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26 People Describe What It's Like to Experience 'Poopsomnia'

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When chronic illness affects your gastrointestinal tract, it doesn’t just cause issues during the daytime. GI symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bleeding or cramping may often flare up during the night, keeping you awake and running back and forth between your bed and the toilet –otherwise known as “poopsomnia.” While this may be common for GI disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it can be caused by any number of illnesses.

Although it can be awkward and difficult to open up to friends or coworkers about personal “bathroom issues,” the reality is that issues like poopsomnia can have a significant impact on many aspects of a person’s life. We shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to talk about symptoms that are beyond our control.

To better understand the many ways this issue can affect people’s lives, we asked our Mighty community to share what it’s like to experience “poopsomnia” because of a chronic illness. Do any of the following sound familiar to you? Let us know what your experience with poopsomnia has been in the comments below.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “A good way to explain it to someone that doesn’t have it would be: when you have a flare-up, it’s basically like having a stomach virus that doesn’t go away.”

2. “When I was so sick with ulcerative colitis that I would poo around 30 times a day, some of that was during the night when I should be sleeping. To be rudely awakened by your colon with intense pain and sudden urge is an indescribably scary [thing] you don’t ever want to experience.”

3. “Poopsomnia is hours of mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest, being able to get from your bed to the bathroom in less than five seconds and with your eyes shut, having a sore bum from sitting there so long, and trying so hard to not fall asleep, even though you know if you get off and go back to bed you will end up back at the toilet in 20 minutes anyway.”

4. “I keep my bathroom stocked for every/any occasion.”

5. “It’s not just physically exhausting, but mentally as well. When you haven’t slept through the night in a year, it starts to affect you – you become short-tempered and moody. It affects those around you and not just you.”

6. “People don’t think IBS is any big deal, but they don’t live with it, they don’t understand how many ways it affects your daily life. People don’t understand how painful this is, how much you think about it, how much your life revolves around it, how you feel sick and/or in pain almost constantly, how you’re almost always left in a state of frustration, how sad and isolated it can make you feel.”

7. “During bad flares I just sleep on [the] couch so my bathroom antics don’t wake my husband.”

8. “It’s the frustration of thinking you’re finished, getting up, going back to bed then just when you’ve gotten comfy, the cramps start and you need to head back to the toilet.”

9. “When I’m in a flare-up I might as well move my office into the restroom, because I’m never out of it long enough to get anything accomplished. (Like right now!) And after a day or 10 of constant crapping, I am so weak and tired I can’t function, which usually triggers an autoimmune response and I get another illness, like pneumonia. Good times.”

10. “When people tell me they poop once a day, I cry from laughter.”

11. “Poopsomnia made me start wearing men’s boxer briefs to sleep in because washing the sheets every night, in the middle of the night, was exhausting.”

12. “It is feast or famine with gastroparesis and my meds regime. I either go 12 times in a day or every three days, even with stool softeners and walking. I have literally slept on the toilet before.”

13. “The saying ‘you can’t trust a fart’… yeah, well, it just got even worse. You can’t trust any movement your body thinks it should release while sleeping. Makes it even worse when you have insomnia and have a poopsomnia moment of panic, but being drugged to sleep is like a 90-yard dash in slow motion to try and get to the toilet. Even worse when your dog is trailing behind trying to make sure everything’s good but being another road block. You never know when it hits you.”

14. “It’s awful. You’re not only so tired you don’t want to get up but you also have lower abdominal pain if you try to wait. Running back to the bathroom every 10 to 20 minutes is a real pain in the butt… literally! By the time I get to sleep it’s like I’ve been asleep for five minutes.”

15. “I have IBS and interstitial cystitis so I have peesomnia as well! When I feel like I can finally climb into bed, pull up the covers, close my eyes and sleep, it’s time to run to the bathroom again.”

16. “It’s like your illness doesn’t want you to rest. You are already exhausted for having spent all day on the toilet, you hope to fall asleep and, just like the postman, ‘Knock knock! I’m here and I want your attention! Time to run!’”

17. “You know you have poopsomnia when you get tired of getting up every half hour to ‘go’ again so you decide to save yourself the trip and just go back to sleep while still sitting on the toilet. In theory it seemed like a good idea until you’re jolted awake by the sudden feeling like you’re falling and you can’t stop yourself (I hate those dreams) – but in reality you were really falling… right off the toilet!”

18. “When my endometriosis gets really bad I can be up all night in the bathroom trying to find relief, tossing and turning from stomach cramping. Getting maybe an hour of sleep, then having to get up at 5 a.m. to get ready to go to work. It’s exhausting and you can’t exactly call in to work, ‘Hey, sorry, I can’t come in, I was up all night trying really hard to poop!’”

19. “It’s knowing some days you probably can’t go out or work because you need the restroom close – anywhere from a few minutes to less than an hour or two. Or you just had no sleep the night before [and are] possibly dehydrated as well.”

20. “Mine always seems to like to strike when I get into bed. Relax for five minutes and boom, stomach turns over in that way that means ‘get to the bathroom now,’ and then it will do that up to 10 times in a row, maybe with 10-minutes breaks.”

21. “The poopsomnia is bad, but even worse is getting up at 4 a.m. when I work at 8 just so I can start trying to prepare my bowels for work. Then still being late to work because four hours isn’t enough time to make my body cooperate.”

22. “I have had ulcerative colitis for 24 years, and I have struggled with this every… single… night. I’ve tried to stop eating so close to bedtime, taking anti-diarrheal medications (over-the-counter and prescription)… Nothing helps. I’ve even tried sleeping pills but that results in an embarrassing accident because I’m so medicated I don’t wake up to use the bathroom.”

23. “I worry all night about finding that balance of being relaxed, but not too relaxed. The worry is a cycle, and after 24 years my body is responding to sleep like someone might respond to aversion therapy. My body craves sleep – but the pain or urgency kick in and remind me not to relax completely.”

24. “You might think, ‘Oh, it’s not a big deal.’ [But] it’s not one night of running to the bathroom. It is every…single…day…forever. Not sleeping properly doesn’t help our bodies. It doesn’t allow our bodies to repair themselves properly.”

25. “[With] my medication Metformin, I go through phases, mainly when my dose is changed, where the flood gates open and I’m up…all night. I have slept on the toilet before. Or I’ve worn a diaper to get some semblance of sleep.”

26. “I never thought something that made me so frustrated could have such a funny name.”

Originally published: August 8, 2017
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