Anyone who has ever gone a night without sleep knows that they will feel rough the next day. You may feel as though you are just stumbling through the day, drink too much caffeine to help you stay awake, and more. It is usually assumed that you will feel better in the evening.
However, this isn’t always the case. For approximately 70 million Americans,¹ sleepless nights are the norm. It’s something that they deal with often because of insomnia, which may cause a long list of health concerns, including an upset stomach.
If you frequently feel sick, it is important to find out if your lack of sleep is causing it. We discuss here the mostly hidden, often misunderstood, truth about why insomnia and nausea seem to go together.
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When you don’t get the amount of sleep that your body needs, there may be an entire list of negative effects from it. At first, the effects may include difficulty concentrating and feeling tired and irritable, among other things.
As the sleepless nights continue, the more severe the effects may become, ultimately affecting your health. Some of the most significant health consequences of insomnia include:
Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
Reduced immune system function
Chronic insomnia, which can contribute to these illnesses, is when you have trouble sleeping at least three nights per week for three months or more. However, these things may not be all that you experience because of a lack of good sleep.
There are many things that may cause you to experience insomnia and/or nausea. It may be the amount of stress in your life, the medications that you take, and more.
Regardless of what triggers it, research² has proven that a lack of sleep may increase the desire you feel about eating unhealthy snacks. Your appetite changes, and your body may crave more unhealthy foods. You may want more caffeine to counter the groggy feelings.
If you are sleep-deprived long enough to experience anxiety or depression, drugs and alcohol may be consumed more often. These things may become a “reward” for your brain, so you may feel the desire to eat more of them. If the “reward” is more caffeine, more chocolate, or other junk foods, it can, unfortunately, lead to obesity and diabetes.
With the way sleepless nights can change your diet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that there may be a direct link between insomnia and nausea, especially if you eat more junk foods. Junk foods, especially those with high amounts of sugar, will cause an increase in glucose.
Too much sugar can cause nausea, and your body will respond by creating more insulin. However, this doesn’t mean that what you eat during those midnight cravings is the only culprit.
Nausea you may feel when exhausted can be due to your body’s own natural response to stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of frequent insomnia. This stress activates the hypothalamus and the locus coeruleus in your brain, causing them to stimulate themselves. It can trigger your fight or flight mechanism.
As stress mounts, your hypothalamus produces a hormone called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). Indeed, not having enough good sleep can cause stress. As stress and CRF mount, they can affect your gastrointestinal health.
When too much of this hormone builds up in your body, it can cause spasms in your colon, and your upper stomach muscles also begin to spasm, making you feel nauseous.
Nausea is usually a symptom that indicates something else is going on. Stress, anxiety, and eating disorders are just a few of the things that may cause it.
Unfortunately, to treat nausea, you must treat whatever is causing it. Since insomnia is not easily curable, you may want to try other things that can reduce your nausea. Here are some things you can do:
To address your nausea, you can eat certain foods. Peppermint, for example, has been proven to reduce nausea because it can relax your stomach muscles. You can drink peppermint tea, for example, or use peppermint essential oils.
You can also eat ginger or drink ginger tea. No matter how you use it, it may help your digestive tract and keep your blood pressure stable.
You can often reduce nausea symptoms by sipping on sports drinks or a glass of water throughout the day.
When feeling nauseous, it can be helpful to step outside and breathe deeply. You can also try to relax. Learning to control your breathing and other relaxation techniques may help you feel less nauseous. It may also help you get a little more sleep.
Aromatherapy may reduce nausea. Some popular choices include lemon, lavender, cloves, and chamomile. Lemons, if you eat them, may neutralize stomach acid.
It may not be easy to discover what will reduce your nausea. This does not mean you should give up trying. There are anti-nausea medications available both over the counter and by prescription if you are unable to find relief in other ways.
You should speak with your doctor about insomnia if you regularly have nights where you cannot sleep, followed by days when you don’t feel your best. Your doctor can help you by encouraging lifestyle changes and recommending behavioral therapies.
You should also contact your primary care physician if you:
Feel nauseous frequently over a month or more
You’re losing weight and aren’t sure why
You feel very tired or drained, whether you have been diagnosed with insomnia or not
You should always remember that nausea usually stems from other health conditions. If you have chronic nausea, your doctor will need to know about it to help you trace the root of your issues.
Trying to figure out if your insomnia and nausea are making each other worse is difficult. Nausea is not always something we think about when dealing with a lack of healthy sleep, but they may go hand in hand. A lack of sleep caused by stress or anxiety, which causes insomnia, can lead to more stress, which may upset your entire digestive tract.
There are many things you can try to relieve nausea. However, if you still feel frequent nausea, it may be time to talk to your doctor. They can help you find out if insomnia is causing it or if there is an underlying issue that could cause both problems.
About our program | Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Insomnia increases junk food cravings | Psychology Today
Why do I feel sick after eating junk food? (and how to feel better) | Jump Rope Hub
Nausea from lack of sleep? It’s possible | Sleepaholic
Insomnia | Cleveland Clinic
Sleep deprivation: The effects on mind and body | Mental Health America
How to relieve nausea | Medical News Today
5 common causes of nausea (and when to see a doctor!) | Bass Urgent Care