Ostomy robbing your sleep?

In health, sleep is like a musical conductor, directing healing, cell growth, and cognitive sharpness. It ensures our bodies are in top-notch shape. However, for those navigating life with an ostomy, this vital aspect can take an unexpected twist.

“My greatest challenge was adopting a new sleeping position,” said LOA member Amy. “I was a stomach sleeper and now I sleep on my side with an extra pillow for support. I don’t eat for two hours before going to bed. I also wear a wrap, tanktop, or briefs from Comfizz.com to hold the pouch in place and keep it from folding over on itself.” 

LOA supporter Hollister recently delved into the sleeping challenges for ostomates, exploring how a pouching system can disrupt sleep. The findings revealed that nearly half of ostomates experienced sleep disturbances in the past 30 days due to their pouching systems.

More than 75% of surveyed ostomates reported pouch-related sleep disruptions at least once a week, emphasizing the recurring nature of the issue. Pouch ballooning, a common concern, affected 64% of participants, creating a sleep obstacle and half of respondents identified sleep disruption arising from pouch leakage or the worry of overnight pouch failure.

Often overlooked is the prevalence of itchy skin, with almost 20% of those surveyed citing itch as a significant disruptor. These findings shed light on the multifaceted challenges individuals with ostomies face, extending beyond the physical aspects of pouching systems.

Sally said, a long-time LOA member said, “When I first had the ileostomy surgery I found I was not comfortable or wanting to sleep on my stomach, so I got used to side sleeping. It took a bit.  A tip I might offer for a better night’s sleep is to try not to eat or drink much after 8 p.m. so that the pouch isn’t filling up quite so much during the night.”

Dr. Marishka Brown, a sleep expert from the National Institute of Health, said the quality of sleep involves quantity, but also the benefits of uninterrupted sleep and a consistent sleep schedule. 

The Hollister survey results underscore the importance of addressing sleep-related challenges in the ostomy community. It prompts a closer look at innovative solutions and support systems that can enhance the sleep quality of those with pouching systems, recognizing the broader impact on overall health and well-being.

Sleep, said Dr. Brown, is not merely downtime for a tired brain. It’s an active phase where the brain functions as a cleanup crew, removing toxins and setting the stage for optimal cognitive performance. 

Dispelling common sleep myths, such as the notion that adults need less sleep as they age, emphasizes the importance of understanding individual sleep needs. Additionally, the misconception that one can “catch up” on sleep over the weekend is debunked, highlighting the need for consistent sleep patterns.

For those encountering sleep challenges, whether due to ostomy-related issues or other factors, there is hope. Strategies ranging from maintaining a sleep diary to exploring cognitive behavioral therapy can contribute to better sleep hygiene. The journey may also involve embracing solutions like CPAP machines for those with sleep apnea.

Findings from the Hollister Ostomy Sleep Survey offer valuable insights into the unique sleep landscape of ostomates, encouraging a comprehensive approach to addressing their specific needs and enhancing their overall quality of life.