sleeping well, you are going to be depressed. Sleep deprivation comes quickly when you are not sleeping well and has many very unpleasant side effects.
    Yesterday at 6:52am

    Kimberly Ann ‎@Diane: I hope your not taking too much of the Valerian. Reason I say that is that it can become toxic very quickly. It is not for prolonged use. Try some Apple Cider Vinegar for your tummy. It calms the acids and has all sorts of other good benefits like lowering cholesterol and keeping the acids in your body in check. Just put 3 teaspoons in an 8 ounce glass of water and drink it once per day. Just Google Apple Cider Benefits and you will see what I am talking about.
    Yesterday at 8:42am

    Sherrie Reece Goodell
    Jennifer, thank you for that info. If she becomes resistant to the melatonin I will see if I can find the spray. The regular swallow pills don’t work on her, but the ones that dissolve in your mouth work great for her. I think it’s because …it gets into the system faster. She is also on a heavy strict vitamin regiment and that has helped for everything from attitude to sleep (for the first time in years, she is taking naps again without it being a huge fight). It wasn’t easy at first, she takes 16-17 pills a day, but now she’s use to it and the results are totally worth it, especially since there is no set treatment for Fibromyalgia.

    Kimberly and Diane,
    If you can’t handle the liquid form of Apple Cider Vinegar (like me, no matter what I put it in, it makes me gag), you can get it in pill form. I take a double strength pill twice a day and it’s been amazing. Everyone in my house got a real nasty cold and sinus infection, except for me. They are easy to find and pretty cheap. They do smell bad though, so swallowing quickly is helpful lol.See More
    Yesterday at 8:55am

    Diane Englert ‎@ Kimberly. I take the valarian when I need it, not everyday anymore but my blood morphologist did not warn me about toxicity. I will have to research that. Ive used it for years. Thanks for this heads up.
    Yesterday at 9:31am

    Kimberly Ann ‎@Diane- yeah, it takes some getting used to but the results for some of my stomach ailments have been great. I got my info about Valerian from books. I have been into herbals for 20+ yrs and have a couple of friends with Phd’s, They have warned me about the potential toxicity of certain herbs. Valerian and pennyroyal always seem to top the list. Just don’t take it more than 4 or 5 days straight and you should be okay.
    Yesterday at 9:38am

    Gayle Goldapp Familiar to me!
    Yesterday at 10:00am

    Trilby Brown All grains have gluten. See info at “Gluten Free” page. Going grain-free has made a huge difference for me.
    Yesterday at 10:35am

    Jennifer Pittman
    Sherrie, another tidbit to share. I’ve come across these great tablets for fibromyalgia pain, which also helps my rheumatoid. They are large tablets, but not huge. They are called “End Pain” by Enzymatic. It’s just cherry juice, willow bark…, & boswellic acid. It’s done wonders for my pain level. I call it my natural ibuprofen. Doesn’t eliminate the pain, but takes it down several notches to a dull, tolerable level. Thought I’d share in case your daughter could benefit. Best taken in the morning, every day, as it does give some energy. I forget sometimes how much a difference it makes until I run out, & have been off it a while. That waking up to feeling like you’ve been run over by a mac truck comes rushing back.See More
    23 hours ago

    Sherrie Reece Goodell
    Thank you Jennifer, I may look into that if she starts getting bad flare ups again. Right now she is pain free (except for her stomach pain, which is common in Fibro, but not the same as the body pain) thanks to a GF diet and her vitamins. …Right now she takes DHEA, vitamin E and vitamin C, which are all anti-inflammatories and magnesium, calcium and vitamin D to help relax the nerves and muscles. I also found a product called Nerve Tonic, which I give her when she is being exceptionally irritable or seems to be depressed/melancoly. It turns her mood right around.See More
    22 hours ago

    Nova Tedford ‎@Jennifer: Thanks for posting about the ‘end pain’….I’ve been looking for some “natural ibuprofen.” In my ‘panicyl’ there is something called ashwaganda? Since I’ve been taking this I havent taken a whole lot of ibuprofen (for my fibro pain). I found out its a natural inflamitory and tonic for the body. THANK YOU for posting….I’m looking that up RIGHT now!!! :O)
    20 hours ago

    Joelle Nicholson hmmm. I have found the opposite to be true. My son and I sleep SO MUCH BETTER since going gf. But then we also take supplements and eat very healthy. No processed foods (never really did). That is one way I know we’ve been glutened (and not ill from a virus etc. ) is we get overtired but have insomnia. Hopefully it doesn’t change!??
    20 hours ago

    Jennifer Pittman
    Sherrie, what kind of GF vitamin E do you use? Haven’t searched for a good source on that yet. I wouldn’t be able to try the nerve tonic, as it’s got lactose in it, & I’m intolerant. But my doctor put me on Folic acid 1,000 iu. Among it…

  9. Allison says:

    Went gluten free two years ago and significantly improved sleeping. I also consume dairy rarely and im very small amounts along with corn, beans, and other grains. Stick to mostly fruits, veggies, healthy fats and meat and other non processed foods, which helps even more :)

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