Sleep disorders related to nutrition and digestive diseases: a neglected clinical condition

Int J Med Sci. 2021 Jan 1;18(3):593-603. doi: 10.7150/ijms.45512. eCollection 2021.


Sleep disturbances often result from inappropriate lifestyles, incorrect dietary habits, and/or digestive diseases. This clinical condition, however, has not been sufficiently explored in this area. Several studies have linked the circadian timing system to the physiology of metabolism control mechanisms, energy balance regulation, and nutrition. Sleep disturbances supposedly trigger digestive disorders or conversely represent specific clinical manifestation of gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. Poor sleep may worsen the symptoms of GI disorders, affecting the quality of life. Conversely, short sleep may influence dietary choices, as well as meal timing, and the circadian system drives temporal changes in metabolic patterns. Emerging evidence suggests that patients with inappropriate dietary habits and chronic digestive disorders often sleep less and show lower sleep efficiency, compared with healthy individuals. Sleep disturbances may thus represent a primary symptom of digestive diseases. Further controlled trials are needed to fully understand the relationship between sleep disturbances, dietary habits, and GI disorders. It may be also anticipated that the evaluation of sleep quality may prove useful to drive positive interventions and improve the quality of life in a proportion of patients. This review summarizes data linking sleep disorders with diet and a series of disease including gastro-esophageal reflux disease, peptic disease, functional gastrointestinal disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, gut microbiota alterations, liver and pancreatic diseases, and obesity. The evidence supporting the complex interplay between sleep dysfunction, nutrition, and digestive diseases is discussed.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; diet; digestive diseases; gastrointestinal disease; nutrition; sleep disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neglected Diseases / complications*
  • Neglected Diseases / physiopathology
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications*
  • Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology