INSOMNIA AND IRRITABLE BOWEL SYDNROME

Why I am I writing about insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome?

Insomnia is a common disorder that affects people’s quality of life and their health. Irritable bowel syndrome turns out to have many effects outside the bowel. Some people have an irritable bladder, others suffer from fibromyalgia and quite a few people also suffer from difficulties with sleeping.

In an interesting editorial in the British Medical Journal this week the whole question of managing insomnia is raised. I was fascinated by this because they point out that medicines to help people sleep have only modest effects. It turns out however that psychological treatments such as cognitive and behavioural therapy for insomnia works just as well as drugs.

Even more interestingly, the effects of CBT continue long after the intervention has stopped whereas medicines stop working as soon as you stop taking them.

In the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association they show that people who combine taking medicines and having CBT did better in the long term in terms of improving their sleeping.

Maybe it is a leap of faith but I just wonder whether a similar approach should be used in patients who come to me with irritable bowel syndrome. It is not enough just to take medicines for some of these people but alternative approaches, perhaps including CBT may well help. Indeed the evidence seems to be stacking up that this is the case.

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