Insomnia: A Sob Story (with Gluten?)

Yawwwwwwn. If I’ve seen you lately, I’ve probably graced you with one of those. It’s not that I’m bored or being rude. It’s just that sleep . . . hasn’t been happening lately.

I’ve written before about such light, possibly celiac-related topics as bloating and hair loss. After several low-sleep months, I felt it was time to address this new one. I’ve tried writing this post many times already but kept falling asleep in the middle of a


















Just kidding. Honestly, if I could fall asleep so readily, I’d welcome it (and then complain about it). But, I can’t. So, with all of us alert, let’s talk insomnia.

In the past, I’ve occasionally gone up to a few days having trouble falling asleep. Lately, though, it’s been constant.

Insomnia, among other sleep disorders, is on the laundry list of conditions associated with celiac disease. Jane Anderson has written it up for That said, like bloating and hair loss, it’s also associated with a million other conditions and sometimes exists on its own. (The NIH can tell you all about it.)

So, where’d mine come from?

Because my insomnia started long after I went gluten-free, I have a feeling, for once, celiac’s not to blame. However, in the past, I did wonder if occasional insomnia meant I’d been glutened. (I’ve never “caught someone in the act” of glutening me, so it’s hard to be sure. Still, certain blech patterns appear.)

Thus, my first thought was: have I been eating something new and contaminated that I didn’t properly check? I don’t think so . . . though I did eat too much gluten-free junk this winter. A dietary spring cleaning is underway, and way needed.

Insomnia cookies

Not gluten-free. Probably for the best.
Photo © Robyn Lee | Flickr

My next thought was to blame a new medication. Insomnia’s not a known side effect, but I wouldn’t put it past my body to react in a unique, idiotic way. It’s slimly possible that the medication was contaminated; though I checked with the manufacturer, I received the standard “We can’t guarantee it” response, since they don’t test their final product. Having stopped taking it, I’m waiting for changes. So far, zilch.

Or maybe it’s stress? It is a possible trigger for roughly 75 percent of bad things. A colleague gave notice and I got promoted right around the time this started. Not bad, except that I feel even more buried than usual underneath a mound of work that never shrinks.

At night, as I try to make myself a willing vessel to oblivion, my mind jumps to multiple unchecked to-do list items. I’m not going to do any of them in the middle of the night, but I do shift position, refluff my pillow, and worry about it. (Mindfulness gurus would say to keep a notebook on my nightstand to jot these things down. Setting this up is something else I never manage to check off my list.)

Sprue Jr says labeling it “insomnia” is the problem: that by expecting it, I perpetuate it. But I disagree. It is . . . what it is. And insomnia by any other name would still suck.

While I’m not sure what is causing my insomnia, I can tell you one thing my insomnia has caused. Sleeplessness, you see, leads to bloglessness. For some time now, I’ve been down to one post a week. And it’s not for lack of ideas or time, I swear. It’s lack of sleep.

insomnia digital clock

Watching the clock is another insomnia no-no. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Photo © Fairy Heart | Flickr

Sleeplessness spawns laziness in more ways than one. It saps your energy, motivation, and attention. Sleep is incredibly (though still largely inexplicably) valuable to humankind’s ability to think, learn, and generally function.

Staying awake too late the night before encourages endless snoozing sessions (a horrible habit, and not actually restful at all, but tell that to my half-conscious brain) and skipped morning workouts. Bummer, because “regular exercise” is another top tip for insomnia prevention.

After feeling tired all day, it’s inescapably appealing to go to bed as early as possible. Plus, standard anti-insomnia advice preaches not to stare at backlit screens at night, so I’ve been trying to power down earlier, even if it means no post the next day—and even if I’m likely enough to simply lie in bed, unable to nod off, for hours, wishing I’d just stayed up to write.

Sluggishness and sleeplessness: two miserable conditions that reinforce one another nightly.

I’ve tried melatonin, chamomile tea, and valerian root, which I must tell you smells like death. None worked.

Still, I’m hopeful this’ll be the last time I complain to you about sleep. It’s spring: time for regeneration, spending time outdoors, being active, and maybe less stress at work. Somehow, I feel this must get better.

But for the time being, at least, my posts will continue to come about once a week, possibly sporadically, and I hope you’ll keep checking in despite that (subscribe, even—make my day!). At heart, this blog is about health; and right now, for me, that means getting back to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Do you struggle with insomnia, or have you ever? Does it seem to be linked to gluten? What works or doesn’t work for you? 

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23 thoughts on “Insomnia: A Sob Story (with Gluten?)

  1. denisedaniel says:

    I have two types of insomnia. The whirling dervish can’t stop doing stuff and not going to sleep until 3 AM type, which I’ve been battling since my early thirties, is apparently related to corn. Every time I have a corn exposure, BAM, not going to sleep until 3 AM that night. I haven’t tracked down the cause of the waking up at 4 AM for no reason type yet, but the incidence appears less since getting off both corn and wheat, so who knows.

    • Molly says:

      I don’t really get your first type of insomnia (though my sister does sometimes, I think). Usually I feel bone-tired but just lie in bed without falling asleep (and then maybe wake up later). I’m glad yours seems to be maybe getting better! It’s frustrating!

  2. lisamims says:

    I had the most awful insomnia for about nine years before, and slightly after my diagnosis–I’ve been told since that if you’re having liver and kidney function issues because of celiac, it can cause insomnia. Only one thing made it better: acupuncture. (Yeah, I know, it’s probably a placebo; I don’t care.) It’s the only thing that made it so I could sleep at night, when even prescription drugs did nothing.

    • Molly says:

      I would happily accept a placebo that works any day, for any issue. And…who knows? These things are mysterious. I’m glad you found a solution!

  3. Sharon says:

    I rarely have a problem falling asleep but I very often wake up at 3 or 4 and have a very hard time falling back to sleep. This has been a problem my whole life gluten free or not. I even remember being awake in the middle of the night as a young kid. It does seem to get worse with stress but it effects me even when things are calm. The only thing that seems to ever help me is reading a somewhat boring book. It’s not a guarantee but it does work more times then not. And napping is the worst. Even a 10 minute nap will screw me all up. It’s not worth it. I force myself to stay up till 10-11pm no matter how tired I am. Hope you get done sleep soon!

    • Molly says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sharon (but sorry to hear it!). I hope it gets better for you, too!

      I haven’t really been able to take naps for years; my schedule doesn’t really allow for it, except on weekends I suppose, but even if I had a time to take naps, I always have “napsomnia”—I go to bed thinking I’ll fall asleep immediately, and instead I just lie there thinking, “Why can’t I fall asleep? This is such a waste of time. I should just get up.” And I used to be so good at napping! Straight through high school I could fall asleep in the middle of someone else’s sentence if I was bored enough. 😛 Oh well.

  4. Pinkie Yaw says:


    What about if you do huge exercise routines a few hours before, dinner and the go to sleep early to clean your thinking of all day?

    In my scenario i go to the gym and spend all my energy there & avoid things that make my adrenaline run higher like video games (for example) before going to bed.

    • Molly says:

      Pinkie, I used to exercise in the evening and don’t remember having any issues with sleep back then; however, I always blew off working out whenever a better social engagement came along, so it wasn’t working that well for me in that sense. 🙂 I may try this again anyway, though. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Mary Kate says:

    I don’t get actual insomnia so much as really really bad sleep where I may as well have laid awake all night. I was so tired a few years ago I was sent for a sleep study (which I failed, entirely. Apparently if you clip me to a bed with wires and tell me I can’t get up to pee, that is all I will think about all night).

    For me, the first and biggest problem was extraordinarily low vitamin D levels. I was also magnesium deficient. Between those two supplements, I’m mostly cured. I just need to go to bed a little earlier now.

    • jsherwin2013 says:

      Molly: I sympathize and empathize with you. I know why, however, I have sleep problems. I am post-menopausal. You are so young. Have you talked to your doctor? As you said, sleep problems can be traced to many triggers, not just gluten sensitivity. Best of luck, Jennie

      • Molly says:

        Jennie, that’s always the very last thing I do, after complaining, googling, and self-medicating. I’m a horrible patient! But I have a doctor’s appointment next week, so I do plan to check in with her about this. She thinks I’m a total nutcase, I believe, but what can you do.

    • Molly says:

      Mary Kate, this has me thinking, because something else I hadn’t considered is that for the past months I’ve been partially weaning myself off of a very high daily dose of magnesium I’ve been taking for (ahem) other reasons. I’m down to about half of what I was taking before, so maybe the issue is that my body had gotten used to having a lot more magnesium in it. Hmmm.

      That’s so cool that you did a sleep study, even if it didn’t work out so well. I think that would be fun. (Which may or may not indicate that I have more serious problems than I thought.)

      • Mary Kate says:

        Maybe you still need some, or maybe your body got really used to the extra dose. We’re trying to figure out the right dose for me, and it’s a pain.

        Also, yeah, sleep study is NOT fun. I’ve slept on hotel beds in rural middle of nowhere, costing less than $30 a night that were more comfortable than the one in the place where The Entire Point is to make you sleep.

  6. Jess (The Patient Celiac) says:

    Hi dear Molly,
    I am sorry you are going through this. I’ve had really severe bouts of insomnia off and on since my teen years, I have no idea if it’s celiac-related or stress-related or not.
    I’ve noticed a direct connection with how much I’ve exercised. The more physical activity I get, the better I sleep (the only exception to this is when I run late at night). Alcohol also makes it much more difficult for me to sleep too…
    I hope you can find some help and get some rest.

    • Molly says:

      Thanks for the well wishes and the tips, Jess! I’m sorry to hear you struggle with this issue too. I definitely need to just start dragging myself out of bed to exercise whether I slept or not, because I have a feeling that would help a lot in the long run.

  7. Hi Molly,
    I sympathise. It’s horrid not being able to sleep – and I think that sometimes, the more desperate one gets for sleep, the harder it is to settle.
    For myself just now, I’m always so exhausted by lunch time – let alone at the end of the day! But luckily I seem to be able to get to sleep fairly easily. Don’t sleep heavily, though… but I think that’s a product of having had children, and always half listening out for them.
    I really hope things get easier for you very soon…
    And I’m enjoying your posts – thank you, so pleased I found your blog!
    Emma 🙂

  8. Not sleeping is the worst 😦 Hope it improves for you soon…

    I have a totally unrelated question – I was just invited to participate in a cool blog tour about the writing process and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in doing it too! It’s 4 questions and then inviting 3 other bloggers to join in the following week. If you want to hear more, send me a note at: But if you’re too busy and/or too tired, no worries!

  9. Vik says:

    Yep, insomnia here as well. And yep, it sux.

  10. I have the sort of insomnia that I wake every 4-ish hours. It’s been that way my entire adult life. I no longer expect to sleep through the night, but to be able to get back to sleep when I wake.

    Look to neurotransmitter support, if nothing else works. These days you can actually test for specific neuros that are out of balance, and target supplementation specifically to them. The company Neuro Science is one that does testing and supplements. I’ve used their products off and on for about13 years, and they are solid.

    No doubt that diet and lifestyle is a culprit, So is stress level, which has everything to do with the aforementioned, also. Before having kids, when I was 100% within my food and exercise, fabulous habits… I had no problems with insomnia. But as soon as I had life stress, caught a cold, etc, back to the drawing board.

    So, there are many things you can do. Don’t give up!

  11. […] Sorry, guys. I didn’t mean to hold out on you, but you know how summer gets. You’re busy with your NEW projects, like relearning to play the guitar or jab-cross-hooking at the local kickboxing studio, all while trying to soak up as much sunlight as you can on those glorious long weekend days. The computer is the last place you want to be (especially if—cue the whining—you’re still trying to avoid screens in an effort to kill your sleep problems). […]

  12. […] starting to get a bit loopy because I still can’t sleep, and it’s been a while since my last sprue redo. So, here’s a children’s […]

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