Cases of celiac disease and gluten intolerance are rising every year and symptoms and complications are vast and varied, affecting almost every part of the human body. Can gluten cause problems with your sleep if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity? Very little research has been done on the subject, but recent research is showing a link between sleep disorders (or just poor sleep) and gluten sensitivity.
Many people who can't handle gluten suffer from fatigue – it's one of the most common celiac disease symptoms, as well as one of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity, a newly-defined and as-yet poorly understood condition.
However, despite their fatigue, many people with celiac and gluten sensitivity report problems getting to sleep and staying asleep. These problems seem to be very common before people are diagnosed, but may persist following diagnosis once the people start the gluten-free diet.
Whose Sleep Benefits Most from Giving up Gluten?
As it turns out, researchers have determined the answer to this question is a certain segment of the population – folks with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is loosely defined as an autoimmune disease with gluten intolerance. And it’s becoming more commonly diagnosed, especially with older adults.
Folks with celiac disease have a physical reaction when they eat gluten. This includes stomachaches,significantly increased or decreased bathroom trips, and other issues with gastrointestinal problems.
In addition, people with celiac disease often also have trouble with sleeping well, and have an increased risk of developing a number of sleeping conditions – which includes obstructive sleep apnea.
Why Gluten Is Linked to Sleep Apnea?
Researchers and doctors have identified several reasons for this link between celiac disease and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
For one thing, people with celiac disease essentially have an allergic reaction when they ingest gluten.
It can cause a person’s tonsils to enlarge, their neck and throat muscles to swell, and which can lead to difficulty breathing. Added pressure to the neck and throat, and narrowed air passageways, are all huge contributors to OSA.
OSA is a condition where you are unable to breathe properly when you sleep.
Another way that celiac disease can contribute to OSA is through the gut.
People with celiac disease often report fairly frequent episodes of acid reflux and heartburn, which can cause stomach acids to float up into the esophagus, damaging the lining. When this occurs on a regular basis, it can cause serious damage to the bronchial tissues. This then in turn leads to more severe OSA.
Finally, folks with celiac disease have other mood and mental symptoms that tie in with OSA, such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression. All of these conditions have been shown to intensify OSA. And they can even lead to a myriad of problems down the road, as well as an overall lack of energy and a greater risk for weight gain.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, eating too much gluten might not necessarily lead to OSA for everyone. But folks with celiac disease are certainly at a higher risk of developing severe obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition, an excess of unhealthy carbs leads to weight gain (which is a big contributor to OSA). Therefore, it is possible that overindulgence in the wrong types of gluten can lead to health problems down the road. Some examples are non-organic and GMO wheat-based products.
So keep yourself healthy overall! And see a doctor if you have trouble with sleeping, gluten intolerance, or both.
Because the two conditions tend to affect each other, solving both problems is essential to reduce health risks, and to stay healthy all day and night.