In tertiary referral patients, there is association between altered sleep patterns, functional bowel disorders and altered gut motor function. Body mass index (BMI) is also associated with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms including diarrhoea, and with sleep disturbances. Our hypothesis is that sleep disturbances are associated with GI symptoms, and this is not explained by BMI. A 48-item-validated questionnaire was mailed to 6939 community participants in Olmsted County, MN. The survey included GI symptoms, sleep disturbance, daily lifestyle and quality of life (QOL). Independent contributions of sleep disturbance to individual symptoms were assessed using logistic regression adjusting for age, gender, lifestyle and mental health status. The association of an overall sleep score with an overall symptom score was examined and the ability of both scores to predict SF-12 physical and mental functioning scores assessed in multiple linear regression models. Among 3228 respondents, 874 (27%) reported trouble staying asleep. There was a significant correlation of overall sleep scores with overall GI symptom scores (partial r = 0.28, P < 0.001). Waking up once nightly at least four times a month was significantly associated with pain, nausea, dysphagia, diarrhoea, loose stools, urgency and a feeling of anal blockage. Trouble falling asleep was significantly associated with rectal urgency. Associations were independent of gender, age, lifestyle factors and BMI. Overall, sleep scores and GI symptom scores were both significant independent predictors of impaired QOL. In the community, reporting poor sleep is associated with upper and lower GI symptoms, but this is independent of BMI.